illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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What is Dickens's message about education in A Christmas Carol?

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In A Christmas Carol, education is presented as something that every child should have and that is essential in creating positive social reform. Dickens suggests that universal education and heightened awareness about the plight of the poor would make society a much better place.

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Through writing A Christmas Carol, Dickens hoped to make his readers more socially aware of the issues that the working class faced in Victorian society. One of these issues was a lack of access to education, which meant that children had little hope for social mobility and escaping their situation. Dickens believed in education for everybody, which ought to include even the poorest members of society. As a literary man himself, he also celebrated the importance of reading and believed that everybody should have access to libraries. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens uses his fame and influence to give a voice to the working-class experience in Victorian Britain, especially the experience of children. With his talent for descriptive writing, Dickens depicted the harsh realities of Victorian England, allowing his readership to become more aware of the terrible conditions people lived in and the need for provisions such as healthcare and education. Ultimately, this novel promoted the spirit of social reform and gave power to this movement.

The main character of A Christmas Carol is Scrooge, a selfish and greedy man who represents the ignorance of society. We meet the theme of education most pertinently when Scrooge encounters the Ghost of Christmas Present, who has two decrepit children hiding beneath his robes. These two children, a boy and a girl, are introduced as "Ignorance" and "Want." The ghost tells Scrooge that these children were created by man and that ignorance especially should be avoided at all costs. Here, Dickens is talking about the ignorance of society about the plight of the poor, including the lack of education available to poor children. Instead of attending school, many children in Victorian society worked in order to provide for their families. Through Scrooge's encounters with the three spirits, Dickens presents a frightening view of what might happen to society if ignorance and greed were to prevail.

At the beginning of the story, when Scrooge is asked if he would like to donate to charity, he refuses. Instead, he believes that the fact that he pays taxes is enough of a contribution. However, Dickens suggests that government funding at the time was simply not enough. Throughout A Christmas Carol, Dickens promotes a more personal and compassionate involvement in society and argues against ignorance, indifference, and apathy. This is reflected in the character of Scrooge, who undergoes a huge transformation from a greedy and selfish businessman into a kind and considerate philanthropist. Dickens suggests that this kind of shift in attitude is needed to bring about positive social change, including the enforcement of universal education.

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