A Christmas Carol: An In-Depth Dive of a Christmas Classic

Ryan Heuchert, Staff Writer

Ghosts in a Christmas story. This is what captivated people to first read ‘A Christmas Carol,’ a book written by Charles Dickens. Since 1843, the book has been popular across America and the United Kingdom. Sophomore William Huffman says that he “remembers watching an animated version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ for a class.” Many people see this spooky story as a classic of Christmas literature, but there are some interesting facts behind this tale of old. 

Summary of ‘A Christmas Carol’ 

The story follows Ebeneezer Scrooge, a wealthy, yet greedy old man who is unkind to his family and assistant, Bob Cratchit. On the evening of Christmas eve, the ghost of Scrooge’s late business partner, Jacob Marley visits him to tell the old man that three ghosts, the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, will visit him that night. Britannica says that “the Ghost of Christmas Past reveals vignettes of Scrooge’s early life…. The Ghost of Christmas Present reveals to Scrooge that joy has little to do with wealth…. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come allows Scrooge a vision…he will die despised and unmourned. Afterwards, Scrooge… mends his ways, becoming generous and thoughtful.” 

The Life of Charles Dickens 

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was a successful British author during the 19th century. Contrary to his adult life, he experienced a difficult childhood. According to Biography.com, Dickens’s father was imprisoned for debt, forcing a young Charles to “leave school to work at a boot-blacking factory alongside the River Thames.” Biography.com adds that working conditions were harsh and led him to feel “abandoned and betrayed by the adults who were supposed to take care of him. These sentiments would later become a recurring theme in his writing.” Eventually, the family was able to pay off his father’s debt, and Dickens returned to school briefly. He dropped out again in 1827 at 15 and began working for newspapers. Within a short span of time, he had gained popularity for his captions for illustrations in a paper called the ‘Posthumous Papers.’ Within a few years, he began authoring books including, ‘Oliver Twist,’ ‘Great Expectations,’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ and ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Dickens eventually married and had 10 children. He died in 1870 after suffering a stroke. 

Writing ‘A Christmas Carol’ 

In the fall of 1843, Charles Dickens began writing ‘A Christmas Carol,’ the first of a series of Christmas books. Six weeks later, the book was published and sold on Christmas Eve. Although the story may seem to be an eerie holiday book, Dickens’s intention was to release a social commentary that was Christmas themed. The National Endorsement for the Arts says, “As Dickens’ biographer, Michael Slater, described, the author thought of A Christmas Carol to, “’help open the hearts of the prosperous and powerful towards the poor and powerless….’” Junior Suzette Alancheril says she can see the social commentary aspect, stating that “Scrooge is wealthier than most of the people around him. It shows the differences in economic classes.” 

Reception and Legacy 

Upon the release of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ the story received overwhelmingly positive reviews with 6,000 copies sold in the United States and the United Kingdom. Many people plagiarized the book, resulting in several legal battles between Charles Dickens and others. Additionally, an article from Time Magazine says that “Dickens himself staged 150 performances of the text.” Biography.com adds that there are even reports of an American entrepreneur giving his employees an extra day off after reading the book. 

One of the most popular ways ‘A Christmas Carol’ has been portrayed has been through film. Since the early 1900s, there have been over 100 film adaptations. Some students, such as freshman Sophia Li believe 100 movies is excessive, stating, “100 adaptations are plenty of versions for one movie.” Others disagree. Huffman says that “If the movie has the exact same plot, then there really is not a point in making the movie. If people want to add a twist or add on to the story, then that is different.” 

Of course, no story goes without critics. Charles Dickens was known to do tours and read his stories to audiences. On one of his trips to the United States, Mark Twain heard his story. Twain was critical of the book, stating, “There is no heart. No feeling—it is nothing but glittering frostwork.” Senior Pranav Vulisetti sympathizes with Twain’s position, saying, “Personally, I would say the book does not interest me; the book is not a good fit. I know there are other people who are not interested in that storyline as well.”  


‘A Christmas Carol’ continues to be a part of Christmas culture, the story resonates with people every year. All the students interviewed say that they believe the story taught important lessons such as generosity, kindness, and joy. Perhaps, this is why ‘A Christmas Carol’ is so well received and remembered. The story, without a doubt, will be remembered for another 180 years.