Moralistic Language in A Christmas Carol

“These are but the spirit of things that have been.” The metaphorical words of the Ghost of Christmas Past are typical of Dickens’ melodramatic writing style. Set in Victorian England, a time rife with greed and social stratification, Charles Dickens’ novella ‘A Christmas Carol’ unveils his view on the values of the time period not solely through metaphor. It is also through the use of verisimilitude, repetition of ideas and symbolism that he delivers his social commentary on the ramifications of the moral vacuousness of upper-class England. In addition, as the intricacies of the plot unfold, dramatic irony is conveyed through foreshadowing. Indeed, it is through the language techniques that Dickens is able to craft his allegory about the power dichotomy between the rich and the poor in Victorian England.

Verisimilitude in metaphor is instrumental to the didactic nature of Dickens’ novella, warning against ever-injurious self-interest. A personification of generosity, with “its genial face […] its open hand”, the Ghost of Christmas Present teaches the reader of the dire consequences of not being in its likeness in considering others, particularly those in disadvantageous positions, through Ignorance and Want. Through the animalistic yet verisimilitudinous imagery of how “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish” the children are, the reader is indeed warned of what will become of the ‘surplus population’ if they are not given the aid of which they are in need. In portraying Ebenezer Scrooge, the very embodiment of the self-interested middle class man as a “covetous old sinner” who “no warmth could warm”, Dickens insinuates that those who engage in self-interest are just as repugnant as Scrooge himself. As “solitary as an oyster” as he is, it is through Scrooge that the reader is enlightened to the consequences of pursuing hedonistic desires in lieu of meaningful relationships with other human beings.

Not only does verisimilitude and metaphor aid in depicting the message of the novella; it is through the repetition of ideas and symbolism that Dickens writes of the importance of the multi-faceted nature of generosity, or lack thereof. Jacob Marley, symbolising the fate of hedonistic rich men who do not seek to mend their ways, laments the parsimonious way by which he led his life in proclaiming that “mankind was [his] business”; the sarcastic repetition of the word “business” to describe concerns such as “charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence” and concluding that his work was “but a drop of water in the comprehensive sea of [his] business” outlines the ridiculousness of forsaking goodwill for monetary gain. Starkly contrasting what Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge stand for, the Cratchit family, even without anything of substantial monetary value, ironically embody the warmth and generosity which is lacking in many of those placed higher in the Victorian social hierarchy. Verily, being as “happy [and] grateful” as they are in spite of their disadvantageous position, the Cratchit family are symbolic not only of abject poverty but of kindness. As a result, they juxtapose Scrooge who is “hard and sharp as a flint” in every possible way. By presenting the very antitheses of Scrooge—a symbol for the tight-fisted nature of middle class society—in such a positive light, the reader is informed of what they cannot possibly become if they adopt the same “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching” values as Scrooge.

The use of dramatic irony and foreshadowing additionally adds to the allegorical nature of Dickens’ tale. In establishing that there was “no doubt that Marley was dead” which was a fact that must be “distinctly understood” punctuates Jacob Marley’s role in the story as that which is significant to the amelioration of Scrooge’s miserly nature. Marley does indeed proceed to play the role as one of the many catalysts enabling Scrooge’s drastic metamorphosis into someone who is warm and is not only enraptured by work. Dramatic irony and foreshadowing form the foundation of the message imparted upon the reader by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Each vision presented to Scrooge by the Ghost culminates to him seeing “upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name” although the reader is fully aware of Scrooge’s fate long before Scrooge is confronted by his own headstone. Symbolic of the march of time towards an undeniably fixed end, the Ghost not only instils fear, but serves as a warning to those who lack philanthropy. In presenting Scrooge with harrowing predictions of the future such as him in a “dark empty house, with not a man, woman or a child” to mourn his passing, Scrooge finally realises that “men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends”, warning readers of what will become of them if they remain morally vacuous.

Indeed, it is clear that language conventions are imperative catalysts to the moralistic nature of Charles Dickens’ novella ‘A Christmas Carol’. Charles Dickens seeks to confront a 19th century readership with what may become of society that may be incurred if society remains spiritually devoid and does not seek to ameliorate their situation by upholding tradition. In the words of Jacob Marley, “charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, [are], all, [our] business.”

