A Christmas Carol - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz will test you on setting in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The setting of a text refers to the location and the time in which the events take place. Events which occur in the background, even when these are only alluded to by characters, are also elements of a literary text’s setting. This wider fictional world is called context (not to be confused with the author’s real-life context, however). Atmosphere, another important component of setting, can change multiple times in a text. It can be useful to remember that a text might well have several settings, since it is unusual for all of the events to take place in one location.

Consider the setting of your text carefully, asking yourself what effect it creates on the meaning.

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Authors show how their characters are affected by the world in which they live. Characters’ reported thoughts, behaviour and dialogue will show the effect political or social events have on them.

A Christmas Carol is rooted in a very specific time and place. The City, Scrooge’s apartment and the various Christmas feasts are portrayed vividly. Other scenes are dreamlike, such as the shattered landscape where miners celebrate Christmas. Such variety is used powerfully to convey the message of this text, especially where Scrooge’s cold, bare room after death contrasts with the loving and crowded Cratchit household.

Geographical setting includes the region, country, environment, landscapes and buildings in which events occur. It even includes the weather. In A Christmas Carol, for example, pay attention to the difference in the weather at the beginning and at the end of the tale. Do events occur in the same place, or in a variety of places? Do characters travel, or arrive from elsewhere? How does the interaction of characters with their environment create meaning in the text?

It is often useful to compare the time a text is set with when it was written. Do these times differ? Why might an author choose to set a text in the past, present or future? How does such a decision and its consequences change our understanding of the story?

Answer the questions below on setting in A Christmas Carol.

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  1. "He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. His niece looked just the same. So did Topper when he came. So did the plump sister, when she came. So did every one when they came. Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!" When Scrooge surprises Fred by turning up for Christmas dinner, why does Dickens not describe the setting?
    The laughter and music, even the chairs and curtains of this "bright, dry, gleaming" room have already been described. The reader now only needs to picture Scrooge taking full part in the festivities, rather than invisibly observing
  2. "Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist: clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; golden sunlight; heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!" How does this setting relate to Scrooge's character?
    As the fog has lifted from London, so have Scrooge's heart and mind been cleansed of the heavy gloom caused by his miserliness
  3. Scrooge sleeps in a curtained bed which features strongly in the novel. While waiting for the second Spirit to appear, he pulls back the curtains. Why?
    Scrooge's curtains give his bed the appearance of being a sheltered place, but the shelter is merely an illusion, as the sudden appearance of the hand of the Spirit of Christmas Past shows
  4. The events of the novel take place over what period of time?
    The action begins on Christmas Eve, when Scrooge and Bob Cratchit are still working in the counting-house, and ends on the day after Christmas when Bob arrives late to work (although the novel also looks ahead to the rest of Scrooge's life and the survival of Tiny Tim). Scrooge's visions encompass most of his life from his boyhood until his death
  5. Which of the following is true of the Cratchit home?
    The joy of the humble Cratchit household contrasts sharply with the cold emptiness of Scrooge's lodgings
  6. How is the school where Scrooge was educated as a child depicted?
    The schoolroom is bare and melancholy and is lit by a "feeble" fire. Creaks, squeaks and dripping sounds emphasise the deep loneliness Scrooge felt there as a boy
  7. "The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms." What atmosphere is created by this description?
    The gloominess of the surroundings reflects Scrooge's own effect on most people
  8. A Christmas Carol is set in which city?
    The "City" in which Scrooge's business is located is the financial centre of London
  9. In which century is the novel set?
    The novel was published in 1843 and was given a contemporary setting
  10. Which of the following does NOT accurately describe the setting at the opening of the novel?
    The setting in the confined alleyways of the City is cramped and claustrophobic

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