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Visualization: Themes and Characters

Kyla Nelson, Erin Pope, and Iris Lo


We decided to use Voyant to analyze the text A Christmas Carol. We plan to collaborate on all aspects of the project, including the construction of the visualization. We have split the text into three sections (stave 1 & 2, stave 3, and stave 4 & 5) to re-read and record key words and will input the data on a common Google spreadsheet to work with. Although we will work collaboratively, we each have our strengths; as Erin has worked with Voyant, she will take the lead with the visualization, Kyla will take the lead with text analysis, and Iris will take the lead with the encoding.

Our research question: What are the key differences in Charles Dicken's original A Christmas Carol in comparison with the children's version of "A Christmas Carol"?

We ran into problems when trying to put in character names into Voyant to compare their occurances between the two editions. For example, when trying to find Tiny Tim we found we were only able to search for Tim. We also ran into difficulty in identifying useful words within the text so we decided it would be helpful for our personas to compare "ghost" and "Christmas" to see how the themes have changed.

In the visualizations, "charlesdickens" is the children's version of the tale, while "christmascarol" is the original version of the text.

About Voyant

Voyant is a web-based text analysis and reading environment that explores word frequencies in a text. Text analysis tools go back to the first ad-hoc tools that Roberto Busa created for his concordance of the works of Thomas Acquinas and Andrew Booth's Mechanical Resolution of Linguistic Problems in the 1950s. Voyant is largely built on foundations of text analysis tool design and methodology. Voyant has many different uses: it can be used to learn how computers-assisted analysis work, to study texts more in-depth, and can be used to add interactive evidence to essays. Voyant also has several different tools; most important to us are the word trends, which allow us to search for the occurrences between Christmas and social commentary.

When we enter the word Christmas into the Voyant bubbles, it shows us how many times the word occurs by plotting a bubble on a graph. We entered a few different words into the search engine and compared how many times they appear throughout the text and how they relate throughout the chapters. The words we used were: Christmas and ghost, character names, and love, family, care, and together.

We find that the most interesting tool on Voyant is the Cirrus, which allows the researcher to see how many times each word is used in the text. Cirrus is helpful because someone can take out simple words such as: the, and, but which makes it more clear when looking for a theme in a book. We also find it helpful when plotting the word frequencies because Voyant uses different colors and shapes so that there is a clear illustration between words. The graph has the chapters, or staves, at the bottom and the number of times the word is used on the side Although we find the Cirrus tool to be the most intresting tool, we decided to use the bubble tool to better display the words and how they relate to eachother, as well as their frequencies in each book.

Visualization 1 - Christmas and Ghost

Results: In this visualization we compared the words 'christmas' and 'ghost' we found that 'christmas' was far more prevalent in the children's version of "A Christmas Carol" than it was in the original version. When comparing the word 'ghost' between the two editions, the original version was far more focused on 'ghost' then it was on 'Christmas'. We think this is because they did not want to scare the children that would be reading the book, it was turned into a Christmas story rather than one about ghosts and death.

Visualization 2: Scrooge, Fezziwig, Ebenezer, Tim

Results: In this visualization we compared the character names between the two editions and found that in the original version all the characters were mentioned throughout, however, in the childrens version Tiny Tim was the only character mentioned. We believe that this is because Tiny Tim is a child and therefore relatable to the children who read the book.

Visualization 3: Love, Family, Care, Together

Results: In this visualization we compared the words 'love', 'family', 'care', and 'together'; and were surprised to learn that they were fairly similar in using these words. However, overall the children's book did use the words more frequently throughout the book. We think this is because the children's book is trying to display how important these theames are to the children who will be reading the book.


If we go back to our research question, "What are the key differences in Charles Dicken's original A Christmas Carol in comparison with the childrens verion of "A Christmas Carol"?", we will find that our visualizations are helpful in discovering key themes in both texts. Most notably, the children's version of the tale had been greatly edited and omitted much of the Dickens' original story. However, key themes such as family, love, and care, which are now essential themes of Christmas, have been kept to further promote our modern view of Christmas and to impart these morals into children's lives. Many of Dickens' other themes have been left out, and it would be interesting to note if the message of the tale is imparted just as effectively in the children's version as it is by Dickens.

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"Some Background of Voyant." Voyant. Web.

Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. New York: The Platt and Peck Co, 2006. Plain Text UTF-8. Project Gutenberg.