A Christmas Carol


Charles Dickens

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A Christmas Carol: Style 1 key example

Stave 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The style of A Christmas Carol is conversational, informal, and tongue-in-cheek. Most of its prose shows great exuberance in service of portraying Scrooge's many emotions. Dickens also employs long, descriptive sentences throughout the story. This is a classic feature of the Dickensian style; he is famous for his ornate prose. The following sentence is one of the longest in the first stave:

If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot—say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance—literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.

This sentence contains many clauses connected by commas, as well as em dashes, which serve to punctuate a humorous allusion to Hamlet. Long sentences not only permit complex allusions; they also lend themselves well to descriptions of otherworldly creatures like the spirits.

What's more, Dickens uses the rule of threes as a structural device, as three spirits come to visit Scrooge. The story itself could also be interpreted in three "acts": Marley's ghost ends the first one, the three spirits occupy the second one, and, finally,  Scrooge's climactic revelation constitutes the third "act."