Discussion Questions for Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol (1843)
1. What makes Christmas such an effective setting for the humanitarian issues (i.e. sympathy for the poor, needy children) Dickens was trying to address?
2. In what literal and figurative ways does Dickens portray Scrooge as isolatedfrom his family, coworkers, from the rest of humanity, even from himself? In what ways does Scrooge fit the "alazon" character type?
3. What important issues does Dickens use children and childhood to symbolize?
4. In what ways does Tiny Tim serve as the thematic center of A Christmas Carol? (How does he connect all the major characters/symbols/themes in this novella?)
5. What specific events lead to Scrooge's reformation? In particular, at what point in the story do we first begin to see him change (that is, when does he first begin to show emotions other than anger)?
6. In Stave Three, why is Scrooge so moved byand terrified ofthe children, "Ignorance and Want"? Why does the spirit tell him to "most of all beware [Ignorance]" (Dickens 49)?
7. What aspects of humor and parody do we see at work in A Christmas Carol? What kinds of social attitudes and/or institutions does Dickens satirize in this work?
8. We talked about Louis Kronenberger's theory of humor as an "attitude toward life." In what ways do we see Scrooge begin to take on the characteristics of this "attitude toward life" at the end of the story? Why is it significant at the end of the story that Scrooge has learned that it's important to be able to laugh at himself (Dickens 68)?
An earlierand quite differentversion of A Christmas Carol appears as an interpolated tale called "The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton" in Dickens's novel, The Pickwick Papers (1837). It makes an interesting comparison with A Christmas Carol. You can read it online by clicking on the story title.