Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol entered the hearts of many in 1843. It was a story of a selfish man who was able to see the evil of his ways and in turn became good. Redemption is a key theme throughout the entire novella. The story shows that no matter who you are, we are all the same. Because of Dickens’ upbringing he was fully able to understand the situation which the poor faced in England during the nineteenth century. The wealthy people were enlightened after reading his work. Dickens’ work opened people up to the idea that class is only defined by your wealth and not who you are as a person.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Landport, England. he was the second child of eight born to Elizabeth and John Dickens. His parents were said to be very social people; his mother attended a ball the day he was born. However, his father John found it very hard to pay for entertainment and the necessities of life. His family faced financial hardship during his younger years. At just four months old, his family moved to a smaller house in order to make the financial struggle less of a burden. But eventually his father was placed in debtor’s prison. to make money, Charles Dickens decided to work for a factory, and in return, he never received a formal education. However, despite his lack of education, he was able to wrote 15 novels, edit a journal for 20 years, write 5 novellas, hundreds of short stories, and even campaign for education, children’s rights, and social reforms.
As he grew older, he became increasingly confident. Despite not knowing what he directly wanted to do with his life, he knew he desired to be famous. He was also very interested in theatre. Dickens made it so close to an audition, but missed it due to illness. he went on to write stories and plays. in 1842. he moved to America with his wife. As his works became increasingly plagiarized in America, he set out to give a petition to Congress to make his works safe.
His literary success first came in 1836 with his release of The Paperwick Papers. Then later on in 1843 as his works were becoming gaining attention and fame increasing, he released A Christmas Carol. Not only did it become a classic, heart warming story for Christmas, but, as mentioned above, it touched the hearts of every social class at the time. It opened the eyes of the rich and showed them that the poor were just like them , if even more humble and deserving of a good life. Dickens’ works were revolutionary, making him arguably the greatest writer of the Victorian Era.
His theatrical productions became so well known, that attendees had to be invited, making it the utmost special event, especially when Queen Victoria attended. The two had a great deal of respect for one another. They had even exchanged each other’s autographed works to one another.
Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol, has adapted over the years countless times, but most of us remember it for the original adaptation written by Dickens himself. One thing that sticks out are the characters’ costumes. Because of the 18403 time period it was released in, we picture the characters to be wearing the stereotypical top hat with a cane, a somewhat puffy dresses. Well, this mostly fits correctly with the time period, but there are certain things about men and women’s clothing that make it truly 1840s.
A dark brown silk satin damask gown with rose motif. 1840-1849
A woman’s dress tended to have low, sloping shoulders. The bodice of the dress came low on the waist and somewhat looked like a “v”. The sleeves of a dress were bell-shaped and there would be layers upon layers of petticoats underneath the skirt portion of the dress. Women also tended to carry small handbags with them. They were typically white with embroidery or a painted design when women stayed at home, but once they went outside they used green or white tasseled bags. The accessory was made of crocheted linens, the same material used to male their shoes surprisingly. Bonnets as headwear were also popular, and their hair was typically parted in the middle.
Men’s fashion at the time was greatly influenced by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. He cared a great deal for his appearance, was young at the time of marriage to Queen Victoria, and being the husband of England’s number one celebrity didn’t hurt. The suit jacket clenched at the waist and flared out from there, giving them an slight hour glass figure, and some even wore a corset. Shirts were made with a high collar and ties were worn. Men also wore tight waist pants and trousers. Facial hair was very popular during this time also. Most had mustaches and sideburns. Top hair was worn long and was swept to the side. This entire look was very typical of upper class.
Clothing for the poor and clothing for the rich were probably he number one way to tell the difference between socioeconomic class in the Victorian Era. During this time period, men held most of the power. It was “a man’s world.” The wealthy husband would have a beautiful home, good standing in society, and a adoring wife, along with a few children. There were also servants for every job. The woman of the family were given an abundance of opportunities for travel and fine living. Their clothes were made with the best materials. They wore frivolous dresses and had an array to choose from. Everything from bonnets to the petticoats were made to impress. One of the main reasons for such expensive clothing was to directly divide the rich from the working class. The poor woman’s outfit was made of rag cloth, definitely not the most expensive or lavish material available.
Top hat ~ 1840-1850 It is made with dark brown felt amd has a narrow black petersham edging brim. the side are straight and the brim curves up on either side.
One of the biggest determinants of a man’s class was his hat. A man who had a quality top hat was said to be well off and respectable. It was normally made of silk on a felt base. When the production of top hats began, the felt was normally taken from a beaver. A beaver’s felt would help the hat keep its shape when it rained and was overall more durable. A cheaper alternative was rabbit, but he high social class wanted the best. A top hat like the one pictured is typical of what you may see the notorious Ebenezer Scrooge wear in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
If you watch Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol this Christmas, make sure to pay extra attention to what the characters are wearing. A lot can be said about a person by the clothes they wear, this was very prevalent during the Victorian Era. However, with theme is Dickens’ story, we are able to be reminded that class is not what makes us human. We are all capable of good cheer, love, and joy this Christmas season no matter who we are.
“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
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Accessed on December 3, 2018. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickens
(August 20, 2018). 1840-1849, 19th Century, Decade Overview. Retrieved from https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/1840-1849/