What is the role of characterisation in ‘A Christmas Carol’?

“If they would rather die, then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Ebenezer Scrooge’s words encapsulate how he is characterised as a largely disagreeable, morally vacuous man. Silhouetted against the backdrop of Victorian England, a time period rife with avarice and social stratification, the construction of character in Charles Dickens’ novella ‘A Christmas Carol’ is what gives the tale its allegorical nature. However, it is not only Scrooge’s characterisation which is instrumental to Dickens’ novel, as Jacob Marley also acts as a medium through which Dickens cautions the reader of the deleterious ramifications of leading a uncharitable life. Without doubt, while the Cratchits additionally serve to juxtapose the repugnant nature of the rich against their benevolence, the constructions of the Ghosts of Christmas underscore the how it is important to adhere to tradition in the face of relentless social upheaval.

It is through the characterisation of Scrooge and Marley in Dickens’ tale that the consequences of self-interest are unveiled. Scrooge, being a caricature for the miserly, misanthropic rich man who “no warmth could warm” is the vehicle through which Dickens comments upon the moral vacuousness of the middle and upper classes of Victorian society in their belief that the poor deserved whatever fate befell them. It is in portraying Ebenezer Scrooge, the very embodiment of the self-interested middle class man as a “covetous old sinner” that Dickens insinuates that those who engage in self-interested behaviour are just as despicable as Scrooge himself. As “solitary as an oyster” as he is, the reader is enlightened so as to not be in Scooge’s likeness lest they, too, become isolated to the degree that Scrooge is. It is also through the construction of the spectre of Jacob Marley that Dickens attempts to instil fear in the reader through his lamentation of having “no rest [and] no peace” due to his parsimonious nature in life. Marley, further characterised as being beleaguered with the “incessant torture of remorse”, acts as the vehicle through which Dickens cautions his 19th century readership to be less self-centred, lest they meet the same fate as rich men such as Jacob Marley.

Contrasted against Scrooge and Marley, the Cratchit family ironically embody the warmth and goodwill which those in upper-middle class Victorian England oftentimes lack. Undeniably, the impoverished Cratchit family ironically embody generosity being as “happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time” as they are, even in the face of adversity. Being the very antitheses to Scrooge, the Cratchits are the embodiment of charity, even though they cannot afford to give away anything of substantial monetary value. However, it is in presenting a family in such a disadvantageous position as being some of the most morally upstanding characters in the novella that Dickens alludes not only to how it would be erroneous to assume that one cannot be generous if they are not affluent. Through the characterisation of the Cratchits as being both upstanding and the polar opposites of Scrooge, the reader is cautioned of what they cannot possibly be if they are more interested in themselves than in the matters of others as is the case with Scrooge.

It is not only the characterisation of the Cratchits that drives the plot forward, as the characterisation of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come also contribute to how the novella is didactic. As a personification of memory, the Ghost of Christmas Past is an allusion to how it is imperative to look back to the “shadows of things that have been” to relearn positive and negative lessons from it in order to grow as a human being. With “its open hand, its cheery voice”, the Ghost of Christmas Present not only represents material generosity, but generosity of spirit. In teaching Scrooge that he must discover “What the surplus is, and Where it is”, he is the medium through which Dickens relays the message that benevolence is what lies at the true heart of human life. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come not only instils fear with its silence, but also by its symbolism of a march of time towards an undeniably fixed end. As a 19th century audience fixated with the idea of death and the afterlife, the Ghost would perturb the reader with its pessimistic predictions of the future presenting the notion that “men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends”, disturbing the reader further through the implication that the decisions that they make in the present may also follow them to the grave.

