A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens


The English4Today version of Charles Dickens’ timeless story is accompanied by learning tools and audio files to make your reading fun, informative and a genuine opportunity for you to improve your English language comprehension and vocabulary.

Although the story was published well over 100 years ago its central themes are as relevant today as they were when Dickens wrote it in 1843.

Background to the story

A Christmas Carol: Introduction 3

Dickens was involved in charities and social issues throughout his life.  At the time that he wrote A Christmas Carol he was very concerned with impoverished children who turned to crime  to survive.

Dickens thought that education could provide a way to a better life for these children. The Ragged School movement put these ideas into action.

The schools provided free education for children in the inner-city. The movement got its name from the way the children attending the school were dressed. They often wore tattered or ragged clothing.

In September of 1843 Dickens visited the Field Lane Ragged School. In a letter to his friend, Miss Coutts, he described what he saw at the school:

 I have very seldom seen, in all the strange and dreadful things I have seen in London and elsewhere anything so shocking as the dire neglect of soul and body exhibited in these children.  And although I know; and am as sure as it is possible for one to be of anything which has not happened; that in the prodigious misery and ignorance of the swarming masses of mankind in England, the seeds of its certain ruin are sown.

The main themes in a Christmas Story

The story is about the emptiness of greed and selfishness and about how generosity, empathy, love and kindness can transform lives for the better. All timeless themes as relevant today as they were in the mid 19th Century.

Scrooge’s transformation is legendary. At the beginning of the story he’s a greedy, selfish person.

“Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” to the man who “knew how to keep Christmas well”

Scrooge is a miser who shows a decided lack of concern for the rest of mankind. However after an encounter with a ghost during the night, Scrooge sees life in a whole new way. He became a good friend, master, and man.

Dickens seems to be reminding us of the importance in taking notice of the lives of those around us.

“It is required of every man,” the ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.”

Dickens said this about A Christmas Carol:

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

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