Passage for close examination and discussion: A Christmas Carol, Penguin edition, pp. 70-74.

a little market-town . . . with the bridge, its church, and winding river. Johnson in "About 'A Christmas Carol'" (Dickensian 1931) identifies this description as referring to Strood, Rochester, and the river Medway, where Dickens spent part of his childhood. Johnson also noted that Dickens erased the word "castle" from the original manuscript, an apparent reference to Rochester Castle. [Michael Patrick Hearn, The Annotated Christmas Carol, 88].

1. Why did Dickens eliminate the word "castle"?

2. From the ages of 13 through 15 Charles Dickens attended Wellington House Academy, Hampstead Road, London; the description of Scrooge's school here matches that of Salem House in the fifth chapter of David Copperfield, and both mansions of dull red brick seem to have been based on Wellington House.

What attitudes towards schooling and childhood may one detect in these pages?

3. Dickens had very definite ideas about the necessity for "fancy" (imaginative appeal) in childhood reading. What in The Arabian Nights and Robinson Crusoe seems to have particularly appealed to Dickens?

4. The story of Valentine and Orson, translated from French about 1565, is one of separation in childhood and reunion or restoration in adulthood. How is this pattern repeated in A Christmas Carol?

5. "The panels shrunk, the windows cracked; fragments of plaster fell" (73) is a transitional passage intended to suggest what? The effect has been often imitated, particularly by George MacDonald in Phantastes and later by H. G. Wells in The Time Machine (1895).

6. Dickens's elder sister (and oldest sibling) Fanny was, like Fred's mother, a gifted musician and singer. Fan's son, Henry Burnett (1839-1849) has been proposed as the original of Tiny Tim, for Dickens had visited his sister and her sickly son in Manchester in October, 1843, as the notion of A Christmas Carolmatured. Another candidate for the original Timothy Cratchit is Dickens's younger brother, Fred, since the manuscript contains that name for the sickly Cratchit son.

The scenes involving Fan in A Christmas Carol — her rescuing Scrooge from school and her dying in child-birth — suggest what about Dickens's attitudes towards his own sister.

Discover through research what the precise nature of Tim's malady is; Potts Disease and Polio have been proposed.


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Last modified 12 June 2001