Analyse poverty in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with these 5 quotes that can help you with your GCSE English exam revision.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This novella is studied by many students for their GCSE English exams. It was first published in 1843 and is largely regarded as a classic in English Literature.

Did you know: Similarly to many of his works A Christmas Carol was written as a work of social commentary. Dickens was a social reformer and was devoted to helping poor people in society. This was due to Dickens’ own experiences with debtors prison, which forced him to drop out of school as a boy and work at a factory.

What is A Christmas Carol About?

  • A Christmas Carol is divided into 5 chapters, which Dickens titles as ‘staves’.
  • It tells the story of an old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge.
  • The novella tracks Scrooge’s transformation into a kinder, more generous man after he is visited by 4 ghosts: The ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come.

As a social reformer in Victorian England Dickens had great sympathy for the poor. He hoped that this novella would make people more generous, as Scrooge becomes by the end of the story. As a result, one of the central themes of this story is Poverty.

Analysing Poverty in A Christmas Carol

Part of the GCSE English Literature course involves analysing key themes. It is important to know what the key themes of each text are and how you can analyse them effectively.  In analysing poverty in A Christmas Carol we have chosen 5 key quotes that you can memorise and use in your exam to talk about this topic.

1. “..many would rather die”

  • In this quote, the Portly Gentlemen (the charity collectors) respond to Scrooge when he asks why the poor cannot simply go to the workhouses.
  • Scrooge does not understand that a poor person is not necessarily “idle”, and therefore may not deserve to be punished.
  • His attitude to poor people is inhumane and uncaring.

2. “If they would rather die they had better do it and decrease the surplus population”

  • This is a key quote for demonstrating Scrooge’s attitude to poverty in A Christmas Carol.
  • When Scrooge hears the response “…many would rather die” from the Portly Gentlemen he replies with this quote.
  • This demonstrates that he has no sympathy for the poor.
  • Scrooge sees the poor as simply a burden on society, who are responsible for their own condition and furthermore not deserving of charity.

3. “…many thousands are in want of common necessities”

  • The Portly Gentlemen try to convince Scrooge of the need to support those who are suffering and in need.
  • This quote shows how Dickens is trying to convey to his readers the dire situation for the poor in London in the 19th Century.
Analyse Poverty In A Christmas Carol

Did you know:

The character Tiny Tim’s death was highly likely in Victorian London. In 1839 it is estimated that almost half of all funerals in London were for children younger than 10.

Adding in relevant contextual information like this to your essays can boost your grade as it shows you have a strong understanding of the overall text and the choices the writer has made.

4. In analysing poverty in A Christmas Carol you could make reference to the way Mrs Cratchit is described.

  • Dickens describes Mrs Cratchit as “Brave in Ribbons” and wearing a “twice-turned down”.
  • The Cratchits are very poor.
  • Mrs Cratchit has turned her gown inside out and added new ribbons in a desperate attempt to freshen up old clothes for the Christmas season.
  • This is an example of the family’s extreme poverty. Furthermore, their impoverished state is also referenced by the fact they can only afford a “small pudding” for the Christmas meal.

5. “Reeked with crime, and filth, and misery”

  • When you analyse poverty in A Christmas Carol, you may want to reference the setting as well as using direct quotes from characters.
  • In this quote, Dickens describes London as a dark and dangerous place.
  • His description of the setting suggests that poverty has bred crime and deep unhappiness.
  • Furthermore, this is another clear example of how Charles Dickens’ opinion as a social reformer is conveyed in his writing.
Analyse Poverty In A Christmas Carol

How to best use quotes when you analyse poverty in A Christmas Carol

When you use these quotes in your essay you must remember to follow these steps:

  • Try to use short quotes, like the above 5 quotes. This will help you to spend more time analysing and less time trying to remember your quote.
  • Where possible embed the use of quotes into a sentence. Your writing will flow better if you do this.
  • Don’t forget: Just remembering quotes is not enough to score highly in your essay. You MUST spend time analysing the quote in relation to the question to get a good grade.

Overall in this article, you have learned 5 new quotes you can use to analyse poverty in A Christmas Carol. Additionally, we have also learnt about how to effectively use quotes in your work. Furthermore, we have looked at how, in your essay, you may want to include relevant context to help to further your grade.

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