A Christmas Carol - Themes

This GCSE English Literature quiz challenges you on themes in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Themes in a work of literature can be very subtle or might be entirely obvious. They can be straightforward and operate alone, but are more likely to interact with and comment upon other themes in the same text. Authors develop a text’s themes through setting, character, plot and dialogue. Pay close attention to the related ideas and concepts you find and see whether you can follow the development of a theme over the course of a text. When writing specifically about a theme, it is important to consider your final thoughts as you reach the end of the text. Have your ideas changed? If so, can you discover when and where your views on a key theme began to alter?

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By engaging with the key themes, readers engage with the author. Usually texts encourage readers to interrogate their own beliefs or ways of looking at the world. A Christmas Carol is upfront about its moral message and does not prompt the reader so much as prod. If a text makes you think hard about an issue or maybe even persuades you to change your mind, then the author has successfully encouraged you to engage with one or more of the text’s themes. You might find that you disagree strongly with other readers, your classmates, or even your teacher. This is entirely natural: it would be odd to share identical views with everyone else. Your response will be deeply personal because you bring your own thoughts, beliefs and experiences into consideration of the text.

A Christmas Carol deals with themes of poverty, family, generosity, welfare, gratitude, responsibility, reform and forgiveness. These themes are interrelated. Each of these issues is raised in Scrooge’s nightly travels with the Spirits and each character plays a key role in the development of a theme, and especially on changing Scrooge’s attitudes to fellow human beings. Since this is a didactic text, the narrator often lectures the reader on the same themes. See if you can spot where the narrator directly encourages you to change your own mind.

Read the questions below and test your knowledge of the themes of A Christmas Carol.

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  1. Which of the following best exemplifies the theme of gratitude in the text?
    The Cratchit family are immensely grateful for the bounty of their meal, even though the portions are small and only barely serve everyone
  2. The ghost of Jacob Marley is outraged when Scrooge praises him as a "good man of business". Why?
    "'Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.'"
  3. The visions of Christmas Past show Scrooge several beloved figures. Which of the following is NOT one of these?
    Fred is the son of Scrooge's sister Fan and he exhibits her most beloved characteristics, but Scrooge is unable to appreciate this without prompting by the Spirit
  4. Which quality does Scrooge praise in his former employer Mr Fezziwig?
    Scrooge realises that he has been unkind to his own employee not only in paying him low wages, but also in his harsh words
  5. In the beginning of the text, where does Scrooge believe the poor should go?
    When the gentlemen collecting money for Christmas charity tell Scrooge that many people would rather die than go to prison or the workhouse, he callously remarks that they "had better do it, and decrease the surplus population". He does not have any empathy for anyone in any kind of need
  6. Which one of the following demonstrates the theme of repentance in the text?
    Scrooge begins to remember and regret his words and actions over the course of the three visits. This regret then leads him to repent of the harm he has done and the good he has failed to do in his life
  7. How does the theme of hope make a difference to the meaning of the novella?
    Hope exists because Scrooge is able to change the future, although he cannot change the past
  8. What does the reader know of Scrooge's childhood?
    Scrooge's childhood was an unhappy one in many ways. His loneliness contrasts strongly with the loving atmosphere of the Cratchit home
  9. "Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill at the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he though it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms." This sentence towards the end of the novella can best be summed up in which lesson?
    Dickens aims to show that as much harm as Scrooge caused in the world, the greatest danger was to his own soul
  10. Whose ghostly visit focusses on the theme of plenty?
    The Ghost of Christmas Present is surrounded by the richness and goodness of the natural world and takes Scrooge to view the feasting and festivity of people representing various walks of life from the poor Cratchits to miners to lonely lighthouse keepers

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