AQA English Literature - A Christmas Carol Essay - June 2018
A Christmas Carol Essay - AQA English Literature Exam - June 2018 GCSE Standard (Grade 9)
This is an exemplar A Christmas Carol essay - Grade 9 GCSE standard - based upon the AQA English Literature June 2018 exam question. The essay explores how Dickens presents Scrooge’s fears in A Christmas Carol. The A Christmas Carol essay has been well structured and would achieve full marks – the equivalent of a Grade 9. The A Christmas Carol essay would take approximately 45-50 minutes to complete by a student in exam conditions.
Read the following extract from Chapter 4 of A Christmas Carol and then answer the question that follows.
In this extract, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.
“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?” said Scrooge.
The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.
“You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,” Scrooge pursued. “Is that so, Spirit?” The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received. Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it. The Spirit paused a moment, as observing his condition, and giving him time to recover.
But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black.
“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”
Grade 9 GCSE Essay - AQA Starting with this extract, explore how Dickens presents Scrooge’s fears in A Christmas Carol. Write about: -how Dickens presents what Scrooge is frightened of in this extract - how Dickens presents Scrooge’s fears in the novel as a whole.
Dickens presents Scrooge as a fearful character – one who is driven to change his negative perspective because of the poignant visions each of the ghosts reveal to him.
In this extract, from the beginning of Stave 4, both Scrooge and the reader are presented with uncertainty about this particular spirit. The lexical field presents the idea of Scrooge’s ability to change, as everything is speculative: “mystery”, “vague” and “uncertain”. This unknowingness could be argued as a fear of Scrooge, especially when one considers his numerical and systematic employment. He is used to being in control in his “counting house”, but now he is introduced to a mysterious ghostly figure that does not respond to his questions (“answered not”) and therefore his control has gone; he is completely oblivious to his pending fate. Contextually, Dickens would be warning privileged members of Victorian society to consider one’s actions, because selfishness and unpleasant actions can lead to severe consequences.
Furthermore, the “spectre” is depicted as “gravely”, “shrouded” and “scatter[ing] gloom”. The connotations of these words implies that this is the physical embodiment of death, whilst metaphorically implying that his fate is sealed and his time is up. The adverb “gravely” emphasises the seriousness and importance of the spirit’s arrival. Also, it conjures images of people dying and being buried – possibly a hint at the “graveyard” revealed at the end of Stave 4. The noun “gloom” gives a very ominous and frightening feel, as if the spirit is casting darkness and sadness everywhere. The semantic field of “darkness” gives the impression that all hope is lost if Scrooge doesn’t change his ways. Scrooge is so frightened that his “legs trembled” and he was filled with “a solemn dread”, which shows he is terrified of what the future might hold. This contrasts with Stave 1, where the omniscient narrator tells the reader that “darkness” was “cheap, and Scrooge liked it”. Scrooge’s “hard and sharp” attitude dramatically diminishes by the time the final ghost appears.
One could argue that the protagonists’ fears could be the ultimate reason for his change, because he is fearful for his own wellbeing, rather than the benefit he can bring to society. The main change in Stave 4 is when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come reveals Scrooge’s gravestone. The reader is presented with Scrooge’s fear as he begs to “sponge” off the “writing on this stone”, falling in front of the phantom in despair. Scrooge’s desperation to eradicate his name from the gravestone emphasises his fear and urgency to prevent this outcome. Perhaps Scrooge has now realised the fickleness of his materialism and miserly ways, as in death none of that matters. The verb “sponge” has connotations of absorption – metaphorically representing how Scrooge has taken on board all of the valuable lessons taught to him by each of the spirits and that “all Three shall strive within”.
It is evident from our very first introduction to Scrooge that he is a very frugal, insular and “covetous” character, obsessed with his wealth – as a result of being fearful of losing it all. The Ghost of Christmas Present indulges Scrooge in nostalgia: visions of his distant past. Although Scrooge is fond of several aspects of his past, one senses that he is also fearful of it and hence why he has neglected it for so long. The text states that Scrooge “wept to see his poor forgotten self”. Conceivably, his fear comes in the form of regret and remorse: knowing he has lost companions, a fiancé and a family.
The third ghost takes Scrooge to see several people who would benefit from his death. At this point in the novella, it is clear that Scrooge’s mannerisms change as he revaluates his priorities. However, it also shows the insignificance of being rich when there are so many poor people in society without basic necessities. Dickens wanted to draw readers’ attention to the divide between rich and poor in Victorian society. Indeed, one of the most important ways that he does this is through the Cratchits, and more specifically Tiny Tim in Stave 4. Without adequate support from richer members of society, such as Scrooge, Tiny Tim will die. Bob Cratchit seems to be addressing Scrooge – and the reader – when he declares, “’I am sure…none of us forget poor Tiny Tim”. Fearful that this has come true, Scrooge interrogates the ghost: “‘answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?’” The ghost’s lack of response compounds his fear and he declares that he will “honour” the “lessons” he has been taught by all of his spiritual visitors.
In conclusion, it is necessary that Scrooge is disturbed by the spirits, because it is this fear that encourages Scrooge to change his ways. Dickens clearly wanted to get readers to consider the plight of the poorest members of Victorian society and how wealthier, inconsiderate people, could do more to support those less fortunate; thus embodying the Christmas spirit.