Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Using literary methods to find out how the opening of 'A Christmas Carol' works, and what is it trying to say?

In a previous blog, I produced several 'trigger' questions as ways of breaking down the categories of narratology, stylistics, pragmatics, intertextuality and ideology. The list was not intended to be a programme to be adhered to rigidly, nor was it intended to be exhaustive. The categories are not intended to be watertight or distinct from one another. There are overlaps between them and within these categories there are sub-categories. Please don't treat this is as a regime. 

I suggested at the end of the list that I would look at the opening pages of Charles Dickens's 'A Christmas Carol' and apply these categories.

If you're reading on with this, it may well help if you put in front of you a copy of the opening pages down to as far as the first time Scrooge says, 'Bah!....Humbug!' and perhaps the short para after that too. You can find this online (for nothing). I'm working off the Penguin Classics edition which has handy footnotes at the back for phrases and terms no longer used, like 'upon 'Change' which was slang for 'at the Royal Exchange'. 

Please include the title page and the Preface. 

Immediately below is an abridged form of the list as a recap. 

1. How is the text narrated? Why is it being narrated this way? Categories here might be e.g. 'omniscient narrator' 'multiple narrators', 'unreliable narrator', 'first person narrator' 'self-conscious narrator' (who reveals that he/she/it is narrating).  At any given moment and at all moments, a text is narrated. The question here is how and why? [narratology]

2. Time frames. At any given moment and at all moments a text is in a time frame. It's possible and frequent for texts to move backwards and forwards in time. It's possible for texts to indicate continuous states of being in the past, present or future. [narratology]

3. Depiction of thought. How does the text indicate what someone is thinking? [narratology]

4. Point of view, foregrounding and focalisation. These slightly different terms point out that any given moment in a text, we are looking at someone or something from a point of view. [narratology]

5. Prosody - this means the musicality of a text [stylistics]

5a Sentences - without going particularly into the grammar of sentences - you can tell a lot of what is going on with texts by comparing lengths of sentences. [stylistics]

6. How are people, settings, creatures, and events evoked or described? [stylistics]

7. All texts use other texts from before. In fact, at every level word, phrase, clause, paragraph, chapter, genre - previous texts are borrowed. But borrowings also go on at the level of motif, trope, and rhetorical device. [intertextuality] 

8. All texts conceal as they reveal. [narratology]

9. Writerliness - this describes how texts refer to the fact they are texts. [narratology]

10. Register or code. Texts have to use a 'voice' or many voices which precede it. [stylistics]

11. Dialogue

How is the dialogue narrated? Using simple tags, tags with adverbs? Passages of description between the dialogue? What is being described? People, setting, weather? Inner states of mind and motive? [pragmatics]

12. All these features can be analysed and/or summated in terms of ideology. This comes from constantly a) finding ways to describe what's going on in any particular category and then b) asking  why? Why would the author have written the text this way?And/or what does the text 'imply' even if the author intended it or not? [ideology]

'A Christmas Carol'

1. Narration:
How many narrators are there, and how should we describe them?

a) C.D. who has written the Preface in which C.D. says that he wants to 'raise the Ghost of an Idea'. 
b) The voice  using 'I' and offering views and thoughts e.g. 'I don't mean to say that I know...' 
c) The 'omniscient narrator' who narrates the action, Scrooge's thoughts, dialogue and the thoughts of other protagonists. 

We shouldn't really take C.D. and 'b' the 'I' in the story itself as exactly the same. In the Preface, C.D. is talking outside of the story about what he intends the story to be and do. Within the story, the narrator is commenting on protagonists who do not exist in real life. They are 'textualised' beings, created out of signifiers.  That said, it's intellectually and emotionally possible to treat a) and b) as the same, especially as Dickens was then and still is/was so clearly a person, a story-teller, and actor. However, clearly the 'I' narrator of a) and b) fades away, as the voice goes into the convention of the omniscient narrator. As an indicator of omniscience and literary history,this voice ('c') uses the phrase 'Once upon a time...'. 

Other observations about this play between types of narration: 'b' argues with itself, and has conversations with itself (or is with the imagined or implied reader?) - 'Mind! I don't mean to say that I know...' and 'Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did? How could it be otherwise?' and 'You will therefore permit me to repeat...' 

