A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
A Christmas Carol (Enriched Classics Series)
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A Christmas Carol (Enriched Classics Series)

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by Charles Dickens
     
 

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Enriched Classics offer readers accessible editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and commentary. Each book includes educational tools alongside the text, enabling students and readers alike to gain a deeper and more developed understanding of the writer and their work.

In this classic, heart-warming tale, four ghostly guests teach

Overview

Enriched Classics offer readers accessible editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and commentary. Each book includes educational tools alongside the text, enabling students and readers alike to gain a deeper and more developed understanding of the writer and their work.

In this classic, heart-warming tale, four ghostly guests teach valuable lessons to an old miser. Ebenezer Scrooge, a selfish, crotchety skinflint, spends his days counting money and grousing, “Bah Humbug!” Scrooge doesn’t care for anyone other than himself. However, on Christmas Eve, he is visited by his partner Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, who teach him about benevolence, charity, and goodwill.

Enriched Classics enhance your engagement by introducing and explaining the historical and cultural significance of the work, the author’s personal history, and what impact this book had on subsequent scholarship. Each book includes discussion questions that help clarify and reinforce major themes and reading recommendations for further research.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Entertainment Weekly A low tech audio Christmas card: no sound effects, no gimmicks, just one of the the great voices of the contemporary classical stage creating as vivid a cast of characters as Dickens imagines. The Royal Shakespeare Company veteran...doesn't so much read the story as inhabit it with infectious delight.

Newsweek Reciting the litany of Scrooge's scrooginess, Stewart relishes the emotional gamut of meanness...Humbug seldom sounds so good.

The Washington Post Not only is Patrick Stewart wonderful, but this is surely one of the best performances of A Christmas Carol ever recorded...By sheer energy and dramatic skill, Stewart invests this story with not merely life, but freshness, excitement and wonder.

Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
Here the Christmas story that we all love is presented in its original language with artwork that captures the period and its ghostly theme. The beautiful language is once again a joy to read. Marley's Ghost warns: "Oh! . . . Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness." Unusual words of the period such as, negus, Cold Boiled, or bedight, may be looked up or understood in the context. The watercolor and gauche illustrations with smoky spirits and pages tinted with wash draw us into the surreal spirit world. The snowy village with hovering ghosts on the book jacket and the greenish moire book cover with the door knocker of Marley's head, immediately set the tone. This is a jewel of a book for Christmas giving and family enjoyment.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416534785
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
10/09/2007
Series:
Enriched Classics Series
Edition description:
Enriched Classic
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
482,498
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

A Christmas Carol:

The Spirit of Christmas

From "Bah! Humbug!" to "God bless us, every one," Dickens's holiday classic, its characters, and even their dialogue embody the spirit of Christmas. A Christmas Carol has become such a part of modern American and British culture that it would be difficult to find anyone unfamiliar with its story or with the characters of Tiny Tim and Scrooge. The Carol is practically a manual for Christmas, with its depictions of playing games, adorning rooms with festive decorations, and enjoying a turkey feast. Not only does the tale inform certain traditions but it is also a tradition in itself. Indeed, many people would not find their Christmas complete without watching performances of the Carol on stage, on television, or at the cinema.

Little did Dickens know when he finished A Christmas Carol after just six weeks of feverish writing that this brief story would become one of his most famous works. Though the story was successful as soon as it was published on December 19, 1843, Dickens bolstered its renown further by choosing to perform it aloud when he began touring in 1853. His name became synonymous with Christmas in England to the extent that, after his death in 1870, some feared the holiday would become culturally obsolete. Nothing could have been further from the truth — the story itself spawned an endless parade of adaptations and interpretations, from musicals to cartoons to comedies, and the holiday it celebrates has never been more popular.

Charles Dickens is perhaps best remembered for his efforts to draw attention to the plight of the poor at the dawn of the modern era. His Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, two masterpieces of English literature, led to the coinage of a new word, Dickensian, to describe something particularly harsh, bleak, or wretched. But as large as that literary legacy may be, Dickens is most beloved for this book, his gift to the poor and affluent alike: a template for a warm, loving, charitable, and thankful family holiday.

The Life and Work of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was one of the nineteenth century's most prolific and respected novelists. The second child of John Dickens and Elizabeth Barrow, he was born February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England. When he was five years old, the family moved to Chatham on the southern coast of England, where they would spend the next six years. In 1823, the Dickens family moved again, to London. When Charles was twelve, his father was imprisoned for debt, remaining incarcerated for three months. During that time, Charles's family lived in debtors' prison with his father, leaving Charles largely on his own. He worked at Warren's Blacking factory, gluing labels to bottles of shoe polish, finding himself very poor and often hungry. Young Charles was tormented by the thought that his parents had abandoned him to this hard life. Dickens's time as a child laborer left a permanent, traumatic impression on him; he did not discuss this ordeal publicly, but it surfaced in his fiction. His sympathetic descriptions of Tiny Tim and of Scrooge as a boy spurned by his father in A Christmas Carol reveal his deep compassion for poor, abandoned, or neglected children.

