-A Christmas Carol-


Summary – Charles Dickens takes the rather exaggerated character of Ebenezer Scrooge in order to exemplify the state of Victorian society, a society that is too harshly capitalist. Scrooge, as a figure, is a caricature. His treatment of others is shown to be both his curse and his blessing. He has hoarded great immense wealth, yet has lost happiness and fulfilment. Dickens may be trying to highlight the difference between success, or at least the perception of success, and contentment. The exploration of how one character can change illuminates the idea that all men are corruptible, especially in a society that supports greed, arrogance, and hatred. 

Themes – The Misuse of Wealth 

Within Dickens’ novella, we see that our central figure, Scrooge, is surrounded on all sides by less fortunate souls. Whether it be Bob Cratchit or those who come to his business, Scrooge is always witnessing depravity and desperation. However, despite being inundated on a daily basis with such suffering and strife, he stands stubbornly in opposition towards it, instead treating the downtrodden as akin to nothing of worth. Indeed, we also see that Scrooge does not even use his own wealth to give himself a healthier lifestyle. 

He holds his money in such silly ways that he does not even allow himself The luxuries of a more modern world. Combining these two ideas into one, we can argue that Scrooge’s perception of wealth is one of a hoarder, the only aim in life being to amass the largest quantity of such a thing. Peculiarly, Scrooge does not even flaunt his own wealth, at least not in a blatant way. To be reminded of the fact that Scrooge witnesses these sufferings of Victorian society yet does little to aid even one, despite being laden with money, Could make us readers shocked and somewhat surprised.

 It is the strangeness in the fact that Scrooge does not even give himself the benefit of his money. Dickens perfectly criticises the role of wealth and riches in society, with such wealth being seen as a collectible rather than a means to an end. When contrasting with the image of the Cratchit family suffering to even afford a substantial Christmas dinner, one is left to ponder The silly nature of money, with Scrooge, who has the money, not even allowing himself the enjoyment from it, whilst families without money greatly desire it. We see the wealthy ignore the money and the poor desperate for money. 

Perhaps Dickens is intending to lambast Victorian society, picking apart the aggravating tendency of the upper classes in holding their wealth despite being surrounded by the most extreme forms of suffering and disease known to man.

Themes -The Corruption of Man 

Due to the ghosts, we readers are witness to the entire life story of Scrooge, seeing his most influential past moments, extreme suffering in the present, and the unfortunate though expected happenings of the future. It is the past especially that allows us to view Scrooge’s corruption. We see that Ebenezer began life as a regular individual, burdened with their own sufferings yet still possessing that optimistic ginger. Indeed, it is perfected within his relationship with Belle. It is a shock to us readers to see that Scrooge, a character we have grown to somewhat despise purely due to his frosty outlook on life and misanthropic opinions, has the capability of romantic warmth. 

This immediately makes us question who Ebenezer truly is. Such a caricature that we have grown to understand to be heartless feels as if they must’ve been born hoarding money and mistreating others, yet we are now witness to the exact opposite. This makes one ponder what happened, what caused such a degradation in human decency. Quite soon after our introduction to Belle, Scrooge’s avarice reveals itself, the golden Idol very much taking charge. Dickens has, by giving us these two personalities of the same character, two personalities that exist in stark contrast to one another, allowed us to wonder just what effect society has upon the people within it. 

It is a naive but hopeful and wholly good opinion to have that believes that society is what should work for the people, yet we see in this very novella that society has controlled the person. The industrial society of the then-modern London forced those with hopes to sacrifice their more human dreams, instead devoting themselves entirely to either their job or their more avaricious desires. 

Symbols – The Golden Idol 

Belle details that another idol has replaced Scrooge’s love for her, to which he admits and describes it as a ‘golden one’. Obviously, the golden idol represents wealth and money, or at least the acquisition of such money. One can argue that the use of the word ‘golden’ seeks to illustrate how Scrooge views money and wealth above all, much like a fine piece of extremely rare jewellery. This is then consolidated by the word ‘idol’, a word that was used by Belle. An idol is often a representation of a deity, an item of great worship and reverence.

 The image conjured, therefore, is one of Scrooge worshipping wealth and money as something above all else. This quite aptly criticises the whole of Victorian society, a society that worshipped the budding moguls and the growing industrialists as paragons of virtue and heroism. These extremely wealthy and powerful individuals were intended to be seen as akin to gods, or at least demigods, purely from their wealth. 

Devices – Pathetic Fallacy 

We see, quite early on, that the weather is sufficiently inclement. Forsooth, it is positively harsh, as seen in the quote that reads ‘ it was cold, bleak, biting weather’. Firstly, such pathetic fallacy exists to reveal the character of Scrooge, one who is extraordinarily cold to those around him and unfeeling to the downtrodden of society. Furthermore, One can also argue that it is the relationship between this weather and Scrooge most physically that is more juicy. Scrooge appears to be unaffected by the weather, neither warmed or cooled by it.

