AQA English Literature - A Christmas Carol Essay - June 2019
A Christmas Carol Essay - AQA English Literature Exam - June 2019
This is an exemplar A Christmas Carol essay, at GCSE standard, based upon the AQA English Literature June 2019 exam question. The essay analyses the struggles of the poor - especially in relation to the Cratchit family. The A Christmas Carol essay has been well structured and achieved full marks. The A Christmas Carol essay was written by a student (aged 16) in exam conditions, taking approximately 45-50 minutes to complete.
Read the following extract from Chapter 1 of A Christmas Carol and then answer the question that follows.
In this extract Scrooge is visited by Marley’s Ghost.
Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.
“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”
Scrooge trembled more and more.
“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”
Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing.
“Jacob,” he said, imploringly. “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”
“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied. “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house—mark me!—in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!”
It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets. Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his knees.
Starting with this extract, explore how Dickens uses the ghosts to help Scrooge change his attitudes and behaviour. Write about: • how Dickens uses Marley’s Ghost in this extract • how Dickens uses the ghosts to help Scrooge change his attitudes and behaviour in the novel as a whole.
Dickens, in his political diatribe, ‘A Christmas Carol’, introduces the gothic element of ghosts to bring about a transformation in Scrooge, while subsequently subverting the notion of an ideal Christmas to haunt his readers ‘pleasantly’.
At the beginning of Stave 1, Marley and Scrooge are described as “kindred spirits”. The adjective “kindred” suggests ‘two of a kind’ or in general suggests the similarities between Scrooge and his colleague. Scrooge is described as “hard and sharp as flint”. The simile expresses Scrooge to have the characteristics of a flint – dull and ugly, which reflects his personality too. Flints are common rocks, which suggests that he is a representation of the masses: for example, the upper class of 19th century Victorian England. The adjective “hard” suggests that he is impenetrable or difficult to change. It also suggests that Scrooge is cold-hearted and reserved. In addition, the adjective-suffix “sharp” has connotations of jagged or scabrous, which make Scrooge seem very unpleasant. However, flints have the ability to ignite, which may hint at his ability to spread warmth or become open-minded. As readers, we would expect Marley to be very much alike. In the extract, however, we see Marley as a ghost, suffering the consequences of his uncharitable actions in an eternal purgatory. He is bound by “chains” that are “wrought in steel”, attached to various locks, ledgers and purses. While these objects suggest his line of work (a money lender) it also hints at the Industrial Revolution and the poor conditions people were forced to work in. The word “steel” represents the factories and workhouses in 1843 and symbolically represents the ignorance of the rich in relation to improving the lives of the urban poor. Marley is more relatable to Scrooge and hence acts as a warning to the possible suffering Scrooge may too have to endure after his death if he does not change his morose and misanthropic behaviours.
In Stave four, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is described as a “phantom”. This noun has connotations of the Grim Reaper or death. The spectre is the only one of the three ghosts that does not carry a light source – perhaps to suggest that Scrooge may not have “hope”, as light usually symbolises, or a future at all. The ghost does not speak which reflects that the future is unknown and that only Scrooge has the power to change it. The ultimate role of the ghost is to instil fear in Scrooge to catalyse his change. The ghost does this by showing Scrooge the body of a man (which is himself) that is “unwatched, unkept or uncared for”. The listing and the use of assonance suggest to Scrooge the loneliness he will face at his death, or perhaps the lack of respect he will be shown. Mrs Dilber and Joe display obscene vulgarity by stealing his “bedcurtains and sheets”, leaving Scrooge almost naked, vulnerable and shaken in the vision. This possible ill-treatment results in Scrooge changing. He is described to be “holding up his hands in a last prayer”. The verb “hold” suggests he begins to amend his ways by perhaps surrendering himself and his faults. Moreover, “to pray” suggests that he truly is asking forgiveness or perhaps repenting. One can suggest that he is also thankful to have been given a second chance at helping those around him.