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Dickens: A Christmas Carol

3. Comedy

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In this module, we think about the use of comedy in the novel, focusing in particular on: (i) the unusual mixture of fear and comedy in A Christmas Carol; (ii) the amount of laughter in the book, e.g. the boys outside the school room, the laughter of the boys during the snowball fight, etc.; (iii) the mixed emotions felt by Scrooge when seeing himself at school ("a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying"); (iv) the comic descriptions of some of the supernatural goings-on in the novel, e.g. Marley's face being "like a bad lobster in a dark cellar"; (v) the various wordplays and puns used by the narrator and by Scrooge himself doing the scene with Marley's ghost ("There's more of gravy than grave about you"); (vi) the evolution of the story from comedy to tragedy and back again; and (vii) the importance of Scrooge pretending to be his old self just before revealing his change to Bob Cratchit right at the end of the novel.


In this course, Professor John Mullan (University College, London) explores Charles Dickens' 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. In the first module, we think about the idea storytelling in the novel, focusing in particular on the 'character' of the narrator and the idea that A Christmas Carol was a designed as a novel to be read in a single sitting. After that, in the second module, we think about ghosts in A Christmas Carol and in Victorian literature and society more generally, before turning in the third module to the use of comedy in the novel. In the fourth module, we focus on the character of Ebenezer Scrooge himself, before turning in the fifth and final module to consider the idea of 'fancy' in the novel.


Professor John Mullan holds the Lord Northcliffe Chair of Modern English Literature at University College, London. He is a specialist in eighteenth-century literature, currently writing the 1709-1784 volume of the Oxford English Literary History. Most recently he is the author of How Novels Work (2006), Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature (2008) and What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved (2012). A broadcaster and journalist as well as an academic, he writes a weekly column on contemporary fiction for the Guardian.

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APA style

Mullan, J. (2021, March 08). Dickens: A Christmas Carol - Comedy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Mullan, J. "Dickens: A Christmas Carol – Comedy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Mar 2021,