Roberta Writes – Dickens Novella Challenge: A Christmas Carol #Dickenschallenge #readingcommunity

I am participating in the Dickens Novella Challenge which is being hosted by Marsha Ingrao from Always Write blog (this is her latest post for the challenge:; Trent McDonald from Trent’s world ( and Yvette Prior (

This is my first post for the challenge and features an analysis of A Christmas Carol.

About A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol tells the story of an elderly miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, on Christmas Eve. Jacob Marley is described as having a pigtail and a waistcoat, tights and boots and looking much the same in death as he did in life except that he is transparent and bound in chains which are locked around his midsection. Marley has come to warn Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits over the course of the evening, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Marley and Scrooge were the same in life, mean and selfish and obsessed by making money. Marley died unrepentant of his sin of greed and now wanders the world, a spirit dragging heavy chains forged by what he valued in life – wealth and money. Scrooge is on the same path, but is being offered a change to change his ways and redeem himself before he dies.

Quote: “You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Marley’s Ghost. Ebenezer Scrooge visited by a ghost. Colour illustration from ‘A Christmas Carol in prose. Being a Ghost-story of Christmas’, by Charles Dickens, With illustrations by John Leech.

Each of the three ghosts is a metaphor for the memories that shape our characters in life.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first of the ghosts to visit Scrooge and symbolises the experiences and memories that have moulded him into the callous and selfish man he is when the story starts. The head of this ghost glows represents memory.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is the second ghost to visit scrooge and is a metaphor for generosity, empathy, and the Christmas spirit.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the last ghost to visit Scrooge and is a metaphor for death and the legacy of our lives that we leave behind when we die.

A Christmas Carol is an allegory as it features events and characters with a clear and fixed symbolic meanings. Scrooge is the antithesis of the spirit of Christmas and represents greed, selfishness, and a lack of goodwill towards his fellow men.

A Christmas Carol includes social commentary although this is not the central theme of the story. There are various statements made by Scrooge that relate to the Poor Laws that governed the lower classes during Dickens’ lifetime. Some examples are as follows:

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

“This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!” “Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge. “Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

Ignorance and Want from the original edition, 1843

Ignorance and Want are two hideous and emancipated children that the Ghost of Christmas Present shows to Scrooge before he disappears. Ignorance and Want are allegorical characters who have no personalities and only symbolise Scrooge’s own ignorance and want. The spirit warns everyone to be wary of both of them. Want represents the plight of the poor in Victorian society and Ignorance represents societies ignorance of this plight.

Tiny Tim, the disabled young son of Scrooge’s employee, Bob Cratchit, is a symbol of what must be prevented in society, namely, the disease and dependence that comes from poverty and industrial exploitation. Tiny Tim represents the value of human beings outside of the contribution they make to caretakers or society.

The message of A Christmas Carol is that those who are generous and kind will be rewarded on Earth as well as in Heaven.

The novella has a happy ending and Scrooge sees the error of his ways and undertakes to change his behaviour going forward. He seizes the second chance he is given.

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit celebrate Christmas in an illustration from stave five of the original edition, 1843.

I enjoyed A Christmas Carol as a lovely and inspiring Christmas story. Dickens’ idea about selfish and greedy actions and behaviours during a person’s life forging chains they must carry with them in the afterlife is a concept that has always fascinated me. I remember reading a similar idea, except the chains were described as burdens, in Enid Blyton’s The Land of Far Beyond which I read as a child. I never forgot that story and I tracked this book down about ten years ago and I acquired a hard cover copy.

The visits of the three ghosts were entertaining and insightful and each of them also made their points well. The representations of goodness in the forms of Bob Cratchit and his family and Cousin Fred were interesting contrasts to Scrooge and the ghost of Marley.

Have you read A Christmas Carol? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments.

81 thoughts on “Roberta Writes – Dickens Novella Challenge: A Christmas Carol #Dickenschallenge #readingcommunity

  1. I used to perform this short story every Christmas on our college radio station. I think I know half of it by heart. Somewhere in this house, I have a book of parodies — one of which is a truly hilarious parody of this story. I don’t know if I can find the book, but I think I’ll look for it. We have SO many books and they are in bookcases everywhere in the house — a lot of them are blocked by other “stuff.” If I find it, I might see if I can podcast it. It really is hilarious.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I couldn’t find the book, but to be fair, there are two huge bookcases in a storage room in the basement that are completely blocked by all the OTHER stuff we are storing for what I don’t know. I did find a used copy of what I hope is the same or a slightly updated version of the same book. It certainly appeared to have the same writers in it. It’s a used book, so it’ll be awhile before it arrives.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is my favorite Christmas story, Robbie. I’ve read the book, as well as the book on how Dickens came to write it, and I’ve seen countless movie versions. I make a point to watch one of them every Christmas. I never tire of the story or that amazing ending!

