A Christmas Carol - Extract 1

This GCSE English Literature quiz is the first of two extract questions for A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It takes place midway through the novella after Scrooge has been exposed to some of his own past experiences of Christmas, some pleasant and some not. He has been made to recall, for example, the simple pleasures of Mr Fezziwig’s Christmas celebrations for his employees and has remembered all that his love of money has cost him during his life. The Spirits are not yet finished with him, however…

How to answer an extract question in an exam:

It is always a good idea to read the passage through carefully more than once before attempting to answer an extract question for an exam.

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Because you will notice different aspects of the passage on each read-through, re-reading is never a waste of time. The first time you read the passage, aim for a general understanding of the extract and how it relates to the question you have chosen to answer. You can begin to make detailed notes and annotations as you plan your answer more carefully during a second reading.

Ask yourself why the specific passage has been chosen. How does it fit with the rest of the text? Are any significant characters or themes introduced? What happens next? Does the passage foreshadow later events? Does it indicate a turning point? Consider the ending of the extract, asking yourself why it ends where it does instead of somewhere else. What might be significant about the final line?

Pay close attention to the wording of the question you have chosen to answer. Perhaps it requires you to write about mood and atmosphere, or a particular character. Or the question might ask for your personal response to the passage or to a character. Maybe dialogue, behaviour or feelings are the focus of the question. Always explain the passage’s immediate context: acknowledge the events which precede the extract, considering their relevance. Discuss detail, setting and characterisation in the extract. In your response, you should also analyse and discuss the relationship between the passage and the wider themes of the text. Group related ideas together to structure your writing. Be sure to leave enough time to discuss the entire passage. It is always disappointing to cover one section in so much detail that you run out of time to do justice to the rest of the extract!

Read the extract below carefully before answering the questions.

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They went on, invisible, as they had been before, into the suburbs of the town. It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which Scrooge had observed at the baker’s), that notwithstanding his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as gracefully and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he could have done in any lofty hall.

And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling with the sprinklings of his torch. Think of that! Bob had but fifteen “Bob” a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house!

Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob’s private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks. And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker’s they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage-and-onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars near choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.

“What has ever got your precious father then?” said Mrs. Cratchit. “And your brother, Tiny Tim! And Martha warn’t as late last Christmas Day by half-an-hour!”

“Here’s Martha, mother” said a girl, appearing as she spoke.

“Here’s Martha, mother!” cried the two young Cratchits. “Hurrah! There’s such a goose Martha!”

“Why bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!” said Mrs. Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet for her with officious zeal.

“We’d a deal of work to finish up last night,” replied the girl, “and had to clear away this morning, mother!”

“Well! Never mind so long as you are come,” said Mrs. Cratchit.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (Odhams Press)
  1. What is the immediate context for this passage?
    The sights progress from the overflowing bounty of the shops to the poor dinners which the Spirit sprinkles with his torch
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    Scrooge appears never to have cared before this moment about Bob's life at home and how many family members he supports on his meagre wage of 15 shillings a week
  3. What does the narrator suggest as the reason for the Spirit of Christmas Present choosing to visit the Cratchit household?
    The Spirit travels from sprinkling the dinners of the poor to visiting a household which is somehow abundant despite its poverty
  4. Which of the following best describes the atmosphere of this passage?
    The Cratchit household is a busy, joyful one while everyone awaits their Christmas dinner
  5. Which of the following phrases LEAST contributes to the atmosphere of this passage, as described above?
    Mrs Cratchit is about to add to the sense of bustle when she rises, but the sentence above focusses on her appearance
  6. How might Mrs Cratchit's appearance best be described?
    Mrs Cratchit's dress is "twice-turned", which means that she has entirely unstitched it, turned the fabric around, and stitched it together with the least worn side of the fabric showing. The only thing is that she has done this twice and is now showing fabric which was already quite worn. Her ribbons distract from her dress
  7. How does Mrs Cratchit respond to Martha's late arrival?
    Just as the Cratchit family is exceedingly grateful for their small goose and relatively frugal meal, so Mrs Cratchit is just grateful for her daughter to be able to come home for part of the day
  8. Which of the following is personified in this passage?
    Peter blows on the fire "until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled"
  9. What is the significance of Peter's shirt collar?
    Peter is wearing his father's shirt collar for the day and is thus looking almost distinguished and grown-up (although the collar is much too big for him!)
  10. Why are the young Cratchits excited outside the bakers?
    The Cratchit family must cook their goose in the baker's oven, just like those described in the previous scene

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