A fascinating exploration of the significance of meat in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
Man and Meat: A Christmas Carol’s Cannibalistic Menace in Historical Perspective
by Lydia Craig (Loyola University, Chicago)
Reblogged from the Dickens Society blog at http://dickenssociety.org/?p=1535
First the villain and then the hero of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843), the cold-hearted and wealthy businessman Ebenezer Scrooge initially refuses to empathize with or financially contribute towards the nourishment of London’s poor until bullied, enlightened, and reformed into charitable generosity by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future in the space of a single Christmas Eve. Whereas the first of these ghosts presents Scrooge with the recollection of his past poverty, parental neglect, and the delicious, merry hospitality extended to him by his generous former employer Mr Fezziwig, the second and third graphically and visually portray Scrooge’s actual physical consumption by the starving poor if he fails to furnish them with sufficient sustenance – specifically, meat. Used primarily to describe characters’ shriveled, healthy, or gluttonous appearance, Dickens’s extensive meat imagery acts as a doling-out measure for how much meat should be allotted to each person regardless of their financial status. Considering that the repeal of the ban against importing meat from Europe, specifically beef and pork, had been enacted the previous year under Sir Robert Peel’s administration, I argue that in addition to resisting repressive Sunday laws and the total abstinence principle in this novella, Dickens strongly endorses providing more meat to London’s poor as a corrective to ill health, weakness, and the threat of violent class revolt…
Enjoy the full post here.