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Facts in A Christmas Carol
Facts Examples in A Christmas Carol:
"half-a-crown..." See in text (Stave One)
Half-a-crown is the equivalent of two shillings and sixpence. This was one sixth of Bob’s weekly salary, since he would have worked six days a week.
"Poor Law..." See in text (Stave One)
This refers to the system of social welfare for poor people in Victorian England. As of 1815, the Poor Law dictated that each parish must help their poor in the form of additional money. However, with the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the law changed to dictate that each poor person must exchange hours of manual labour at a workhouse for food and clothing. It was a law designed to limit help for the poor to only exceptional circumstances. Many people saw the law change as unfair, as it seemed to punish the poor, sick, and elderly, and only make conditions worse for those in need.
"blindman's-buff..." See in text (Stave One)
“Blind Man’s Buff” is a parlor game that resembles the game of “tag,” in which one player is blindfolded and has to chase after the other players until one is caught and the blindfolded player must guess who they have caught. While today, this kind of game might be associated with children, Blind Man’s Buff was popular amongst children and adults alike.
"Saint Dunstan..." See in text (Stave One)
Saint Dunstan was an English archbishop of Canterbury during the 10th century. St. Dunstan is most well known for his significant part in the restoration of the monastery and the reformation of the English Church. St. Dunstan was also revered for a story in which he defeated the devil by pulling him by the nose with a pair of tongs, which is what Dickens refers to when he mentions the “Evil Spirit’s nose.”
"Belshazzars..." See in text (Stave One)
According to the biblical book of Daniel, Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon. In the fifth chapter of the book of Daniel, Belshazzar holds a grand feast during which he sees “the writing on the wall” that Daniel interprets for him to be predicting the coming fall of Babylon. However, the Medes and Persians have already begun their attack on Babylon by the time Daniel reads the writing on the wall, and Belshazzar is killed during battle.
"Abrahams..." See in text (Stave One)
Abraham’s story is told in the biblical book of Genesis. He was the first of the patriarchs of the Bible and known for his obedience and loyalty to God. God prompted Abraham to leave Mesopotamia (modern day southern Iraq) in order to found the country of Canaan (roughly modern day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel.) According to Genesis, Abraham obeyed this and other various requests from God without question and was ultimately rewarded by God for being a devout and dutiful.
"Queens of Sheba..." See in text (Stave One)
The Queen of Sheba is another biblical figure who visits King Solomon, believed to be a great scholar, in her search for wisdom. The Queen of Sheba brought with her spices, stones, and gold, which led many people to wonder if trade was her main goal. However, the Bible says that she mainly wanted to test Solomon’s rumored wisdom and asked him to solve riddles to do so. Solomon did not disappoint, and the Queen of Sheba left confident in his knowledge and wit.
"Pharaoh's daughters..." See in text (Stave One)
“Pharaoh's daughters” is a reference to the biblical book of Exodus in the Old Testament. When the Egyptian Pharaoh ordered that all newborn Jewish boys be killed, Moses’s mother Jochebed built a small ark and sent the baby Moses down the Nile River so that he might be saved. Later, the Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithiah, finds Moses and raises him as if her were her own.
"Cains and Abels..." See in text (Stave One)
The story of Cain and Abel in the biblical book of Genesis is about the two sons of Adam and Eve. God asked that the sons each sacrifice a lamb to show their devotion. Abel chooses to sacrifice his very best lamb, but Cain gave God an offering of fruit. God regarded Abel’s sacrifice more highly than Cain’s, leaving Cain feeling angry and envious. Cain murders his brother, committing the first murder on Earth, and God banishes Cain for his crime.
"like a bad lobster in a dark cellar..." See in text (Stave One)
This simile depicts Marley's face on the knocker as having a kind of dull illumination. While we might not think that lobsters glow in the dark, seafood can contain luminescent bacteria that normally perish during the cooking process. However, if left to rot or decompose in a cellar over time, the bacteria can grow to the point where it would faintly glow.
"Prophet's rod..." See in text (Stave One)
The “Prophet’s rod” refers to the staff that God transforms into a snake for Aaron, the brother of Moses, in the book of Exodus. The snake immediately swallows up all of the staves that Pharaoh's men carried during the Plagues of Egypt.
"A merry Christmas..." See in text (Stave One)
Until this novella was published, the most common holiday greeting in the English-speaking world was to wish someone a "happy Christmas" much in the same way we wish someone "happy birthday" or "happy New Year." While the United Kingdom still uses this greeting, Dickens's story popularized the phrase "Merry Christmas," which has become the standard Christmas greeting in the United States.
"the dog-days..." See in text (Stave One)
The term "dog-days" refers to the hottest time of the year, which is usually in the middle of summer. The origin of this phrase likely coincides with the rise of Sirius, the dog star, in the night sky during the summer months of the northern hemisphere.
"gainsay ..." See in text (Stave Two)
To “gainsay” something is to deny or dispute it. Fan is associated with innocence and kindness and frequently asks her parents to bring Scrooge home from boarding school. Fan showed Scrooge the love and attention that he desperately needed from his parents, but never received.
"a Welsh wig..." See in text (Stave Two)
This style of woolen or yarn cap covers the head and usually has additional cloth styling on the sides. The name is derived from the location it was originally made—Montgomery, Wales.
"“Sir Roger de Coverley.”..." See in text (Stave Two)
“Sir Roger de Coverly,” later called the “Virginia Reel,” is a lively, energetic country dance. While not solely associated with the Christmas season, the inclusion of this dance contributes to the tone of spirit and joy due to its fast-paced and animated nature. By creating this jolly tone of happiness and warmth, Dickens prompts the reader to associate the Fezziwigs with the spirit of Christmastime.
