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Context is portrayed in Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ by drawing a direct comparison from the authors background and inputting that into the development of the characters and the setting of the story. To understand this, first we need to understand the meaning of context in literature. ‘Context is the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement or idea in a way which can be understood’ (Oxford Dictionary, 2010). With that in mind, we then need to understand the authors background. Charles Dickens came from a socially and economically poor background. His father was a kind but economically irresponsible man who accumulated large amounts of debt, he eventually was sentenced to prison forcing Charles Dickens to enter the workforce as a child to support his life and his family’s. Due to this circumstance, Dickens did not finish his education and release his first novel until the age of 25, the idea of poverty and social criticism became a recurring theme throughout many of Dickens’s work. A Christmas Carol was written in 1843 and centres around the protagonist ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’ a wealthy but stringent elder man who eventually opens his heart to the disadvantaged after being visited by three spirits. It was written to draw attention to the hardships faced by England’s poor but also simultaneously masking as a Christmas story. Throughout the novella Scrooge is visited by characters who portray a very real element of the hardship faced by the less fortunate. Scrooge is asked to donate to the poor and destitute but rather than created an environment which can be enjoyed by everyone, he refuses – this highlights the injustice and imbalance of wealth distribution in Victorian society. "The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge. (A Christmas Carol, Dickens). The characterisation of Scrooge can be analysed as the selfishness of Victorian society and the hardship of Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim is relatable to many poor Victorian families. Relating this to context, the characterisation and storyline of the novella can be understood when we analyse it against Dickens upbringing. A Christmas Carol was written to draw people’s attention to the hardship faced by the poor, Dickens felt strongly about this cause because he had to go through hard times growing up.
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