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Dickens: A Christmas Carol

11. Stave 3 – Christmas on Land and Sea

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In this module, we continue to read through Stave Three as Scrooge leaves the Cratchits’ and is transported to the various Christmases taking place around the country, on land and sea. In particular, we think about: (i) the negative aspects of the Cratchits’ Christmas dinner, the hints of poverty and desperation; (ii) Scrooge’s “penitence and grief” at seeing Tiny Tim; (iii) Mrs Cratchit’s criticism of Scrooge (“an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man”); (iv) the scenes as Scrooge at the Ghost of Christmas Present walk through the streets of London; (v) the celebrations of Christmas in the remotest parts of the country – the miners (“The old man … was singing them a Christmas song”), the lighthouse men (“Even here … they wished each other Merry Christmas in their can of grog”), and the men on the ship (“Every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought.”); and (vi) the concept of the “unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as Death.”


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 3 – Christmas on Land and Sea [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Dickens: A Christmas Carol – Stave 3 – Christmas on Land and Sea." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Mar 2020,