Charles Dickens ~ A Christmas Carol
A Study Guide with Consideration for Grammar
from John McIlvain
Bookmarks ~ Stave One
~ Stave Two ~ Stave Three ~ Stave
Grammar ~ Vocabulary
A Christmas Carol is an interesting book to teach at the Middle School level because most students know the story, and failing that can rent a video. (I recommend the version with George C. Scott because of its accuracy; students who have seen an inaccurate video or the Holiday musical version can become very confused, especially if it is used as a substitute for the text.) I attribute the fact that I have never had a non-Christian student or parent object to A Christmas Carol as part of the curriculum to its remarkably secular depiction of the Christian holiday. The moral of the story is universal. Knowledge of the story does not make reading the book easy because Dickens prose is most likely to be the most sophisticated prose the students have encountered. Reading the opening pages aloud in class and discussing them in detail is recommended because of their complexity and the distance between our world and that of Dickens. It is valuable to study some of the sentences Dickens writes in connection with the study of grammar. Some of the exercises I do in connection with this are included as a separate page. The study questions do not include any questions for the final stave because no direction is needed in order for readers to participate in the general joy. There are two sets of questions for Stave Three because it is assigned over two nights. I have also provided a list by stave of many of the rich vocabulary words from the story.
Text of A Christmas Carol - An excellent easy-to-read hyper-linked text with the John Leech illustrations. The paragraphs are numbered. At the end of each stave there are useful notes that explain such things as the change.
Information on Dickens and a Timeline for Christmas
The Carol after Edgar Allan Poe - Most amusing Dickens meets "The Raven"
Charles Dickens An Overview - (Victorian) Excellent information from an excellent site (The Victorian Web). This site also includes a list of Victorian colloquialisms included in "A Christmas Carol" compiled by Philip Allingham (http://65.107.211/dickens/pva/pva116.html)
CyberGuide A Christmas Carol - High School site with Study questions and projects
Dickens' Christmas Page (informative)
A Little Book about C.C. - A nice supplement including biographical material and information about England in 1843.
Christmas Carol - Educator's Guide (TNT film) - Useful material including thematic study questions, study questions and good supplementary material. Designed to accompany the film (with Patrick Stewart) but pertinent to reading the story.
Stave One Questions ~
1. What is the simile in the second paragraph?
2. Why does the narrator make such a point of Marleys being dead?
3. Why doesnt the weather affect Scrooge? (paragraph 7 paragraph numbers correspond to hyperliked text noted above)
4. How is Scrooges nephew different from Scrooge?
5. What do the portly gentlemen who come in after Scrooges nephew leave want?
6. How does the knocker change?
7. Why does Scrooge like the darkness? (paragraph 85, just after the incident with the knocker)
8. What has Marleys ghost been doing since his death?
9. What is the warning that Marley gives Scrooge?
10. Why are the phantoms (three paragraphs from the end of the stave) upset?
Stave Two Questions ~
1. What was the strangest thing about the way the spirit looked? (paragraph nineteen sentence beginning but the strangest thing )
2. What is Scrooges initial attitude toward the spirit?
3. What is different about Scrooge when he says Remember it? I could walk it with a blindfold? (paragraph 44)
4. Who is Scrooge talking about when he says Poor boy! (paragraph 58 - after)
5. What does it tell us about Scrooge when Dickens observesa rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character.? (same paragraph)
6. When Fan comes to pick Scrooge up, we learn a reason why Scrooge may have turned out the way he did. What is this reason?
7. What kind of people are the Fezziwigs?
8. Who is Belle and why was she important to Scrooge?
9. Why does Scrooge say Remove me. (paragraph 144, five from the end of the stave)
10. How does Scrooge try to "extinguish the light"? Does he succeed? What is the light a symbol of?
Stave Three Questions ~ First Half ~ Second Half
First Half ~
1. How is what Scrooge is thinking as he lies in bed waiting to see if the spirit appears different from the previous chapter?
2. What does the spirit look like?
3. What is this ghosts personality like?
4. How has Scrooges attitude toward his being escorted by a ghost changed? (paragraph 17)
5. What is the point of the long description beginning The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker (paragraph 21 ) and continuing on for several pages through paragraph 24 which begins, But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces.
6. What are three significant things we learn about the Cratchits (paragraphs 51-85)?
7. How is Scrooge affected by seeing the family (paragraphs 71-76)?
Second Half ~
1.What does the Spirit mean when he says But they Know me. See! about the miners (paragraph 91)
2. What is the point of going to the lighthouse (paragraphs 93-94)? to the ship (p95)
3. What is the great surprise to Scrooge in the next paragraph (96)?
4. What would Fred think would be a positive outcome of his Christmas invitation to Scrooge (p. paragraph 114 the sentence beginning, if it only )?5. What happens to Scrooges mood as the party goes on? Why do you think this happens?
6. Describe the game called Yes and No Scrooge witnesses at his nephews Christmas party.
7. What does it mean to say the boy and the girl (Ignorance and Want the last paragraphs of the stave) are Mans children (paragraph 144)?
Stave Four Questions ~
1. What does the spirit of Christmas future look like?
2. What is this spirits personality like?
3. How does Scrooge feel about this spirit (paragraph 8)?
4. What is the point of the long discussion between Joe and Mrs. Dilber (paragraphs 43-78)? Hint: they relate to Scrooges property.
5. What are some of the words Dickens uses to create the mood of the paragraphs that follow? (79-83) What is this mood?
6. When Scrooge asks the phantom to let him "see some tenderness connected with a death, (paragraph 104) what does the ghost show him?
7. What is the lesson Scrooge learns in this stave that he had not learned before? Why is this stave needed when Scrooges attitude had already changed so much.
Stave 1 Stave 2 Stave 3 Stave 4 Stave 5 Unhallowed