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STARVATION IN VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS FICTION

  • Tara Moore (a1)

Extract

It may seem that Christmas literature, with its glorified descriptions of overflowing tables and conviviality, has no place in a discussion of that other extreme, starvation. However, much of the nineteenth-century literature containing narratives of Christmas speaks directly to national fears of famine. Starvation entered the print matter of Christmas first as part of a social argument and later as a concern for the abiding national identity that had become intertwined with Christmas itself and, more symbolically, Christmas fare. Writers including Charles Dickens, Benjamin Farjeon, Augustus and Henry Mayhew, the creators of Punch, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon authored Christmas pieces that showcase literary reactions to the developing issues of hunger throughout their century. This essay offers an overview of the treatment of starvation in the Christmas literature of the nineteenth century.

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