What does this do rhetorically? We might perhaps say that because it appears to be having conversations it 'invites the reader in to the story to participate in the telling'. As a voice, it's 'borrowed' from live story-telling, where there is an audience who can respond with facial expressions and words to what the teller asks. But why is Dickens doing this? It breaks the fourth wall of story-writing because it reveals that it is doing telling. In fact, there are several clear indicators of this: 'Marley was dead: to begin with.' To begin what? This means, I take it, 'the story'. It draws attention to itself ie meaning:  'I am telling you this story which begins here.' without actually quite saying that.  In para 4, this narrator says, 'the story I am going to relate', an explicit self-referential part of story-telling/writing. It admits to the artifice of writing/telling to the reader/listener. But why? Why is it so important for Dickens (the real writer) to put this 'I' in the story and be so insistent about it? Under the category of ideology I'm going to try to answer that. 

2. Time-frames

In fiction we can take it that there is at least one past - perhaps several - which can be indicated by verbs such as 'he had done' something, or with words like 'earlier' or 'previously' or 'he remembered the time when'. The present in English writing is (confusingly) usually described with e.g. 'The door of Scrooge's house was open...' which in speech we would usually use to describe the 'past'. 'The door was open...' usually in speech would describe something that happened earlier than now. The 'present' of a story has a name in narratology, it's the 'diegesis'. It means the time and setting of the story. 'Diagetic' is the adjective to describe this e.g. diagetic action means the action taking place in the 'now' of the story. 

In these opening lines we have several time frames!
'Marley was dead' ( ie he died before the story started)
'to begin with' (ie in the time frame of 'me' telling you this story)
'Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change' ie a continuous time frame in the past and extending into the 'now' (the diegesis). This time-frame (ie the continuous state of Scrooge) carries on for a good part of the opening pages. 
Following 'Once upon a time' (a phrase which fixes the diegesis, the 'now', we hear 'old Scrooge sat busy in his counting house'. 
This time frame is interrupted by some further continuous past-present descriptions such as 'the clerk's fire was so very much smaller' 
In a difficult construction, Dickens interrupts the continuous with 'and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part.' This means, if Bob Cratchit came in with a whole shovel full of coal, Scrooge warned that he would sack him. This is not exactly 'continuous'. It's more one or more incidents that gave rise to consequences. 
A slightly different time-frame appears when Scrooge's nephew arrived: 'He had so heated himself...' ie the moment immediately prior to him arriving. 
A similar time-switch to the immediate past before the 'now' happened when the text says, 'The city clocks had only just gone three'. Note: not that the clocks stood at three' or 'struck three' but they had happened just a moment earlier. I'm not sure why Dickens would do this, other than to indicate a 'realism', in that clocks striking three bang in the moment of the diegesis suggests a coincidence, where all that's intended here is a sense of time passing, not something significant attached to 'three'. (Just a thought). However, we spot here, the ease with which such a text can switch between diegesis and several different kinds of past very quickly. 
Returning to the part where the 'I' narrator says, 'I am going to relate', we might say that this is at least a reference to the time-frame of the future, even if we don't yet go there! However, it's not the time-frame of the diegesis, (the now of the story), it's a reference to the 'now of the story-telling process! 

These time-frames are not just significant in themselves. They are significant in that they are 'switches' and we might ask why and how they are managed. I think they exist in this story because Dickens wanted to tell a 'thick' story, full of reflections to and from between past, present and future, (as exemplified, of course, by the ghosts). This is because he wanted to tell a tale of consequence and change, someone reflecting on differences between his past and present, and the possible route to the future. A 'thin' telling would just be an 'and then...and then' type story which doesn't go back or forwards in time from the diegesis, the now. Think of ballads for this as a classic 'thin' narrative style. 

The arrival of the diegesis as late as the ninth paragraph suggests to me that Dickens very much wanted to be saying to his audience that he was in control of this narrative. So, though it does into omniscient narration, we should only think of this as the 'I' and/or Dickens doing this. (That's my theory, anyway!) I'll come back to this under 'ideology'. 

3. Depiction of thought
a) one kind of thought we come across straightaway is the though of the 'I' narrator: 'of my own knowledge'....'I don't know how many years'. This is the first person narration of thought, much loved of modern YA fiction. It is usually taken as being 'reliable' unless, through irony, or events revealed later on, it is shown to be 'unreliable'. It can also be complex when it crosses time-frames as with 'Great Expectations' where the older Pip reflects on the actions and thoughts of the younger Pip. 