"negus..." See in text (Stave Two)
Negus was a popular drink during the Victorian era that usually consisted of wine, port, hot water, sugar, and various spices. It was a warm, holiday drink (somewhat similar to the mulled wine of today) that people typically regarded as one for special occasions and celebrations.
"before a man can say, Jack Robinson!..." See in text (Stave Two)
The expression, “before a man can say, Jack Robinson,” originated in the 18th century. It means something like “before you know it” and is used to express a very short amount of time. While one might assume that “Jack Robinson” was a historical individual, the identity of this person is unknown, and it is just as likely that the person was actually mythical.
"Friday..." See in text (Stave Two)
Friday, also known as “Man Friday”, is another character in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. While Crusoe names this man after the day of the week that they meet, the term “man Friday” was a term used for a male servant. Today, the term “man Friday” is sometimes used to mean something similar to “faithful male employee” or “right-hand man,” and there is a female variation on the term called “girl friday.” “Hired hand” is a gender-neutral term for this that is close in meaning, but does not carry connotations of faithfulness and loyalty.
"the Parrot..." See in text (Stave Two)
“The Parrot” referred to here is a character in Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, which tells the story of Robinson Crusoe being stranded on an island off the coast of Chile. Feeling lonely, Crusoe finds a parrot and teaches it phrases so that Crusoe would finally have a companion to talk to.
"Gate of Damascus..." See in text (Stave Two)
“The Gate of Damascus,” stands at one of the major entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem. The gate is also featured in One Thousand and One Nights in the story “Noureddin Ali of Cairo and His Son Bedreddin Hassan.” The story tells of a Princess (Noureddin’s daughter) who is forced to marry the “Sultan’s Groom,” a man with a hunchback. However, the Genii (a group of genies) use their magic to replace the Sultan’s Groom with Noureddin’s son Hassan at the wedding. Hassan later gets left in his pajamas at Damascus Gate by the Genii, which is what Scrooge references.
"And Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson..." See in text (Stave Two)
Valentine and Orson is a romance thought to have originated in early medieval France during Charlemagne’s reign. The story tells of two brothers, Valentine and Orson, who get separated after their mother is banished from her home. Orson, who was stolen by a bear, grows up to be wild. Valentine is raised as a knight for Pepin the Short, also known as King of the Franks. Valentine finds Orson and “tames” him.
"Ali Baba..." See in text (Stave Two)
This is a reference to the character Ali Baba in the folk tale "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." The tale is often included in One Thousand and One Nights, also known as Arabian Nights, a compilation of folk tales from Southern Asia and the Middle East. This is the first of many allusions to the fictional worlds that the young Scrooge catapults himself into in order to forget his loneliness.
"gigs..." See in text (Stave Two)
A “gig” is a two-wheeled carriage. The “country gigs” Dickens mentions are typically uncovered and differ from “carts” in that they are usually more formal and comfortable.
"“More than eighteen hundred,” said the Ghost..." See in text (Stave Three)
Since A Christmas Carol was written in 1843, the number of brothers that the Ghost of Christmas Present claims to have likely refers to his having a brother for each year.
"How, When, and Where..." See in text (Stave Three)
Another Victorian parlor game, “How, When, and Where” is a game in which one player is sent out of the room while the rest of the players think of a certain object or thing. When the player is called back into the room, the player must guess what the object or thing is by asking questions that start with “how,” “when,” or “where.” Note that there are different variations of the game and that it was played differently depending on things like age, gender, location, etc.
"played at forfeits..." See in text (Stave Three)
In Victorian England, it was popular to play various “parlor games” or “indoor games,” especially during celebrations like Christmas. These would often involve penalties called “forfeits” in which losers of the games would have to do various things that the winners asked. “Playing at forfeits” thus means that the group was playing parlor games in which there were penalties for losing. These penalties that the winner declared often varied depending on gender and required things like blindfolded kisses or embarrassing dances.
"Glee or Catch..." See in text (Stave Three)
A “glee” is a song performed by a group of three or more and usually a capella. A “catch,” also known as a “round,” is a musical technique in which singers perpetually repeat the same melody but begin at different times.
"Plenty's horn..." See in text (Stave Three)
“Plenty’s horn” refers to the “cornucopia,” which is a hollowed horn that is filled with various foods. The cornucopia symbolizes a successful harvest that brings with it an abundance of food, especially fruits, vegetables, and flowers. It is associated with the holiday season in Western countries and specifically with Thanksgiving in North America.
"brawn..." See in text (Stave Three)
“Brawn,” also known as “head cheese,” is a type of cold cut that is usually made of jellied pork. Brawn originated in Europe and the term “head cheese” comes from the fact that the brawn is often made from the head of the pig.
"smoking bishop,..." See in text (Stave Five)
Smoking bishop is a type of warm mulled wine, often spiced with cloves and citrus fruit. It was popular during winter months and saw a rise in popularity in Victorian England. That Scrooge wants to share some wine with Bob Cratchit points to his new sense of affection and warmth.
"Laocoön..." See in text (Stave Five)
According to Greek mythology, Laocoön was a Trojan priest of the god Apollo who, along with his two sons, was attacked by giant serpents sent from the gods. Here, Dickens alludes to a sculpture depicting the death of Laocoön and his sons by three Rhodes sculptors: Hagesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus. Scrooge compares himself to Laocoön because while he is trying to get dressed in haste, he becomes entangled in his clothing in a way that resembles Laocoön's being entangled by serpents in the famous statue.