A Christmas Carol: Opening Notes

Our readalong of A Christmas Carol began this month, but there’s still time to join in! Unlike most of Charles Dickens’ work, this book is very short. Read Staves 1 and 2 by December 7th and you’ll be right on schedule.

Staves? What? Don’t you mean chapters??? NOPE NO I DON’T. If you pull up the tables of contents, you’ll see that the chapters in A Christmas Carol are called “staves.” A stave, among other things, is “a verse or stanza of a poem or song.” Cute, right? Right???



So, our good friend Charles. He’s sort of a big deal. He wrote 20 novels and novellas, along with several boatloads of articles and short stories. You can find a brief summary of his life here.

There’s a rumor going around that Dickens was paid by the word, and that’s why most of his stuff is so long. That’s sorta true but also sorta not. He was paid in installments, and since many of his stories/novels were published serially (every week, month, etc), it would make sense for him to keep a story going as long as possible. But really, it’s an open discussion on whether his stories are “too long” or “drag on too much.”

A Christmas Carol, however, was published in a single volume all at once on December 19th 1843.

[Tiny honest interruption here: I’m not a huge fan of this book. Dickens is a really, really skilled writer but I don’t enjoy reading him most of the time because he’s so upsetting. That being said, I hope this time is different and that I can relax and appreciate the story.]

For those of you who have read this book or other Dickens before, pay attention to what you notice this time around or what strikes you differently.

For those of you who haven’t read Dickens before, he has a bunch of mega-themes or topics he uses frequently in his stories that it might be helpful to know about ahead of time:

  • the appalling conditions of the working and lower social classes
  • the greed of the upper classes
  • social reform in general (I’m not saying he was a social justice warrior but)
  • redemption/corruption
  • guilt
  • (mis)treatment of children
  • crime
  • workaholics/healthy workers
  • fate vs. free will

There are many more I could put on the list, but the ones above are especially applicable to A Christmas Carol.

Next post will be up on Wednesday or Thursday. Enjoy reading!