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Father Christmas and Thomas Malthus: Charity, Epistemology, and Political Economy in A Christmas Carol

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Abstract:

This essay examines the interconnection between the epistemological issues raised by A Christmas Carol and the text's often misunderstood charitable agenda. In the end, I conclude, Dickens uses his seemingly innocuous text to reestablish a sentimental link between his middleclass readers and the poor. When placed in a proper historical context, this gesture is shown to be not the conservative, socially normative one ascribed to Dickens by many modern critics, but a much more radical attempt to undermine the authority of political economics as the only available paradigm for charitable work. In short, Dickens rejects, and forces his readers to reject, the narrowly rational, scientific outlook that consigned the poor to workhouses and chooses instead a more emotional, and emotionally satisfying, personal relationship to charity. While this charitable message is quite simple on its surface, the techniques Dickens develops in A Christmas Carol provide the foundation for his subsequent, more highly regarded, works.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7756/dsa.042.006.143-158

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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