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During the course of this book Dickens describes the conditions of the poor in very detail and we, as the readers, find out about poor in society. In stave one Charles Dickens introduces to us what the unfortunate had to do for a living. “plenty of prisons… and the work houses… the treadmill and the poor law are in full vigour? ” To provide food and shelter for themselves the underprivileged had to work in work houses. These were factories where the deprived (often the young, old or crippled) worked as a last resort to survive.
The conditions in the workhouses were so awful that the poor thought that they might as well die than work there. This is stated in A Christmas Carol when a character (referred to as the ‘gentleman’) is trying to make Scrooge give a donation to the poor: “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die. ” This quote clearly demonstrates how awful the conditions of the work houses were.
Since local landowners and other people donated to the workhouses they threatened to keep the conditions of the working houses ruthless otherwise they would cease to give the money to the ‘undeserving poor’.
During the time there, workers were made to complete hard and tedious tasks for hours on end with only two breaks. In addition to this underprivileged people who were in debt were sent to Debt prisons where the treadmill was used as a form of punishment. This punishment was when prisoners had to grind grains, mill flour and power objects such as cranes etc.
However these conditions wouldn’t have been forced upon the poor if the poor law wasn’t passed.
The poor law was a law passed for the benefit of the deprived so that they could live in society with no trouble, but in fact it ended up with the poor in a disastrous state hoping that they would rather die than use the facilities the poor law provided: “I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there. ” This quote helps to support the idea that the rich could not be bothered to donate to the poor during the merriest and religious time of the year (Christmas) but instead they helped to support the establishments which pained the poor.
This also shows that the rich were very ignorant of the conditions of the unfortunate, and thought that the organizations that aggrieved the poor were actually something that was for the benefit of the poor, which the upper class thought they took for granted. In a Christmas carol the poor are represented by Bob Cratchit and his family ‘ Bob had but fifteen “Bob” a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays. This citation shows that Bob is very poor. In addition to this the young children of the Cratchit family also had to work very hard, “We’d a deal of work to finish up last night…
and had to clear away this morning. ” This shows that because Bob Cratchit and his family are very poor, the younger members of his family had to work very hard, even during the night till the morning, therefore Dickens has proved to us that the poor were far from lazy, whereas the rich were more lazy than the poor since they didn’t have to work too hard to the extent that they believed they would rather die. Furthermore, when Scrooge and the Christmas spirit visit a poor district in London we are made to feel sympathetic towards the underprivileged.
“Alleys and archways like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth and misery. ” This tells us that the poor have to live in small filthy places where it was filled with disease and ‘misery’. This quote also tells us that some places in Victorian London were very crowded with shops and houses built in alleyways, also because London was so overcrowded their had been such a rise in crime, that it actually ‘reeked’ with felony.
This also shows that London had become overcrowded because of the increase of job demands due to the industrial revolution. It additionally illustrates to us that the poor have no other means of survival but to participate with crime. The poor and their contribution with crime is even more expressed when they raid Scrooge’s corpse in attempt to receive some money out of it. “He frightened everyone away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead!
” This quote shows that the poor will not stop at anything to get hold of money, even if it means stripping a dead man of his clothes. The poor say they are doing the right thing because if they didn’t strip Scrooge of his belongings then all the valuables would go to waste, which may not hold too much value with Scrooge but the money which would make would be a benefit to their extremely low wages. This makes us sympathise with the poor since it makes us think of how they have to put a stone on their heart and do deeds that are gruesome, inhumane and undignified.
When scrooge was alive he had a duty towards the poor as did other people from the upper class to be charitable towards them and care for them. Scrooge ignored that duty even during Christmas, therefore the poor ignored him being a human and thought he didn’t deserve their love, gratitude, respect or kind word. After Scrooge had died and comes forwards to this era in the future he doesn’t blame the poor of what they had done to his body but sympathises that they had to do such merciless things because he knew that they were good at heart.
However if this had happened when he was still bitter and merciless himself then he would think that the poor was even more lazy and ‘idle’ and undeserving. Also, Scrooge’s approach regarding the underprivileged at the start of the novel is very negative as he describes them as ‘idle’ and follows the Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest that people who try hard can be honoured whereas people who don’t try hard won’t be honoured. “It’s not my business.
It’s enough for a man to understand his own business and not interfere with other people’s” This quote shows how the upper class/middle class of the 1840’s society are selfish and care for only themselves, in particular Scrooge is the selfish human here and will not stop to help the less fortunate. However, although this is Scrooge’s attitude towards the poor a few people with similar social status’s like him or with a middle class social status don’t behave like him. “A few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.
We chose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. ” From this quote it is clearly portrayed that not all characters in the short novel are as egocentric as Scrooge is; they spend their time, during Christmas to raise money for the poor. Originally this quote was told to Scrooge for money to bestow upon the poor but he replied by saying that he would not give. In addition to this Scrooge’s nephew also does not think like Scrooge and is happy to bestow whatever food, money and shelter etc to the poor.
“Kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time… when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow- passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on others journeys. ” This shows that although Scrooge is a cold-hearted, self-centred human being, others in the same social status as Scrooge do not think like him since they are happy to bequeath anything they can to the poor.
“I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. ” From this quote it is obviously depicted by Scrooge himself that he despises the poor so much that even giving a tiny portion of his wealth to them would cause him pain because he thinks that money should not be wasted on the poor. Scrooge thinks that the poor of the Victorian society don’t deserve charity because they haven’t worked hard enough in their life to reach a high position.
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