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Charles Dickens ~ A Christmas Carol

A Study Guide with Consideration for Grammar

from John McIlvain

Bookmarks ~ Stave One ~ Stave Two ~ Stave Three ~ Stave Four
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.

Bookmarks ~

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 Marley’s being dead?

3. Why doesn’t the weather affect Scrooge? (paragraph 7 – paragraph numbers correspond to hyperliked text noted above)

4. How is Scrooge’s nephew different from Scrooge?

5. What do the “portly gentlemen” who come in after Scrooge’s 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 Marley’s 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 Scrooge’s 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 observes“a 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 ghost’s personality like?


4. How has Scrooge’s 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 Cratchit’s (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 Scrooge’s 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 “Man’s children (paragraph 144)”?

Stave Four Questions ~

1. What does the spirit of Christmas future look like?


2. What is this spirit’s 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 Scrooge’s 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 Scrooge’s attitude had already changed so much.

Vocabulary ~

Stave 1 Stave 2 Stave 3 Stave 4 Stave 5
Unhallowed
Entreaty
Impropriety
Multitude
Executor
Trifle
Resolute
Tremulous
Legatee
Implore
Lunatic
Rapture
Garret
Covetous
Replenish
Credentials
Congeal
Misanthropic
Solitary
Intimation
Ominous
Caustic
Plaque
Reclamation
Expend
Tumult
Recumbent
Jocund
Transition
Capacious
Tunic
Instantaneous
Loath
Deftly
Brigands
Lustrous
Latent
Condescension
Corroborate
Pillaged
Conducive
Laden
Decanter
Aspiration
Consolation
Glee
Subsequently
Withered
Seething
Demurely
Prematurely
Goblets
Demeanor
Conspicuous
Shabby
Exulted
Grog
Compulsion
Swarthy
Ubiquitous
Blithe
Abyss
Intricate
Bilious
Ensued
Dismal
Repute
Flaunting
Beseech
Inexorable
Disgorge
Repent
Relents
Replete
Reek
Scanty
Faltered
Foreshadow
Repulse
Slipshod
Revered
Essence
Intercede
Dwindle
Beetling
Avarice
Tarry
Strive
Gruel
Recompense
Jiffy
Hearty
Peals
Portly
Feign
Sealing wax
Jovial
Pang
Waistcoat
Illustrious
Extravagance
Loitered
Sidled
Endeavor
Amends
Giddy
Poulterer
Array
Borough
Dispelled

Grammar ~

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