 This makes Scrooge seem all the more distant from his surroundings, existing in a sort of isolated bubble. Connecting this with the concept that Scrooge, despite his wealth, does not aid others in the most direst of straits, combines to highlight the typically Victorian uncaring nature. Furthermore, Dickens may have made sure to portray Scrooge as detached from his surroundings in order to explain the effects that such avarice and obedience to society has upon a man. 

Instead of feeling part of a community and therefore part of a society, Scrooge is separate, outcast of a variety, despite ‘succeeding’. 

Devices- Opinionated Narrative Voice 

Dickens has chosen to utilise a more opinionated narration, with an unnamed but very human voice being applied to this more spectating figure. For example, when explaining that Scrooge is a tight-fisted man at the grindstone, we see that the narration takes a biased, though fair, stance upon the story. It does tend to make the novella feel a bit more jovial and comfortable, rather than an arguably sterile retelling of events in a straight and factual way.

 Furthermore, by choosing to relay such a tale as if it is emanating from the mouth of a real individual, Dickens has made the story seem more like a lesson, told by parents or guardians to their children. It not only makes the novella feel personal and perhaps more tangible, as if we are within the scene itself, but it may also serve to prove that the tale is meant to teach rather than simply entertain.

Plot Summary

A mean-spirited, miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge sits in his counting-house on a frigid Christmas Eve. His clerk, Bob Cratchit, shivers in the anteroom because Scrooge refuses to spend money on heating coals for a fire. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, pays his uncle a visit and invites him to his annual Christmas party. Two portly gentlemen also drop by and ask Scrooge for a contribution to their charity. Scrooge reacts to the holiday visitors with bitterness and venom, spitting out an angry “Bah! Humbug!” in response to his nephew’s ‘Merry Christmas!’

Later that evening, after returning to his dark, cold apartment, Scrooge receives a chilling visitation from the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Marley, looking haggard and pallid, relates his unfortunate story. As punishment for his greedy and self-serving life his spirit has been condemned to wander the Earth weighted down with heavy chains. Marley hopes to save Scrooge from sharing the same fate. Marley informs Scrooge that three spirits will visit him during each of the next three nights. After the wraith disappears, Scrooge collapses into a deep sleep.

He wakes moments before the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Past, a strange childlike phantom with a brightly glowing head. The spirit escorts Scrooge on a journey into the past to previous Christmases from the curmudgeon’s earlier years. Invisible to those he watches, Scrooge revisits his childhood school days, his apprenticeship with a jolly merchant named Fezziwig, and his engagement to Belle, a woman who leaves Scrooge because his lust for money eclipses his ability to love another. Scrooge, deeply moved, sheds tears of regret before the phantom returns him to his bed.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, a majestic giant clad in a green fur robe, takes Scrooge through London to unveil Christmas as it will happen that year. Scrooge watches the large, bustling Cratchit family prepare a miniature feast in it’s meagre home. He discovers Bob Cratchit’s crippled son, Tiny Tim, a courageous boy whose kindness and humility warms Scrooge’s heart. The spectre then zips Scrooge to his nephew’s to witness the Christmas party. Scrooge finds the jovial gathering delightful and pleads with the spirit to stay until the very end of the festivities. As the day passes, the spirit ages, becoming noticeably older. Toward the end of the day, he shows Scrooge two starved children, Ignorance and Want, living under his coat. He vanishes instantly as Scrooge notices a dark, hooded figure coming toward him.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come leads Scrooge through a sequence of mysterious scenes relating to an unnamed man’s recent death. Scrooge sees businessmen discussing the dead man’s riches, some vagabonds trading his personal effects for cash, and a poor couple expressing relief at the death of their unforgiving creditor. Scrooge, anxious to learn the lesson of his latest visitor, begs to know the name of the dead man. After pleading with the ghost, Scrooge finds himself in a churchyard, the spirit pointing to a grave. Scrooge looks at the headstone and is shocked to read his own name. He desperately implores the spirit to alter his fate, promising to renounce his insensitive, avaricious ways and to honour Christmas with all his heart. Whoosh! He suddenly finds himself safely tucked in his bed.

Overwhelmed with joy by the chance to redeem himself and grateful that he has been returned to Christmas Day, Scrooge rushes out onto the street hoping to share his newfound Christmas spirit. He sends a giant Christmas turkey to the Cratchit house and attends Fred’s party, to the stifled surprise of the other guests. As the years go by, he holds true to his promise and honours Christmas with all his heart: he treats Tiny Tim as if he were his own child, provides lavish gifts for the poor, and treats his fellow human beings with kindness, generosity, and warmth.

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