At least one irony emerges in this 'I' narration: the self-interruptions, which 'pretend' as if they just 'happen'. 'The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from'. Well, it was you who mentioned the funeral, not us!, we might say. This is followed by the jokey digression about Hamlet. Is the writer Dickens, telling us that this narrator is flawed? Liable to be a bit wordy and easily distracted from the flow of his own telling? I think there's a hint of this. This doesn't make this narrator 'unreliable' but at the very least 'slightly flawed', perhaps. I think there's an intention here to introduce a bit of light-heartedness, at the very least too. Perhaps this ties with an interesting phrase in para two: 'Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years'. What do you mean, narrator, you 'don't know'?! Of course you do, it's you telling the story, you making up the character (he's not real is he?) so if you want to say 'how many years' you could; if you don't want to, you don't have to! In other words, it's pretence that this character, Scrooge, exists, that the narrator 'knows' him but his knowledge about him is limited, though he will do his best to relate all he knows. It's a tiny piece of ironic, self-referential, jokey narration. 

(I tell the story, that I recite: 
'Down behind the dustbin
I met a dog called Jim.
He didn't know me
and I didn't know him.'
A boy said to me, 'How do you know his name was Jim then?'
And I said, 'Er...I don't know...sorry.'

It's the same game, where an author pretends that the incident is real (and not created by the author, and has incomplete knowledge of the person etc. )

b) We hear of Scrooge's thoughts both from the 'I' narrator and the omniscient one: 'Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did'. This then is still very much in the control of the 'I' narrator, telling us what he knows, creating the story under our eyes. However, there is a way of describing this as a from of 'free indirect discourse' rather than a conversation the narrator is having with himself. That construction of the question and answer to delineate thought without saying 'he thought' is 'free' of the tag 'he thought', it's indirect as with indirect speech ('i' turns to 'he') and it's part of 'discourse' ie the telling of the story. We get another hint of this with ''he answered to both names, it was all the same to him' from para  4.  This is Scrooge's continuous thought about how people addressed him. We get it again in para 9: 'But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked.' This is the technique of giving privileged access to a protagonist's thoughts without telling the reader that this is what you are doing. It was created most clearly for the first time by Jane Austen who wanted us to be privy to the thoughts of her key characters in a seemingly invisible or unobtrusive way. It is one of the tricks of realist writing...we arrive in the protagonist's head without it being signalled by words like 'he thought'. Dickens wants us to believe that Scrooge is 'real'. So this free indirect discourse method ties in with the narrator pretending to not know 'how many years', or 'the clock had just struck three'. 

c) The omniscient narrator (which I've indicated doesn't start happening (arguably) until after 'Once upon a time'  indicates how Scrooge is thinking like this: 'this was the first intimation he had of his approach'. As we'll see when we get to the pragmatics (dialogue) this method of going from outside (action) to inside (thought) can have a delaying effect in writing. This may be useful if you want to construct a joke, or a climax or a surprise. I think that this is what's going on here. As we shall see!

Later in the story, of course, there are many more ways in which the omniscient narrator shows us Scrooge's thoughts. It has to, because the story is in a way, about how Scrooge changes his mind ie his thoughts!

4. Point of view. Stories use the process of 'focalisation', they bring protagonists to the fore or put them to the rear. They 'foreground' or 'efface' protagonists. We might ask, for example, why choose your protagonist to be an animal? Or why do we only see one protagonist's p.o.v.? Why do we see, say, sudden shifts in focalisation? Or none? What does this do? Bertolt Brecht much admired Shakespeare because of the way in which we not only hear the words of protagonists but frequently hear how others think of  the protagonist. Famously, just before we see Antony in 'Antony and Cleopatra' two men are having a conversation about Antony:  'The triple of the world transform'd. Into a strumpet's fool: behold and see.'  Conflicting and contrasting points of view enable or encourage readers to debate rights and wrongs and whether people are really who they say they are. 'Thick' narratives encourage a lot of this, 'thin' narratives less so, is one argument about literature. 

