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Dickens: A Christmas Carol

5. Stave 1 – The Counting-House

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In this module, we continue to read Stave One, from the opening of the story proper (“Once upon a time…”) to Scrooge’s dismissal of the charity collectors (Good afternoon, gentlemen!"). In particular, we focus on: (i) Dickens’ decision to start the story proper with the words “Once upon a time…”; (ii) the figure of Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit; (iii) the figure of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, who visits the office to wish Scrooge a ‘Merry Christmas’; (iv) Scrooge’s negative depiction of Christmas (“What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money?”); (v) Fred’s rejection of Scrooge’s assertion that ‘good’ means ‘profitable’ (“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited’); (vi) Scrooge’s rejection – and mockery – of love and marriage; (vii) the figures of the charity collectors and Scrooge’s treatment of them; (viii) the fact that Marley died precisely seven years ago, i.e. on Christmas Eve; and (ix) Scrooge’s attitude towards the Poor, and his rejection of charity.


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In the first module, we introduce the novel by looking at the first two paragraphs of the story, including its famous opening line (“Marley was dead; to begin with”) and the reader’s first impression of the character of Scrooge (“Scrooge's name was good on ‘Change”). In the second and third modules, we go through some of the literary, cultural and historical context for the novel, including Dickens’ life and career up to 1843, the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British society and culture, the ‘invention’ of the ‘traditional, family Christmas’ in this period, and Dickens’ preoccupation with capitalism, poverty and children. In the following twelve modules, we read through the novel stave by stave: the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh modules cover Stave One; the eighth and ninth cover Stave Two; the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth cover Stave Three; the thirteen and fourteenth cover Stave Four; and the fifteenth covers Stave Five.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

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APA style

McRae, J. (2020, March 24). Dickens: A Christmas Carol - Stave 1 – The Counting-House [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Dickens: A Christmas Carol – Stave 1 – The Counting-House ." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Mar 2020,