Is a Christmas Carol inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy?
Posted: Posted January 12th by Louis De Pointe du Lac
Was Charles Dickens Influenced by Dante?
As soon as I started reading Inferno (written around 1300), I thought that it sounded a lot like A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (written in 1843). After only reading the first canto, I noticed two major similarities between the stories. In Canto I of Inferno, the reader is introduced to Dante, a man in crisis who is not sure how to get out of this crisis. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is an unhappy, mean, and greedy old miser. He does not care about anyone or anything, except his money. At the beginning of both stories, Scrooge and Dante, if they do not change their ways of life, will end up in Hell. However, help comes to Dante and Scrooge just when they are in need of it. In Inferno, Virgil visits Dante and takes Dante through a tour of Hell. Similarly, in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts (the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas future). These ghosts show Scrooge what he was like in the past, what he is like in the present, and what will happen in the future if he does not change.
After discovering these similarities, I was curious to find out if Charles Dickens was influenced by Dante. So, I looked online and found an article called "Dante's Role in the Genesis of Dickens's A Christmas Carol" by Stephen Bertman. In this essay, Bertman writes that no one knows for sure whether Dickens ever read The Divine Comedy because Dickens never mentions Dante in his stories. However, there is one passage that may imply that Dickens did have knowledge of The Divine Comedy. This passage is found in Dickens’ book Hard Times. Dickens’ portrayal of the robber Tom Gradgrind is very similar to Dante’s portrayal, in Canto XXIV of Inferno, of the robber Vanni Fucci. Assuming that Dickens did know about Dante, Bertman wonders how Dickens could have learned of The Divine Comedy. Perhaps Dickens discovered it through his fried Thomas Carlyle, who wrote, in 1840, Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. In this book, Carlyle talks about Dante’s The Divine Comedy. In conclusion, despite the major similarities between The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, it is a mystery whether Dickens was influenced by Dante.
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