The focalisation in this part of 'A Christmas Carol' shifts from the 'I' narrator, placing himself at the heart of the opening, to and from Scrooge, to (at the end of this passage) the nephew. Arguably, in the Hamlet digression there is a little p.o.v. shift to seeing things from the p.o.v. of a hypothetical  'middle aged gentleman' turning up in Saint Paul's Churchyard. And following that, the 'son' who has a 'weak mind'. Perhaps this signals the literariness of this story. It will be, it announces, in the tradition of English Literature: look out for antecedents! 

More significantly we have a short foregrounding of 'Nature' who 'lived hardy by, brewing on a large scale'. This flags up perhaps that even though this is a 'Christmas' story, it is also pagan. For a moment we'll see things, the text says, from the p.o.v. of 'Nature' - whoever that is! 

Other p.o.v. shifts happen, say in para 8, when we meet 'blindman's dogs' who have thoughts: 'appeared to know him' and focalise action around Scrooge. In this para there is even 'negative focalisation' ie what people don't do! 'No beggars implored him to...' The write conjures up a scene that doesn't happen in order to indicate something of the main protagonist's personality! As we'll see under intertextuality this is a rhetorical device too. 

All this tells us that the story is going to be wide-ranging in its choice of p.o.v. that it might do this rapidly, or on occasions intensely, focussing in on one protagonist. This is flexible writing, that keeps the reader shifting focus, again one of the instruments of 'realist' writing in that it invites the reader to think that 'everything' is on display, everything can be 'seen' or 'heard' or 'known about'. It's an illusion, but it's part of the game of 'realism'. 

5. and 5a Prosody and sentences- the musicality of the writing. It's possible to run the prosody meter (!) over any passage of writing, but there are several parts of the opening pages which are we might say, more extreme than others in this. 

The opening sentence is deliberately abrupt, brief, sudden, full of a strong beat. Perhaps this was intended as a surprise. It also gives us death in the third word of the whole story. Is this going to be a story about Marley? Or death? We find out later it's not about Marley! Is it about death? In a way, it is about how we might be thought of after we are dead, so we might as well get life right now. But a bit odd that the first word is 'Marley'. Does this signal that Scrooge's downhill path into miserliness starts with Marley? 

Whatever it is, it's very arresting to begin a story with a) such a brief, drumming sentence, b) death and c) a self-conscious 'to begin with'. 

In para 3, the egotism of Scrooge is given to us partly through the prosody of an extreme and excessive rhythmic  repetition of the word 'sole'. It indicates that not only is Scrooge excessive but that he was also on the fiddle. This is confirmed by the ironic commentary on him as being an 'excellent man of business' ie a crook. 

In para 6, we meet a whole range of musical devices. 
It begins with an 'Oh!' (like Beowulf beginning with 'Hwaet!'); a long sequence of '-ing words to describe Scrooge, exaggerated, excessive, extreme writing. (by the way, next sentence would be marked as incorrect by examiners as it has a capital letter, a full stop but NO FINITE VERB! The next sentence switches from 'ing verbs' to '-ed verbs in repetition. In some of the sentences he breaks another rule of so-called 'good writing' he repeats 'and' - partly, I think, to create a speech rhythm. 

In para 7, the writing uses Anglo-Saxon style alliteration, moving from one set of alliterative words to another set: e.g. going from 'w' words to 'b' words and then to 'p' words. This gives the writing strong pulse, marking the rhythm by linking the beats to each other. Perhaps this kind of writing has no purpose other than to feel good and to sound good. Perhaps it is to carry us along with the sequence of phrases, in a lyrical way. I don't know! 

There is another way in which prosody works, which is by a kind of anti-prosody! Dickens, we know, was very fond of deliberately long, 'otiose' sentences. Some have argued that this is almost ironic, in that he appeared to be over-honouring a subject with seeming pomposity in order to diminish it. It's one of the functions of 'hyperbole' (rhetoric). The sentence in para 4, that begins:'If we were not perfectly convinced...' is 65/66 words long! The first sentence in the story is 6 words long. Clearly Dickens could play with his readers' expectations in this respect: one moment being brief and to the point, the next being digressive and discursive. This enables him to switch tone and switch register (see 10). Like the more conventional prosodic features of repetition of '-ing' words, with their ability to be musical, these are perhaps part of Dickens's attempt to catch the ear, make us 'pay attention'. We talk of 'dull' writing, or 'interesting writing' and perhaps the  ability to be musical and to vary sentence length is part of that. I think so. 

