During 1843 Charles Dickens wrote a novel 'A Christmas Carol'. The novel was influences by the experience Charles Dickens had of the social divide of the rich and the poor during the Victorian times. Charles Dickens had a terrible childhood, his family spent several years in increasing poverty. Dickens was sent to work long hours in a blacking factory. This was because his father was imprisoned for debt in 1824. Dickens spent ten hours a day sticking labels on pots of boot blacking. His life was miserable and he was determined to improve the quality of his and those of other poor people.
Crime rates increased dramatically due to poverty and destitution. The memories of these hard times haunted dickens for the rest of his life. He felt bad about the neglect of the poor. In a lot of his work he describes the issues with poverty and the social and physical conditions of Victorian London. He compares these conditions to the wealthy, luxurious lifestyles of the upper class to bring awareness of the disgusting standards of living at the lower end of society, so that everyone could be educated on this subject, he even gave public reading of his own work.
London's industrial age helped the UK to become rich and successful. However, this era had affected the country physically, socially, and culturally, because of the establishment of the factory system. Many people began moving to cities in search of a secure job, this lead to a huge growth in the population. This caused there to be three times more people living in Great Britain at the end of the century than the beginning. The overcrowding resulted in conditions that were dangerous and caused an increase in crime and poverty.
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In London the river Thames was full of sewage and the air was full of soot and pollution. Young children and adults were forced to work 14 hours a day and were paid rock bottom wages even though they were working in life threatening conditions. The poor had no jobs, not enough food and had a low life expectancy of twenty nine. This was because most people in the bottom end of society were malnourished which was caused by starvation they also couldn't afford healthcare. However, the higher classes made increasing profits at the expense of the poor.
The rich took advantage of the poor by forcing them to work long hours in life threatening conditions for little pay. The rich thought the poor were poor because they were lazy and couldn't be bothered to do anything. At the beginning of the novel the reader is immediately given a negative impression of scrooge being a stingy old man. Dickens emphasises the point by describing Scrooge with many words that all mean nearly the same: "Oh but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!
This is effective in showing the reader that his desire for money comes before anything else. It shows that his number one priority is making as much profit as possible. This makes the reader get the impression that Scrooge is extremely horrible and greedy. When Dickens uses weather to describe Scrooge he makes him sound as horrible as possible, a man who has no feelings. "External heat and cold has little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. " Dickens suggests that no weather has an affect on him whether it's cold or hot.
Scrooge is much too cold hearted to be affected by anything or anyone, no matter what time of year. Scrooge is presented as being unattractive and having no emotions. "The cold within him froze his old features," this makes the reader think the cold from inside him has made him ugly on the outside. This description of Scrooge is made even more unpleasant when it is compared to that of Scrooges cheerful nephew. When Scrooges nephew, Fred comes to wish Scrooge a merry Christmas Scrooge replies by saying, "what reason do you have to be merry?
This shows the reader that Scrooge has no respect for his nephew. It is also ironic as he thinks no poor person has anything to be merry about, But he is rich and miserable. He, like many of the rich at that time believed the poor are poor because they are lazy. When two men come to Scrooge to ask for money to give to charity he replies, "I don't make merry myself at Christmas, and I can't afford to make idle people merry. " This shows that scrooge is hard-hearted and doesn't see the poor as people but sees them as a problem.
Scrooge thinks that the poor should be left to die to decrease the population as there was overcrowding in London at the time this novel was written. 'If they would rather die' Said Scrooge, 'they had better do it, 'and decrease the surplus population. The miserable and gloomy mood of Scrooge is further emphasised by Dickens use of pathetic fallacy. "The fog comes pouring in at every chink and keyhole... "The houses opposite were mere phantoms. " The use of pathetic fallacy creates a dull atmosphere which matches the atmosphere created by Scrooge.
The use of the word 'Phantoms' creates an even spookier atmosphere. It is almost as if what ever Scrooge is feeling he will make the same atmosphere and weather as he is feeling. In stave three Dickens describes the Market Place and the poor part of town: both give a different impression to the reader. "There were great round potbellied baskets of chest nuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentleman," By Dickens using this simile it makes the reader think of father Christmas because he is often described as being happy and joyful.
This is effective in showing that people don't have to be rich to be joyful. This description of the market place is made even more cheerful when compared to the miserable and unpleasant, poor part of town which is shown to be a depressing and disheartening place to live. The description of the poor part of town is shown as being even more unattractive, "The people half naked, drunken, slipshod, ugly. " The comparison between the cheerful market place and the poor part of town is really important because it shows how the rich people live and how depressing the lives of poor people are.
This is effective in showing people how lucky they are compared to the poor people's lifestyles. Victorian society is reflected as being greedy and non-caring and also shows the massive social divide between the rich and the poor. By the end of the novel Scrooge has completely transformed from being a bitter and miserable old sinner into a more cheerful and energetic youthful man. He used to be, "A squeezing, wrenching, clutching, covetous, old sinner! " whereas at the end of the novel he describes himself as, "I am as light as a feather. I am as happy as a school boy, I am as giddy as a drunken man.
A merry Christmas to everybody! " This description of Scrooge shows that he is no longer a grumpy old man and now has changed into a much more youthful and jolly man. He no longer thinks that he is better than all poor people and that poor people can't be merry. In this section of the novel there is a lot of exclamation marks and short sentences used to show that he is peaking excitedly, this enhances the fact that he is in a happy and enthusiastic mood. This use of short sentences and exclamation marks almost makes Scrooge sound younger.
In my opinion 'A Christmas Carol' is really effective in informing the reader of the social divide between the rich and the poor during Victorian times. I think that the book would have been good at informing the rich about the appalling living standards of the poor par of town. There was no other way for the rich people to find out about this because they had never been to this part of the town. I think that Charles Dickens was trying to make everyone aware of the poverty and overcrowding the poor people were going through, he was emotionally attached because he had been through this for most of his childhood and early adulthood.
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