A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, viewed via Word Cloud Plus
I downloaded a text copy of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol from Project Gutenberg. The story contains just over 29,000 words.
I started with the default word cloud (50 items, Combination Counting, max phrase length 4 words, standard English stop words). This produced the map below.
To be honest, I feel I could probably have stopped at this point. The word cloud tells us that this is a story about Scrooge, that it is set at Christmas, and that the key players were the Ghosts, Scrooge’s nephew and family.
By clicking on ‘cried scrooge’ I can read the occurrences of that phrase in the book, as shown below.
- remember it! cried scrooge with fervour i could walk it blindfold
- there's the parrot! cried scrooge
- cried scrooge
- no more! cried scrooge
- to-night! cried scrooge
- have they no refuge or resource? cried scrooge
- cried scrooge
- i don't know what to do! cried scrooge
- there's the saucepan that the gruel was in! cried scrooge
- what's to-day? cried scrooge
- i shall love it as long as i live! cried scrooge
We can see that Scrooge starts confident, moves into anguish, and emerges reconciled.
However, to make this post a little more interesting, I will highlight a few tweaks that I will apply to the text.
In the word cloud, we see references to ghost and also to spirit. When I look at the references for spirit, I see that they are primarily substitutes (in this particular book) for the word ghost. For example,
- spirit must have heard him thinking
- finding that the spirit made towards
- said the spirit
- the spirit gazed upon him mildly
- you recollect the way? inquired the spirit
I used the Replace function to change all the instances of “spirit” with “ghost”.
To help highlight the themes, I used colour coding for topics such as Scrooge, the other people, ghosts, and Christmas and moved the words to show these groupings.
The word cloud does not tell the story of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. If I were in a hurry to understand the key elements of the book, I would now have a good starting point for skim-reading the book to find out what the real story was. Or, if I knew the story, this word cloud might help me articulate the components that Charles Dickens used in telling his story of redemption.