Indeed, while there are other aspects other than the construction of character that aid in the significance of the novella, characterisation is the crux of Charles Dickens’ allegory A Christmas Carol. Through such means, Dickens confronts the reader with the notion that upper class Victorian society may not be able to change their morally vacuous ways until they feel remorse for the ramifications of their actions, or lack thereof. In the words of Jacob Marley, “No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”

The Perfect Christmas in A Christmas Carol

‘A Christmas Carol’ was immediately popular in Victorian England and soon, the rest of the world. It became a cultural icon, sparking a tradition to be read every Christmas Eve in many households. The relevance of the novella, even in the 21st century is testament to its immortality and ability to resonate with people decades later. The tremendous reception of A Christmas Carol can be attributed to Charles Dickens’ ability to paint a perfect portrait of what Christmas should be without eschewing from reality entirely. Readers could identify with the characters and their plight and celebrate Scrooge’s fanciful redemption. This earnest piece of literature Dickens offers was an escape from the depressing reality of the social disquiet in 19th century Europe, primarily in the ‘Hungry 40s’ that encompassed the Great Irish Famine, atrocious prisons and workhouses (Poor Law Amendment Act 1934), the grotesque prevalence of Malthusian principal, severe privation and the dichotomy between rich and poor progressively stretching. The struggling majority were thirsty for social reform. Dickens offers a simple solution: “to honour (his version of) Christmas in their hearts and try to keep it all the year.” Because Scrooge is the only character who undergoes a drastic transformation in the story, Dickens conveys this message primarily to the disconnected wealthy like him, because they have the greatest potential to create a world full of benevolent, reformed Scrooges who share their riches with the poor, simultaneously receiving inner fulfilment and an abundance of emotional wealth. Writing at a time when social anarchy was at its peak, many escaped to the fictional world of literature. In this literary piece, Dickens seizes the opportunity to envisage a utopia through his idealistic depiction of Christmas, which was an amalgamation of the morals and ideals that society lacked but Dickens longed for. This perfect Christmas promotes the poor man to a level equal to that of an aristocrat, where bosses and their employees could dance shoulder to shoulder in a ball-room like Fezziwig and his apprentices had, as well as “the housemaid, the baker, the cook and the milkman” and everyone is deserving of being wished “A merry Christmas to you!” The boisterous analeptic scene describing a “wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, wonderful happiness!” in the montage Scrooge views by the Ghost of Christmas Past abjures the religious underpinnings of Christmas for a more secular, contemporary celebration that everyone can enjoy. Dickens does not make the rich feel guilty for being able to afford feasts of “turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch” while others are “merry with a meagre goose”, only if they generously open their doors and share it amongst everyone to promote communal brotherhood and equality. Hence through his depiction of an extravagant, “lavish” Christmas, Dickens empowers the rich with an honourable onus and instantaneously elevates the poor, explaining the novella’s universal adoration and popularity amongst all. The inception of the Industrial Revolution stimulated an increasingly capitalist society, ultimately increasing “avarice”, exploitation and the corollaries stemming from an opportunity to make money. However, Dickens envisions a perfect Christmas where everyone takes “a day off” the world of financial business for the “business” of “mankind”. He normalises such idealistic notions, such as elite creditors donating a “prize turkey” that is “bigger than” a human boy to his diminutive clerk’s family, to set the bar high for other aristocrats to try to aspire to. Dickens delivers a message of hope to the poor with the highly sentimentalised portrait inside the Cratchit family’s small, ‘four-roomed home’, where they are “poor and content to be so,” “made merry” by the mere spirit of the day. Christmas is enough for them to reunite and be “so gallantly attired” and wish “good health and a “long life” upon everyone, even an “odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr Scrooge” for being the “founder of their [meagre] feast” despite being “the ogre of the family”, casting a “dark shadow” on the ostensibly non-extinguishable light they emanate. Dickens employs pathos to soften the heart of Scrooge and interchangeably upper class readers to “sprinkle” their wealth upon the destitute, abandon their “tight-fisted” ways and conversely keep an “open hand” like the Ghost of Christmas Present does. This ‘clad giant’, the original ‘Father Christmas’ possesses a “genial face”, “unconstrained demeanour” and “joyful air” and represents everything Dickens wanted Christmas to promote: empathy, generosity, good-will and all the values Scrooge adopted post-transformation. There is no denying the unrealistic, far-fetched nature of the transition Scrooge undertook. However, despite how exaggerated, fantastical and dazzling Dickens concocts this, it indeed culminate to a great deal of the story’s success. Mankind finds comfort in the notion that a fate of “incessant torture of remorse”, being weighed down with a “ponderous chain” can be “avoided” if you “shun the path you tread” and enact Dickens’ portrayal of Christmas “all year”. They seek comfort and relief in the fact that even “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” can be saved from a death where “the only emotion caused by the event was one of pleasure.” People thrived on hope in depressing, hard times and adored the novel for the message: if the courses (of man) be departed from, the (doomed) ends will change” and that it is not too late, no one is “past all hope”. The final stave is contagiously cheerful and uplifting because Dickens seeks to inspire others to find joy in their milieu like Scrooge does, leaving them “glowing with good intentions” to their own benefit. Society was chaotic, but doesn’t have to be as success lies in the fairy-tale ending of the novella. Dickens empowers the people to create this perfect Christmas for themselves and that it doesn’t have to be confined to fiction. The before and after of Scrooge represent the current dismal state of society versus what society could be if everyone, especially the more domineering, governing rich transform to even a fraction of a degree that Scrooge did.