6. How are people, places, animals etc 'evoked'? This is a way of looking at such devices as 'incremental detail', 'digression', speed of being 'in' or 'outside' of a person or thing, whether the method of evoking uses many, few or no adjectives and adverbs. We usually describe a lot of adjectives and adverbs as e.g. 'florid' or 'wordy' and sentences that use few or none as 'spare', 'lean', or 'sparse'. 

In paras 6 and 10, we can see Dickens using the incremental detail approach, piling descriptions one on top of the other, linked (as we've shown) by the prosody. Is this 'excessive' in the sense that it offers us some kind of superfluity? One of the techniques of 'gothic' writing is 'excess', excess of emotion, excess of horror, excess of sensation. This writing is perhaps 'gothic' in that it asks of us to follow an excess of sensation (ie appeals to the sense). Is this appropriate? Presumably Dickens wanted to say from the outset that Scrooge is an extreme form of something: at this stage that he is 'cold' - an almost Elizabethan way of describing him, according to his 'humours'. We can see in the writing that there are two forces going on - one 'realist' but also non-realist in the self-conscious narration. Perhaps Dickens is flagging up that this is going to have realist elements but that the core story is a fairy story, or fantasy and like these kinds of stories with their giants and goblins, Scrooge is a kind of mean giant (not because he's big, but because he's gigantically mean, and that needs an excessive prose to capture that.)

Something that all novelists have to do is show attributes through action. In para 11, Dickens shows that Scrooge is mean over the incident(s) of the coal shovel. If Bob brings in too much coal, Scrooge warns him that he will fire him. And in the next sentence we see that Bob therefore has to warm himself with a candle. In films and plays, this is sometimes played for laughs. In the cold (!) light of day, however it's terrible, isn't it? Bob is not cold because there isn't enough coal. It's because his rich employer is not prepared to let him burn enough coal. It's a direct act of extreme cruelty. To be fair on those wanting comedy, the final part of the evocation of this relationship between employer and employed, there is a line of irony (grim? or jokey?) Bob uses the candle in an 'effort' to warm himself, but 'not being a man a strong imagination, he failed.'

The omniscient narrator tells that Bob doesn't have a strong imagination, so he can't imagine himself to be warmer. At first this is a narrational 'put-down'. But hang on - no one can imagine himself to be warmer. Perhaps the ironic narration here is intended to mock the attitude that poor people should just imagine themselves to be comfortable rather than Bob being of low intelligence and/or imagination . As we find out a few paras later, Scrooge belongs to the 'Malthusian' mind set that there are too many poor people in the world, that workhouses, prisons and death are the best things to be doing with them. The book as a whole is a critique of this view point or ideology. Perhaps it is appearing in this para for the first time, first with Scrooge and the coal shovel, and the threat of getting the sack, and then with this idea of the 'imagination' being enough to live off (ie not!). 
Irony, then, is part of how Dickens 'evokes' people and situations.

7. Intertextuality through allusion, motif, trope, rhetoric...

Clearly allusive intertextuality comes to us e.g. through the allusion to Hamlet and 'Nature'. The effect of this is partly positional - it places 'A Christmas Carol' in a continuity with 'Hamlet' and 'Nature'. It says, 'this story is touched by such predecessors and ancestors in literature'. 

It's fun to go 'motif-spotting' in any text to see, if you like how has a write plundered the world bank of motifs in order to construct a story. One classic literary motif or device on show here is the 'pathetic fallacy'. Scrooge is 'cold'. 'The cold within him froze his old features' and so is the weather. 'It was cold, bleak, biting weather.' What does the pathetic fallacy do for us as readers? I often think its function is to be all-encompassing, inviting us to think that there is no escape from the 'fallacy' in question. Cold inside and out. Both in 'wide shot' and in 'close up', there is coldness. It also suggests perhaps there's no escape for the protagonist in question unless they can change in a big way. After all, for them to be 'warm' they might have to change the cosmos! 

