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How Is a 'Christmas Carol' an Allegory: Analytical Essay

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Social reformer, Dickens, utilizes the theme of social responsibility to criticize the capitalist, yet supposedly ‘Christian’ Victorian society he lived in. He wanted to “haunt” his readers with the social message of the importance of expressing the allegory within Dickins’ novella: lower classes can no longer be ignored.

In the extract, from Stave 3, Dickens is presenting “Ignorance” and “want”, two “youth” who show the despair of poverty. The Ghost of Christmas Present begins by showing the children “from the foldings of its robe” in this, Dickens highlights how the lower classes are forgotten in Victorian society. Allegorically Dickens is teaching the reader that human flaws, influenced by capitalist methods, will be the downfall of all society, until the poor receive help. Expanding on this, the quote metaphorically relates to Karl Marx’s critical theory, which explains that the divide between classes will lead to conflict. If the poor keep getting hidden away, the problem will explode, damaging humanity itself.

Additionally, in stave 2, this links to “faces all damaged and scarred” before the extract. The neglect of the poor has become physical due to their constant suffering. Perhaps, this is representing how the division between classes has already led to conflict. A scar on the light keeper’s face is a permanent reminder of the pain and makes it a visible reminder to society as well as the worker. However, the upper classes still remain ignorant of this, which allows for poverty to cause despair in all the lower classes.

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Referring back to the extract, “Ignorance” and “Want” are described as being “Wolfish” we can infer that he thinks that their qualities a predatory and destroy the better nature of individuals. Consequently, perhaps Dickens is identifying that the hardships of the poor should be a lesson of how society needs to change. This idea is reinforced by the allegorical purpose of the “swelled” children as they are used to show why poverty can no longer go unchecked and the upper classes are responsible.

In the extract, Dickens uses religious imagery in “devils lurked” to outline the overall sin of ignorance by signifying this, Dickins implies that following capitalist ways is a hellish action. Subsequently, this quote depicts that suffering poverty is hell on earth. Seeing the stressed children shows just how heavy the weight of poverty truly is, through this Dickens is telling the reader how unfortunate poverty is and that there is no escape for the poor that have to endure these terrible conditions.

In addition to my aforementioned point, their terrible conditions included having to make the most of the little they had. This is represented through the Cratchits when we see that Mrs. Cratchit is “brave in ribbons” which creates a sense of courage. Perhaps, Dickins is demonstrating how those who have to endure going through poverty remain strong throughout and keep all their moral values. This contrasts with the selfishness of Scrooge who symbolizes the upper class at the time.

The personification of “Frost that held it prisoner” highlights that the poor are being held captive by capitalism and social injustice. Metaphorically, this shows us that the poor are inevitably deemed to fail due to their lack of education and are therefore sentenced by the upper class to an eternity in poverty. This becomes symbolic of the effects of the poor law in 1834. In particular, linking “prisoner” to “are there no prisons” from stave 1. Dickens, being humanitarian, believed that the idea of putting the lower classes into prisons was wrong. Therefore, the allegory's purpose shines through, poverty needs to be finally dealt with appropriately.

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How Is a ‘Christmas Carol’ an Allegory: Analytical Essay. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
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