Perceiving the Need for Social Change in “A Christmas Carol”

Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” is set in Victorian London and tells the story of the transformation of a wicked, miserly Scrooge into a benevolent humanitarian via supernatural intervention. The invited reading persuades readers to accept that despite the gap between rich and poor, inspired individuals are capable of changing society, social change is desired by the powers of the supernatural realm, and small steps can be achieved by wealthy individuals who fulfill their duty of kindness to the less fortunate. The writer’s purpose is stated in the words of Marley’s ghost: “ Mankind was my business” and implemented by allowing the reader to share the rigorous re-education of Scrooge. Dickens achieves his purpose of positioning readers to favour social change through the use of powerful stereotypical representations of real world and supernatural characters which compel readers to criticise and reflect on the wrongness of attitudes, values and beliefs of a selfish Victorian society. The reader initially rejects the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, whose greed-driven values are contrasted with Bob Cratchit , a poor, underpaid, kindly clerk devoted to his family. Dickens emphasises that money lust has made Scrooge a miserable, toxic character who spreads misery. Yet his observations grow, and his viewpoint evolves as his relationship with the Cratchits grows: “They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being waterproof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of pawnbroker’s. But they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another’s company, and contented with the time.” The reader disapproves of his coldheartedness and sympathises with the people he mistreats: the Cratchits, his nephew, Fred, and Belle, his former fiancée who recognised Scrooge had made “a golden idol”(p65) of money. The reader’s greatest sympathies are directed towards the Cratchit family, serving Dicken’s purpose of promoting the welfare of the working class. Tiny Tim, condemned to poverty and physical misery as well, is an important device in Scrooge’s transformation. That Scrooge has ignored this pitiful little boy is central to his failure as a human being. Befriending the child, signifies the awakening of his human spirit to the power of kindness. Dickens implies in Tiny Tim’s words “God bless us, everyone!” that the purpose of life lies in feeling happy about helping the needy. Through his relationship with the Cratchit family, Scrooge learns about the joy of giving, the value of kindness and generosity, and the pleasures of living as a member of a loving family. The portrayal of Tiny Tim’s death affects Scrooge deeply, positioning the reader to love children, and want to help an underprivileged handicapped child. Tim calls the reader to accept Christian teachings when he says, “I want people to see me because I am a cripple…” Through Dickens’ detailed descriptions of supernatural characters, and his evocative emotional use of shocking imagery, the reader shares Scrooge’s deeply emotional journey which teaches him compassion. Scrooge believes in ghosts, and the chained, doomed ghost of Marley introduces the reader to fear of the supernatural, of death and of the afterlife. Fear inspires the reader to share the Christian belief that the price of today’s mistakes is eternal wandering in a void of misery after death. “You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?” “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” Along with Scrooge, the reader accepts this as truth. With supernatural teachers, the Ghosts of Christmas, Scrooge’s ignorance is destroyed through a painful moral education process which the reader shares. The shock of experiencing shame and guilt at his unkind treatment of others, followed by the fear of eternal damnation that Scrooge faces are life-changing. Scrooge faces the ugly eternal consequences of his wrongdoings. Through sharing Scrooge’s experience, the reader also fears punishment in the afterlife, and like Scrooge, resolves to live a better life.Minor characters are contrasted against Scrooge, and also provides glimpses of the life and values of the poor class. Ragged, unhappy, hungry children are advertisements sending an anti poverty message to the reader. The inclusion of humble miner’s hut and the lonely lighthouse expand the reader’s awareness of the extent of both poverty and the kindly human spirit of the poor class. The benevolent employer, Fezziwig is contrasted with the mean spirited Scrooge, showing the reader that some people are already practising compassion . The parade of morally good characters impresses that society is struggling to help the poor, and this change needs to be boosted by more helping hands.Dickens’ moral message is repeated for emphasis in each stage, by each spirit of Christmas, and through every character and situation in the novella. When Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, comments that “offenses carry their own punishments” he is supporting Dickens’s Christian moral viewpoint, further appealing to the reader to be reasonable and understand the importance of helping out the needy . He is repeating the message of Marley’s ghost, who teaches that the faults of life will be paid for in death. The personal effort required to change is rewarded when Scrooge summons his courage to knock on Fred’s door. Finally, Scrooge is deeply grateful for the help he received to change his ways, shown when he says “I shall love this doorknocker as long as I live”. This positions the reader to share Scrooge’s happiness and believe that change is achievable and desirable, and to make the effort.Finally, the reader walks the road of moral redemption with Scrooge, learning with him that “the common welfare.. charity mercy, forebearance and benevolence” p49 are every man’s duty. The various range of character representations and their experiences support Scrooge’s transformation, persuading the reader to accept the need for social change, and to follow Scrooge’s example. His successful transformation offers the reader a role model which affirms the power of the individual to correct the social injustice caused by greed and uncontrolled capitalism.

