A Christmas Carol vs. The Industrial Revolution Rewrite Almost all of America has some point on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day sat down in front of the TV and watched A Christmas Carol on one of the local channels. It’s like a tradition at my house and probably is at many other households as well. Charles Dickens created the modern Christmas, the Christmas we all know and celebrate today. When we watch the movie or read his book, people mainly focus on the story of Christmas and how Dickens creates that image in our head.
One major story we miss by just thinking about the Christmas season is what the economy and society was like during his lifetime. Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol after the British government changed the welfare system with the “New Poor Laws”. These laws mandated welfare claimants to perform work such as treadmills and to live in workhouses. Another hardship during this time was the use of child labor for work in many factories and mines. Dickens’ novel personified the industrial revolution in a story with characters. This novel suggests two questions; what were people’s views of society during the revolution and what can be done about it?
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Dickens’ was in utter disgust of the lifestyle conditions for the working class. He portrays how the quality of life is complete polar opposites between the upper class and lower class in his diction. The well-to-do citizens live contented with their big pockets behind them, either holding a high position at a company or simply from inheritances. The working class, on the other hand, lives on edge with the stress of not knowing whether or not they will have enough money to put food on the table for their families each night.
Dickens’ main character, Scrooge, symbolized the ignorance owners and managers of big companies had towards their employees’ well-being. Scrooge, like the managers, believe that because they are “big time” and make a lot of money, they can judge the poor instead of offering assistance. No matter how bad conditions got for the underprivileged, Dickens’ alluded that the wealthy did not do much to help or seem to even care in the situation of suffering people were encountering. Dickens shows this in the novel by saying how, “External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge.
No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. ” Scrooge was not affected by his surroundings, he was too concerned about himself and saw the poor people with their priorities out of line. Tiny Tim and the Cratchet children are used to provoke sympathy from the readers. Child labor was also a serious issue and once Scrooge gets to know them he begins to understand how awful these conditions are for some families and children.
Scrooge finally realizes that saving money and having power isn’t everything in life. He needs to learn that creating meaningful friendships/relationships and sharing his wealth with others will lead him to live a life full of happiness. Europeans argued vigorously about policies for the impoverished. The capitalists had the idea that “time is money” so the more workers they had working, the faster things would get done, so the more money big companies would make. They believed that “Industry enables men to earn their living; it should also enable them to learn to live. 1 Supporters of capitalism believed that men should work for “self worth”, that putting the lower class to work builds character and develops a since of discipline for people. They thought of it to be a form of nationalism. Men were made to work to elevate their social status… that is unless they were already born into one. Marxism represented those seeking revolutionary change in the economy. Marxist’s believed that to help with the number of child labor laws, poor families should stop having children.
They believed the industrial revolution was bound to happen, it was the “product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and exchange”. Marxism had economics always as their main concern, which they shared with capitalists. A main belief of theirs was the “class of labor workers only live as long as they find work, and those who find work will only work as long as their labor increases capital”2. Christians on the other hand wanted to help those who were less fortunate.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army in 1879, and his wife “devoted themselves to rescuing and rehabilitating the homeless, the unemployed, and the sinners”. Christians knew that the economy was important, but did it need to go as far as child labor? The mindset was “social problems of our time should be sternly faced, not with a view to the generation of profitless emotion, but with a view to its solution. “3 Finding an actual solution for the financial needs the nation needed was what the Christians wanted to do, not just stick the less fortunate into workhouses and make them fix all the problems.
Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol is a classic and one that will be forever remembered. Most will remember it for his creation of the modern Christmas, but it also has a huge influence on the view of the Industrial Revolution. ——————————————– [ 2 ]. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Communist Manifesto” in Sources of the Western Civilization, ed. George W. Buck, (Houghton Miffin Company, 2008), 185-191 [ 4 ]. William Booth, “In Darkest England” in Sources of the Western Civilization, ed. George W. Buck, (Houghton Miffin Company, 2008), 207-21