Dickens attended school at the Wellington House Academy in London until he was fifteen, but primarily he educated himself at the library of the British Museum in London. Before becoming a writer he worked as a law clerk, a shorthand reporter, and a news reporter; his fictional writing drew extensively from these experiences. His first published novel, The Pickwick Papers (serialized starting in 1836), a lighthearted and popular work, established the young writer's reputation and raised readers' expectations. He went on to serialize what would become some of his lengthier novels: Oliver Twist (1837), Nicholas Nickleby (1838), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840), and Barnaby Rudge (1841). In 1842, he traveled with his wife, Catherine, to America, where he enjoyed immense popularity. He wrote a partially critical account of his observations on his trip, American Notes for General Circulation (1842), which offended many readers and critics, who became defensive about their country.

When a report exposing exploitive child labor practices in England was released in 1842, Dickens made a special trip to Cornwall, where he could see for himself the horrible environment child mine workers endured. His wealthy friend and philanthropist Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts requested his opinion of her sponsoring the Ragged Schools of Field Lane, Holborn — free schools for the poor — so he visited them and wrote to her, "I have very seldom seen...anything so shocking as the dire neglect of soul and body exhibited in these children." His sympathy for the poor and outrage at public indifference toward poor children inspired him to write A Christmas Carol in Prose, which he published at his own expense on December 19, 1843. It became so popular that he followed with other Christmas stories such as The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846), and The Haunted Man (1848).

Dickens would next write his most autobiographical novel, David Copperfield (starting in 1849). With the publication of Bleak House (1852), he entered what many call his "late period," writing a series of darkly pessimistic novels such as Little Dorrit (1857) and what would become his most popular novel, Great Expectations (1860). In 1858, just as he was separating from Catherine, he began an extensive tour of public readings in London and would eventually travel to Paris, Scotland, Ireland, and America for appearances and readings. His health declined seriously in the next decade, partly as a result of his busy work schedule. In 1870, he collapsed during a public reading in England, just after an American lecture tour. Dickens died from a stroke shortly thereafter. His last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was in serialization at the time and remained unfinished.

Historical and Literary Context of A Christmas Carol

Christmas in Victorian England

Just a few decades before A Christmas Carol was written, the celebration of Christmas in England had become almost obsolete. Christmas was once a lavishly celebrated holiday, with festivals that combined pagan customs and Christian symbolism in masques (a dramatic performance usually by actors in masks), plays, and other traditions. After Puritans took control of England during the seventeenth century, celebrations of Christmas were outlawed. The holiday was revived when the monarchy was restored in the eighteenth century, but it was not as elaborate as it had been in the past.

During the years leading up to the publication of A Christmas Carol in 1843, however, the holiday was enjoying a renaissance in England. Ten years earlier, William Sandys published Selection of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (1833), a collection of Christmas songs that would become extremely popular and incite a tradition of caroling in England. Thomas K. Hervey published a scholarly history of Christmas in The Book of Christmas three years later. Britain's young Queen Victoria married the German Prince Albert in 1840, who popularized many Christmas traditions of his native country, such as the Christmas tree, in his wife's homeland. In 1843, the same year A Christmas Carol was published, Sir Henry Cole commissioned the first Christmas card from John C. Horsley. It was a three-paneled drawing with a simple Christmas scene in which a family enjoys a dinner celebration in the center with the caption "A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to you" with a small space for the name of the sender. Dickens's short novel would further promote and solidify these and other Christmas traditions in both English and American culture.

Poverty: The Poor Laws and the Workhouse

At the time of the publication of A Christmas Carol, England was still coming to terms with the Industrial Revolution. Technological innovations had shifted the basis of England's economy from agriculture to industry between 1750 and 1850. The development of steam power and a boom in the cotton textiles industry caused a population shift from rural to urban areas. New steam-powered railroads and ships broadened the market for England's output. Laborers were more at the mercy of their employers than ever before, and working conditions in factories, mines, and mills were often brutal. Children and adults alike commonly worked as much as sixteen hours a day, six days a week in dangerous conditions for very small wages. England went through particularly severe growing pains during the 1830s and 1840s. An economic depression in the early 1840s led to widespread unemployment and riots.

In 1834, the Poor Law Amendment Act completely overturned previous methods of aiding the poor that had been in place for over two centuries. Before the poor laws were amended, parishes were required to feed, clothe, or otherwise financially support the poor in what was called "outdoor relief." The poor laws replaced outdoor relief with mandatory rules that the poor who received aid must receive "indoor relief," and to live in workhouses, or government-run shelters provided in exchange for work. The conditions in these workhouses were so grim and at times so unbearable that some preferred to starve on the streets.

Dickens, having spent a few months in a workhouse with his family when his father was sent to one, fiercely opposed the practice. His fiction, essays, and letters often reflect this view. Clearly Dickens's critical attitudes about both the poor laws and the workhouse show transparently in the narrative, as does his belief that a person's wealth is not a reflection of his character.

Supplementary materials copyright © 2007 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Meet the Author

Charles Dickens (1821-1870) used his fiction to criticize the injustices of his time, especially the brutal treatment of the poor. He is also the author of Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. He was born in Portsmouth, England.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
February 7, 1812
Date of Death:
June 18, 1870
Place of Birth:
Portsmouth, England
Place of Death:
Gad's Hill, Kent, England
Education:
Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington

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