A form of rhetoric on display in this section of the book is 'litotes', descriptions of something by what they're not. Para 8 is tells of what 'Nobody' will do. No one will approach Scrooge and 'say, with gladsome looks, 'My  dear Scrooge, how are you?''   There then follows some other examples of 'no'. When this ends, the litotes turns into its opposite 'hyperbole', 'Even the blindman's dogs appeared to know him...' All this has a grand, again 'excessive' way of describing. Is this funny? Comical? Is this 'caricature'? Perhaps. Was this what Dickens wanted or was he a victim of his own ability to write like this ie he couldn't stop himself being over-excessive? Is his writing guilty of creating moments for the reader where we might say, 'Yeah, yeah, we got the point, no need to labour it!'? Some people think so. Another word people have used about this kind of writing is that it's 'self-indulgent'. Is it? Or does it do the job of telling us yet again what an extreme form of meanness is on display here?

Other examples of intertextuality we might 'notice' - it's impossible for someone who knows their nursery rhymes to read 'counting-house' without it linking to the 'king was in his counting house'. 'The fog came pouring in at every chink...' is intertextual with Dickens's own writing in 'Bleak House' no matter whether that comes before or after this book. Intertextuality doesn't alway work on readers in chronological sequence! It's just links across 'space' not time. I suggested that the alliterative prosody was 'anglo-saxon' derived from that kind of rhythmic, non-rhyming, alliterative verse. 

In medieval and renaissance art and literature the idea of Carnival and Lent was personified. Carnival represents warmth, jollity, play, music, food, plenty. Lent was mean, damp, cold, thin, hungry. You can see it played out visually in a painting by Bruegel. Can we say that Scrooge has an intertextual predecessor in 'Lent' and the arrival of the nephew - 'ruddy and handsome, his eyes sparkled', 'he was all in a glow'' etc is at the least a representative of 'Carnival'?  Is this one of the themes of the book that what we need (or should have) at Christmas is less Lent, more Carnival (or its Roman predecessor Saturnalia?). 

'Once upon a time...' is an intertextual device that flags up: 'this is a particular kind of story, because you are familiar with the opening of fairy stories, which begin with these words'. This entitles us to think that this might be a kind of fairy story even though it hasn't felt like this so far. So is this a genre-shift? An example of 'hybridity' in texts when we shift from one genre to another which may create surprise, might be a 'red herring', might cause us to focus in a new way, in order to reflect on what's just been? So, we thought this was going to be a realistic story about a mean guy (OK, gothically described) but in the real world of 'now' with a partner who's just died, who the narrator appears to have known (!) and now it's a 'Once upon a time...' story. Will there be fairies and giants in this story then? It raises this expectation. 

8. The particular narrative device of 'Reveal-conceal' can be done in many ways, and it's important because it is how texts 'drag' readers through. They are 'hooks' which pull on us, resulting (if they work) in us wanting to know more, wanting to turn the page. 

We might argue that the opening sentence does this. It announces a 'fact' and then undercuts it with 'to begin with'. This of course immediately suggests that there's a lot more to come. Is the fact that Marley is dead, enough to feed into 'to begin with' to make us want more? Might this story be about how or why Marley died? Might it be about the consequences of Marley dying or being dead? It's certainly not an explanation in itself, so we might well be wanting to know about reasons and consequences, aided by the reveal-conceal device of 'to begin with'. 

'Once upon a time' is a reveal conceal in the way that I've already described, but of course it's an 'opener' says, 'this is when...but now there's more to come that I haven't told  you yet...listen!' 

Another way to do reveal-conceal is to bring up phenomena that are unexplained, mysterious, (what Freud called 'unheimlich' usually translated as 'uncanny' but meaning literally 'un-homely'). Such invocations to the mysterious are revelations ('here they are') but don't tell alls (conceal). In para 10, 'the houses opposite were phantoms.' A sentence later it tells us that 'Nature' is 'brewing on a large scale'. All this is reveal-conceal: mysterious, not-yet-explained and belonging to the world of the unexplained, inchoate 'nature' at work. Will it be 'Nature' that will have a part to play in this story? Might it be the agent which will help the focaliser, the chief protagonist to resolve his problems? Or will it be the word we met in the previous sentence, 'phantoms'? Whatever it is going on, it's 'brewing', that is: cooking up something not yet cooked.

