This novella by Charles Dickens, originally published in 1843, was conceived and written in a few weeks. A unique combination of parable, social criticism, and ghost story, A Christmas Carol remains one of the most influential works of literature ever written. Dickens—hailed as one of the greatest novelists to ever live—was a socially-conscious force in the Victorian world. He gave a voice to the poor and the marginalized, challenging readers to see the world with compassion, pity, and outrage. A Christmas Carol is no exception, presenting characters whose stories cry out for social reform and challenge cultural norms.
Through a series of spectral visions, the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is allowed to review his life and to change its outcome. The Ghost of Christmas Past reveals vignettes of Scrooge’s early life as a schoolboy, an apprentice, and a young man in love. The Ghost of Christmas Present reveals to Scrooge that joy has little to do with wealth; together they visit the homes of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s much abused clerk, and of his generous nephew Fred, who has married for love. Finally the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come allows Scrooge a vision of what his end will be like if he continues on his present course—he will die despised and unmourned. Masterfully blending these visions and their effect on his character, Dickens’ stirring portrait of transformation and haunting supernatural visits has been immensely successful, both popularly and critically. Viewed as a critique of industrialism capitalism, this novella has been credited as helping to revive festive Christmas traditions in Britain and America, and has been adapted numerous times in various film, stage, and other artistic mediums.
Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812–1870) is the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. Dickens exploded onto the literary scene with The Pickwick Papers, and quickly became the most popular novelist of his time. He has created some of the most memorable characters in literature, and his moving stories remain immensely popular today. Dickens wrote 15 novels, five novellas, and hundreds of short stories and nonfiction articles. His works offered humorous characters and profound social commentaries, and Dickens actively advocated for children’s rights and social reform. Bleak House was particularly effective in stirring social change, eventually leading to a reform of the judicial system it criticized. Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities is the best-selling novel of all time. His works have never gone out of print and have been reproduced in numerous adaptations.