Listing in A Christmas Carol

The Ghost of Christmas Present (who is most closely related to our idea of Santa Claus in productions that I have seen of the story) clearly embodies those things which Christmas is supposed to be about – generosity, happiness and celebration. The throne of food upon which he first appears only further advances the ideas of festiveness which surround him. I would argue that the sheer amount of food, which is made clear through extensive listing on page 40, also projects a connotation of togetherness. “…Turkeys, geese, game, poultry…suckling pigs [and] long wreaths of sausages,” could hardly ever be consumed by a single person, or even a pair (Dickens 40). To consume such a feast would require a large family, or certainly a collective gathering. This listing, whose purpose is to highlight quantity, is by no means unintentional; rather, the idea is crucial to Dickens’ meaning of Christmas. The only time we see Scrooge happy in all of his past Christmases is when he is in the company of a large, extended family (with the Fezziwigs). The main warning of Marley’s ghost is against Scrooge’s hermit-like tendency to isolate himself from others, and the ridicule he receives from his nephew’s wife and her sisters stems from his refusal to join in their company. It seems that his spirit of self-importance and isolation will doom him, for it is the exact antithesis to the spirit of Christmas (again, made apparent by the abundance of food upon which the embodiment of Christmas, the Ghost of Christmas Present, sits).

The recurrence of listing is also important for it underscores an implication of privilege. While Scrooge is surprised to see all of the food and decoration, it is indicated that he is wealthy enough to be familiar with the presence of both (whereas poorer families could not even imagine such luxuries).  The fruits and other goods Scrooge sees in the town shops are also attached to the idea of materialism and wealth, as they are unattainable without a certain amount of money. The overwhelming amounts of sustenance and luxury that these lists describe are meant to remind readers (and Scrooge) that they are unavailable to most families, like the Cratchits, who are introduced to the novel immediately after the multiple occasions of listing. While the relationship may be subtle, it is clear that lists of luxury are meant to contrast what little the Cratchits have materially, and also elevate what they, instead, have in each other.

 

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