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  3. Great review of this classic. I’m going o read a few novellas, but this one for sure. I did read it when I was a kid, so I wonder how my understanding of it will change reading as an adult.
    Be sure to bring this back up when we have the “main event” in early June. You can just link back here on the main page we will put up.

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  4. It has always been one of my favorite stories. I did a blog post on it for author/blogger Charles French some years back as my choice for his hypothetical Underground Library Society. I’ve seen many versions. The favorite in my family is the 1984 version with George C. Scott.

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  5. A Christmas Carol is probably one of my all-time favorite stories. I’ve read multiple versions and seen the films. It’s such a beautiful story. I’m glad to see you writing about it, Roberta. You’ve done an excellent job diving into the underlying meanings behind Dickens’ words.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Robbie, a terrific summary and analysis of “A Christmas Carol”! There are several Dickens works I like a lot better, but “ACC” does have a certain elemental power and poignancy.


    1. Hi Tim, this is an amazing story and it also influenced my thinking. I also read it when I was quite young. Interestingly, I didn’t know Dickens had other short stories so this Dickens Challenge taught me something new before I even started with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I was introduced to A Christmas Carol by my dad when I was a kid. First, he hyped it. Then he read it aloud with much relish. I’ve also read the story myself. In occurs to me now that the book is just as socially relevant today as it was when Dickens wrote it.

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  8. This story seems ingrained in Christmas, at least here in the US. I read it as a child, at least once, but I feel like it exists beyond the book in a very large way in our cultural ideas of the Christmas Spirit. Now if only more people would try to embody it…(K)

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  9. This is a beautiful review, Robbie. You pulled out so much more than just a brief scratch about greed. I love this paragraph and the idea that they have NO PERSONALITIES! “Ignorance and Want are two hideous and emancipated children that the Ghost of Christmas Present shows to Scrooge before he disappears. Ignorance and Want are allegorical characters who have no personalities and only symbolise Scrooge’s own ignorance and want. The spirit warns everyone to be wary of both of them. Want represents the plight of the poor in Victorian society and Ignorance represents societies ignorance of this plight.” Now I am motivated to read that familiar story again after I finish The Haunted Man.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marsha, I like to research classic books before I read them so that I can look out for specific themes and symbols. I find I gain a lot more from these famous stories that way. I hope you enjoy this book when you read it. Want and Ignorance stayed with me a long time after I finished reading. It’s chilling that this is still the case in our modern world.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And unfortunately, it will always be there, so I’ve read. I believe it is true. Each generation has its own class of poor and ignorant. Our larger cities struggle with the homeless. Even in Woodlake we had our homeless, poor and mentally ill. In our situation, we all knew him. He helped us clean up the Woodlake Rose Garden where he lived. He died on one of the benches, and we found out that he had family, and money, just like he said he did, but he had refused to use it. His name was Dane. We put up a little memorial for him in the Garden. I don’t think that the homeless who live in big cities are known as individuals as Dane was. But maybe they are to some who try to help them. It is such a huge problem now. Dickens would have his hands full.


  10. I am also in the challenge this year, Robbie. I’m reading The Cricket on the Hearth now, but Christmas Carol is up next (yeah, I’m going to try to read three). So forgive me for skimming over this, but I wanted to say congrats for joining the challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Robbie, A gold star for being so thorough in your understanding of the themes and symbols of A Christmas Carol. Spot on! I first read it when fairly young and then again as a teenager when I lunched by the Thames and imagined ‘the good old days…’ It’s hard to believe that Dickens had no formal education. I also loved Oliver (book and film); Great Expectations and David Copperfield. Onwards and upwards! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for thorough review of a timeless classic – I reread this one not long before I went down with Covid (March 2021), but what always strikes me when I do revisit it is the vibrancy of the language and how strongly Dickens’ own voice resonates throughout the story.

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