English Literature (Topics based on: A Christmas Carol, Macbeth, An Inspector Calls, Poetry, and Unseen Poetry)


Notes based off annotations of poems, key quotes and general notes of what the content is about.
Larissa Thomson
Note by Larissa Thomson, updated more than 1 year ago
Larissa Thomson
Created by Larissa Thomson over 7 years ago

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A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol - Plot summary A Christmas Carol is a novel by Charles Dickens about Ebenezer Scrooge, an old man, who is well-known for his miserly ways.On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by a series of ghosts, starting with his old business partner, Jacob Marley. The three spirits which follow, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come, show Scrooge how his mean behaviour has affected those around him. At the end of the story he is relieved to discover that there is still time for him to change and we see him transformed into a generous and kind-hearted human being.miserly - Being ungenerous, particularly with money. Social and historical context Dickens wrote this story in 1843. At the time there was a tradition for reading ghost stories at Christmas, hence the numerous spirits that Scrooge encounters. The themes of wealth and injustice are clear comments on the inequalities of wealth distribution in Victorian England. A Christmas Carol - Key plot details On Christmas Eve, Scrooge makes his clerk, Bob Cratchit, work in the cold. He refuses an invitation to his nephew Fred's Christmas party and will not give money to the charity collectors. At home he is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Marley. The Ghost of Christmas Past wakes Scrooge and shows him moments from his childhood, his apprenticeship and his failed engagement. The Ghost of Christmas Present takes him to the Cratchit's home, where he is saddened by the ill, but kind, Tiny Tim. He is also shown how Fred celebrates Christmas with friends and how others celebrate Christmas together. The final ghost is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come who terrifies Scrooge with visions of his death. Scrooge awakes on Christmas Day and is delighted to find he has the chance to repent of his miserly ways. He buys a turkey for the Cratchits and attends his nephew's party. Scrooge becomes like a second father to Tiny Tim and gains a reputation for knowing how to celebrate Christmas. A Christmas Carol is a moral tale about the spirit of giving and being kind to one another.Use of form in A Christmas Carol Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in the form of: a novella a ghost story The tale is written as a novella. This is a short piece of fiction - longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. Dickens published A Christmas Carol on 19th December 1843. It was traditional for ghost stories to be read at Christmas time, and this short novella form meant that the whole tale could be read aloud in one sitting. When analysing form in A Christmas Carol you can refer to: the type of text it is the style of writing the genre Evidence and explanation of the form used Ghost story Dickens's novella features four ghosts in total: Jacob Marley and the three Ghosts of Christmas. He combines the tradition of reading ghost stories with a moral tale of redemption. Dickens used the form to appeal to the spirit of Christmas and to share a story that was so popular that the first print run of 6000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve in 1843! Novella The short novella form means the story can be read aloud in a short space of time, making it the ideal Christmas entertainment. Use of structure in A Christmas Carol The novella is set out in five Staves. This is an unusual structure that mimics the way a musical piece is put together. The Staves follow the action of the story with the first stave setting the scene, the middle stave showing the turning point for Scrooge and the final stave concluding the story by presenting him as a changed man. When writing about structure, think about: How is the text put together? What is significant about this? How does it reflect the themes of the text? What is the overall effect of the structure? Evidence and explanation of the structure used Carols and the five staves Carols are songs that are popular at Christmas time and usually deal with stories of Christ's birth or with themes associated with the festive season. Some carols focus on joy and the spirit of giving to others. The structure of Dickens's novella uses a similar structure to a song to present a moral tale of transformation.Three ghosts The structure of the three ghosts showing the past, present and future appeals to readers on many levels. The number three is significant in fairy stories, religious tales and in traditional myths and legends. Characters are often faced with three choices, granted three wishes, or given three opportunities to change. Scrooge is shown his past, the present and a possible future and then finally finds the willingness to transform. How to analyse structure How important is the overall structure of this novella? the structure links to the theme of Christmas by reflecting the shape of a typical carol it has a clear beginning, middle and end through which we see a character's transformation the structure of three ghosts, showing the past, present and future, appeals to readers Scrooge's redemption in the final stave leaves the reader with a sense of both completion and possibility Use of language in A Christmas Carol Dickens uses language to draw us into the story and to present characters and scenes that are entertaining. He uses a strong narrative voice that comments on the characters at the same time as telling their story. The narrator, though unnamed, has opinions about Scrooge and his tale. He also places himself and the reader at the heart of the action, by suggesting that he is 'standing in the spirit at (the reader's) elbow.' Dickens's language is highly descriptive and creates a vivid sense of place and setting. When analysing the language Dickens has used, aim to: examine words and phrases think about the sorts of words he chose (positive, negative, descriptive) explore layers of meaning (what else could a phrase refer to or suggest?) notice any literary techniques (simile, metaphor, alliteration) explain the effects of the language used - how does it make you feel? Evidence and explanation of the language used - How? Why? Effect?Clear narrative voice - Dickens uses a narrative voice that offers opinions on the characters. For example 'Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge!' The narrative voice is entertaining and instructs the reader how to feel about Scrooge. We trust the narrator and know instantly that Scrooge is a man who is miserly and unpleasant.Simile - When Dickens first presents Scrooge he describes him as 'Hard and sharp as flint'. The simile likens the character to something that the reader can recognise.We see that Scrooge is tough and unbreakable.Dialogue - Dickens reveals the characters through the things they say. Scrooge famously uses the words 'Bah!' and 'Humbug!' in response to Christmas wishes. The simple words are memorable and show that Scrooge is dismissive about Christmas. Scrooge's determination to disengage with the spirit of Christmas shows him to be bad-tempered.Personification - When Dickens describes Scrooge's childhood, he uses personification to emphasise how 'merry' the sound of the young boys is by saying 'the crisp air laughed to hear it! 