9. Writerliness - this is the fact of a particular kind of writing drawing attention to the fact that we are reading a piece of writing. As we've seen already, there's a good deal of this going on in these paragraphs: words that indicate story-telling itself: 'to begin with', 'I am going to relate', 'Once upon a time'. We can add in the way in which Dickens conjures up Hamlet and Nature, uses excessive prosody, engages in narrator conversations with himself, talks to the reader as 'you', and so on. These are ways of breaking out of realism, or at least putting realism in tension with writerliness. It positions the reader as someone both inside the text and outside - perhaps at the same time,  being moved by the events of the text, whilst being part of the process of it being told. The argument that some make over this is that it enables us to keep a part of ourselves asking why, being evaluative, thinking about ideas...just as Dickens hopes that we will as he says in the Preface. In Brechtian terms this is 'alienation technique' or in German Verfremdungseffekt', 'estrangement'. 

10. Register. The simplest register switch in texts are between paragraphs of continuous prose description of e.g. action, switching to dialogue, let's say, spoken in non-standard English. Clearly, some of this goes on. But there are other register switches here. The 'I' narrator often uses spoken-word type phrases or words, e.g. 'Mind!' or 'Oh!' and addressing the reader as 'you'. The digressive nature of the 'I' narration is reminiscent at the very least of speech, and the faux 'brings me back to the point I started from' is a classic speech mannerism. The Hamlet digression would be 'highfalutin' 'elevated' stuff, if it wasn't for the way Dickens undercuts it with the observation about 'any other middle-aged gentleman'. The rhetorical and prosodic excess are also issues of register because they are in their own ways, ways of invoking other 'voices', the voices of, say, Greek drama, or romantic poetry. There is a constant dance (!) of figurative language, particularly in the descriptions of Scrooge, metaphor, simile and personification - as with the 'cold' in para 6 that has a life of its own, the weather 'biting', and of course the great opener and mock 'writerly' debate about being 'as dead as a door-nail'. All this takes us into the world of literariness itself, which is a 'voice' too. 

As I've mentioned, Dickens is very adept at switching from 'excessive' writing (a 'gothic' voice, I've suggested) to more action-led, sparer descriptions as with para 11, when we are in Scrooge's workplace: 'The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye on his clerk...' It's very direct, unadorned writing, undecorated writing. These switches, we might say, ask us to follow things in different ways. Heavily adjectival, adverbial, figurative language asks us to follow things often in a very 'sense-laden' way. Spare, action-led sections ask us to follow doing. We watch action being revealed. Dickens makes one para do one thing and the next another. It's a stylistic technique. 

11. Dialogue - pragmatics

There is only one bit of true dialogue in this passage, but it's quite significant in one respect. It's interrupted by narration. 

A 'cheerful voice' (synecdoche !) says, 'A merry Christmas uncle! God save you!' In our reading (as opposed to the dialogue) this is interrupted by: 'It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came up on him so quick that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.'
Then we hear 'Bah!' said Scrooge, 'Humbug!'

Why the interruption? I would suggest that it's for the same reason that comedians delay gags, whether in the sentence, or at the end of passages. It's to highlight punchlines, or significant lines, to give the welly or weight. 

Pragmatically speaking, Scrooge hasn't 'replied to what the nephew has said, he's commented on it. He's not returning a greeting or really retorting. He's saying in effect, 'you saying "merry Christmas' is 'humbug'. The exclamation that comes before it is more direct as 'Bah!' is a push-back along the lines of 'rubbish' or even 'shuttup'. 

12 Ideology

En route I've said quite a bit about this. I think there are several key aspects of ideology to highlight though:
1. The role of the 'I' narrator is to say, I think, 'I Dickens, have something important to tell you, I control this narrative, and as I said in the Preface it involves an 'Idea'. It's my Idea. Please listen.'
2. The figure of Scrooge is mythic. He is in the pathetic fallacy, he is described excessively, 'Nature' is invoked in this, and several ancient rhetorical devices take us to a literary landscape. Along with 'Once upon a time...' and 'phantoms' we are  entitled to expect a fairy story or myth or fable or fantasy? 
3. Once into the action, we are significantly in a workplace where the conditions of the employee are crucial. He is a victim of the employer, to the extent that he is not entitled to be warm in the midst of this all-encompassing 'cold'. We might expect this to be at least part of the focus of the drama to come. Will this man, the clerk, survive? Will he ever get what he needs, or will he die? 
4. Earlier there were indications that Scrooge is a crook (over how he behaves in relation to Marley's legacy). Does this mean that Scrooge's crookery will be uncovered? Come back to bite him? Or what?