The Victorian era - Sample Essay

To what extent does Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ fit into the genre of the supernatural story and how does Dickens use it as a vehicle for his social views? For hundreds of years supernatural stories have been told with the intention of scaring the reader or listener. These kind of stories are often set in darkness or places where vision would be distorted; this is to enhance the terror in the atmosphere. Supernatural stories are written in such a way that they will play on the reader’s subconscious fears and their worries on life after death.

‘A Christmas Carol’ is different to this however as it has a moral and the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, learns from his mistakes and becomes a better man. One of the most important elements of a ghost story is the atmosphere. Special effects, the setting and the plot all help to build up tension in the atmosphere. They add a sense of mystery which keeps the reader or listener on the edge of their seat. The setting is also important in a ghost story as it helps with the suspense and mood. Ghost stories are usually set in dark, eerie places with the weather also playing a part as it is normally raining or stormy outside.

The reason for ghost stories being set in the dark or at night is to make the main character feel vulnerable due to the senses being heightened as people tend to look more carefully for danger when all is in darkness. This causes feelings to be over exaggerated. The protagonist is also usually alone; this gives expectations that something bad will happen. The person being haunted is usually evil, making the purpose of the haunting to teach that person a lesson. The spirits in ‘A Christmas Carol’ are trying to help Scrooge which is why the story is different to typical ghost stories.

The three ghosts that haunt Scrooge each teach him a different lesson. With the first spirits the atmosphere is jolly and happy, the settings add to this by being brightly lit. However, the third spirit is dark and sinister, creating a mood of decay and despair. The typical plot of a ghost story usually includes a battle between good and evil. The main character whom which the story is based around doesn’t believe in the supernatural but is converted when the apparitions appear to show the protagonist a life they could have which is better than the one they are living at the time.

Modern day ghost stories rarely have a moral, they’re merely to scare and horrify the reader. The majority of ghost stories are based on the return of the dead in the form of a ghost which interferes with the living, or haunts a house or building. The main features in a good ghost story are the sound of footsteps, bloodcurdling screams, ringing bells, the levitation of objects, spirits walking through walls and a sudden drop in temperature. Originally, ghosts were friendly but as the stories became more popular, the ghost gradually became more evil.

Usually the ghosts cannot physically harm the characters but have many different ways of scaring them. The author of ‘A Christmas Carol’, Charles Dickens, was born on the 7th February 1812. He and his family had to leave their house when he was only seven months old as his father, John Dickens, had problems managing his money. In 1812, John Dickens went to work in Portsmouth at the British Navy headquarters. His family then spent two years in Chatham, London. In 1817, Charles went to school where he learned how to read and write.

In 1822 at the age of ten, he and his family moved to a poorer conditioned house in Chatham, this started an unhappy period of his life. He didn’t attend school for two years, wandering the streets instead. He then started working in a blacking factory, labelling jars of boot-black. His father also got sent to a debtors prison so Charles’ life became even more deprived. Being poor in those times was extremely hard, the homeless spent the nights cold, hungry and suffering. Charles’ grandmother died shortly after, fortunately leaving him some money.

This started a prosperous period in his life. He went back to school for three years, afterwards going on to study law, but he mocked the legal system as he felt there was a too greater divide between the rich and the poor. At the age of seventeen he fell in love with Maria Beacnell. He spent four years with her until she became fat and grotesque, Charles wondered how he ever found her attractive. In 1835 he fell in love again with Catherine Hogarth and got married to her. He also wrote ‘The Pickwick Paper’ which made him a lot of money and put an end to his poverty.

In 1837 he had his first child and started writing ‘Oliver Twist’. Unfortunately, his wife’s sister died at the age of seventeen, Charles was devastated which makes you wonder how happily married he was. Charles Dickens became a public figure and his friends were very important to him, especially a man called John Foster. Altogether Charles had nine children but was separated from his wife Catherine. He visited America but was disappointed as there were no copyright laws. He later had an affair with Ellen Turner, in those days this was a great scandal.

On the 6th June 1870, Charles died from a stroke. He was mourned throughout the world. Charles Dickens took a great deal of care with his money unlike his father. He never forgot the hard times he endured as a boy. He donated vast amounts of money to the poor and destitute. He also wrote many of his books to educate the rich of the daily struggles of the poor. He was a perfect example of the successful self-made man of the Victorian era. People lived in diabolical social conditions in the Victorian era.