The Narrator is More Important than you Think
There is one character in “A Christmas Carol” that, despite its strong voice and personality, is never directly mentioned and is often overlooked: the narrator. Who exactly is this mysterious, omnipotent narrator, the being who presides over Scrooge’s thoughts and actions and heralds the arrival of the Ghosts of Christmas Present, Past and Future? Despite a lack of information regarding this mysterious “other character”, the narrator plays a pivotal role in giving voice to “A Christmas Carol” through its descriptions of London, and through its interjections of personal voice throughout the entire novella.
London and its dark torrent of fog are described many times by the narrator as “pouring in at every chink and keyhole…so dense without, that…the houses…were mere phantoms” (Dickens, 1378). These descriptions of the fog and further imagery of the darkness and the cold give an ambience to London and to this beginning stave in particular that reflects the protagonist’s just as frosty and unwelcoming demeanor. However, the narrator also describes how this terrible weather affects the other denizens of London painting scenes of biting cold but also scenes of holiday cheer and the togetherness of human beings from the men and boys keeping themselves warm around a burning barrel, to the people “[running] about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way” (Dickens, 1381). These descriptions of fellowship and unity serve another purpose, to juxtapose themselves against the caustically solitary nature of Scrooge and to show the reader that while the rest of the city is warmed by the fellowship of fellow men, Scrooge is on the outside of this human interaction just the way he likes it.
These little bits of description and asides are seen peppered throughout the entire novella lending the narrator a conversational tone seeming to talk to the reader instead of merely narrating the action. Quite often the narrator will directly address the reader, an example being the narrator’s description of the staircase saying that “you may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six up a good old flight of stairs…but I mean to say you might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken it broadwise” (Dickens, 1383). Small asides like these are considered breaks in the “fourth wall” which lend a metafictional flair to the novella and give the reader the impression of the narrator actually talking to them and regaling the reader with this particular story of Scrooge and his spiritual encounters. It gives a more casual, conversational tone to the entire novella and these small bits of personality in the reader help not only to clarify or describe some aspect of Scrooge’s journey but also add personality to the entirety of the work.Despite not being seen at all, the narrator in “A Christmas Carol” is heard plenty; its descriptions of London, her inhabitants, and their actions lend a colorful lens to view the setting through and to view the protagonist Scrooge through. These small bits of information and personality interjected throughout the novella are important parts to the entirety of the work, and would drastically change the tone and voice of “A Christmas Carol” if they were absent. Although the reader knows very little about the narrator, the reader will know more about London, Scrooge and his life-saving journey through space and time through the narrator’s efforts.
Dickens, Charles. “A Christmas Carol.” Trans. Array The Longman Anthology of British Literature. . 4th Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. 1376-1425. Print.