'The sound of the boys playing and shouting is so delightful that even the 'air' is laughing. The effect of this personification is to show how everything is affected by the good nature of the children. This contrasts with Scrooge's adult self.Metaphor - The children 'Ignorance' and 'Want' are used to represent all the poor children in society: 'They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish'. The children under the Ghost of Christmas Present's cloak are a metaphor showing the effects of greed and miserliness. The reader, like Scrooge, feels pity for these 'ragged' children and this extends to a sense of responsibility for all the poor and homeless children in society. How to analyse language Dickens describes the alleyways where the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come takes Scrooge as: "Alleys and archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery". A Christmas Carol - Themes overviewThere are many themes running through Dickens's famous novella, not least of all Christmas! In this story of a miserly man, we are presented with ideas of greed, forgiveness and tricky concepts of time, as well as themes of generosity and compassion. Three main themes include: Christmas redemption social injustice A Christmas Carol can be read as a moral tale, showing what can happen to a man who is consistently self-centred and unkind.Christmas Christmas is a Christian celebration of the birth of Christ, though it also encompasses Greek, Roman and pagan traditions of giving gifts and feasting around the Winter Solstice. It is a time when families and friends come together to share food and exchange gifts. Dickens wrote this novella before Christmas 1843. The story of Scrooge takes place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and uses the ideas of generosity and compassion that we associate with Christmas to highlight the transformation of the main character. We see Scrooge change from a miserly man, contrasting with the spirit of Christmas, to someone who is full of joy. How is the theme of Christmas shown in the novella? In A Christmas Carol Dickens shows the theme of Christmas through: the title and structure Scrooge's nephew, Fred, as someone who embodies the spirit of Christmas Tiny Tim as someone who is generous and kind How does Dickens show this? Evidence Analysis, The title and structureThe theme of the novella is clear from the title - A Christmas Carol - which refers to the traditional carols that are sung at Christmas time. The novella has an unusual layout, using five staves rather than chapters. The five staves reflect the structure of a carol and link the story to the joy of singing. Scrooge's nephew, Fred. Fred is persistent in his cheerful approach to Christmas. We see him celebrating wholeheartedly with his friends. After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself. Dickens shows Scrooge's nephew as the opposite of Scrooge. He is able to abandon himself to childish pleasures at Christmas and enjoys the company of his friends. Through the character of Tiny Tim, Dickens shows the importance of family and love in the Christmas tradition. Back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool before the fire;Tiny Tim i s well-loved by his family as we see in the generosity that his siblings show him here. Redemption Redemption is the idea of being saved from sin or evil. In Scrooge we see a man who is transformed from a greedy, selfish miser into a generous and good-natured character by the end. He is shown the error of his ways by the ghosts that visit him and is redeemed by his own willingness to change. The moral message of the novella is that all human beings have the opportunity to behave in kinder ways towards each other. How is the theme of redemption shown in the novella? In A Christmas Carol Dickens shows the theme of redemption through: Scrooge beginning as miserable and miserly Scrooge seeing the error of his ways Scrooge transforming and redeeming himself How does Dickens show this?EvidenceAnalysisMiserableAt the start of the novella Scrooge rejects all offers of Christmas cheer from everyone he meets."Christmas a humbug, uncle!" said Scrooge's nephew. "You don't mean that, I am sure?"When Scrooge says Christmas is a 'humbug' we see him rejecting all the compassion and celebration that is linked with the festive seasonError of his waysDickens uses the Ghost of Christmas Present to show Scrooge how unpleasant his behaviour has been.Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.Scrooge feels ashamed when the Ghost uses his own words against him. We see him beginning to wish he could change.RedeemedWhen the last of the ghosts has left and Scrooge finally awakes on Christmas day, we are shown a new man.His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.Scrooge becomes generous and full of life. We see him welcomed into the homes of his family and friends and readers are delighted by his transformation. Social injustice Dickens felt strongly that Victorian society ignored the poverty of its underclass. On the one hand were the rich who enjoyed comfort and feasting at Christmas, and on the other were children forced to live in dreadful conditions in workhouses. How is the theme of social injustice shown in the novella? In A Christmas Carol Dickens shows the theme of social injustice through: Scrooge refusing to give money to the poor the characters of Ignorance and Want thieves dividing up Scrooge's belongings How does Dickens show this?EvidenceAnalysisScrooge refuses to give moneyIn Stave I Scrooge is asked to make a donation for the 'Poor and destitute' of society."The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.Scrooge's refusal represents the selfishness of the richer elements of Victorian society. Instead of creating a community in which life can be enjoyed by all, Dickens highlights the injustice of wealth distribution.Ignorance and WantDickens uses two wretched children, called Ignorance and Want, to represent the poor.a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds.The children that hide under the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present are 'pinched' and 'twisted' rather than being happy and joyous as we would like children to be. The Ghost tells Scrooge that the children are the responsibility of all mankind.Thieves dividing up Scrooge's belongingsDickens uses the thieves dividing up Scrooge's belongings to show how his death is received."Every person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did."As the thieves sort through Scrooge's possessions they comment on how miserly he had been in life. This makes him, and the reader, appreciate the failings of only thinking of oneself. Social and historical context Men sitting down to a workhouse meal The Poor Law was amended in 1834 to reduce the cost of helping the poor. Those desperate for assistance and having no other option were sent to workhouses. The novella shows these contrasts by presenting poverty in the Cratchit household, in the characters of Ignorance and Want who are sheltered by the Ghost of Christmas Present and also in the scene of thieves going through the dead Scrooge's possessions.

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