A Christmas Carol: Practise Question

The following extract is taken from stave three of A Christmas Carol. The Cratchit family have just sat down to Christmas dinner.

‘Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course—and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped.’

Starting with the extract, explore how Dickens uses language to present the Cratchit family in A Christmas Carol.

Write about:

  • How the Cratchit family are presented in the extract
  • How the Cratchit family are presented in the novel as a whole

Example Paragraph

The Cratchit family are first introduced in stave three. We meet Mrs Cratchit, who is ‘dressed out but poorly in a twice turned gown’. The adverb ‘poorly’ immediately indicates that the Cratchit’s financial situation isn’t great. Dickens uses the phrase ‘twice turned’, which suggests that the family can’t afford to buy brand new, so it was likely a hand-me-down or bought from a charity shop. During the 19th century, a lot of working class families would buy their ‘best’ clothes second hand because they couldn’t afford the prices of the new clothing, especially due to the Industrial Revolution and prices rising.  Despite this, she is still in good spirits as she prepares Christmas dinner. As a reader we would feel sorry for the lack of material items the Cratchit’s possess, but Dickens presents the family in such a way to show his readers that money and material items aren’t what creates a happy home.