A Secular Christmas: Examining Religion in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

While in Christianity Christmas maintains certain religious icons that help school boys and girls remember the story of the birth of Christ, had Tiny Tim attempted to recite the Christian myth he likely would have earned a swift stroke of the hickory stick for his ignorance. In a novel chronicling the conversion of a bourgeois capitalist during the calendar’s most celebrated holiday, Charles Dickens tears the public anniversary from its Christian roots and establishes the season as a time of humanitarianism and communal charity in a secular world, where the actions bestowed in kindness hold more weight than the dogma from which they stem. Consequently, while such traditional religious acts as going to church, donating to charity, and prayer exist in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, they survive merely as religious, not Christian, actions. In this manner, Dickens successfully captures the philanthropic nature of the Christian holiday-the Christmas spirit-in order to denounce the materialistic world of capitalism while carefully avoiding preaching an Old World message of Christianity in a post-Darwinian society.The 1830s and 1840s saw a sudden shift in social thinking that not only radically altered the economic theory of the time, but also cracked the bedrock upon which the deific Church had ruled supreme two thousand years strong. Beginning in the 1830s, England found itself fostering sprouting industrial cities such as Leeds, Bradford, and Manchester, correctly described by the London People’s Journal in 1847 as “the type of a new power on the earth.” This rapid industrialization, coupled with the revolutionary thinking of Charles Darwin that put the fittest, most capable humans at the forefront of mankind’s advancement, encouraged not only an economic growth and a drive for capital gain, but a digression from the classical religion of Christianity. No longer did the hoi polloi feel a divine oppression to conform to a Church-imposed social hierarchy, as evident by the movements to repeal the Corn Laws, thereby prompting a decrease in the cost of corn at the expense of the landowning aristocracy, as well as the 1832 Reform Act, which redistributed representation in Parliament out of the hands of the small corrupt boroughs of landowners and into those of the industrial cities of the north. Furthermore, Chartism-with its birth most recognizable in the People’s Charter of 1838-showed a push for the idea of laissez-faire in the economy, most notably in the motion to introduce universal suffrage for all males over the age of 21. These reforming motions, combined with Darwin’s survival of the fittest, ignited the tinder of the ever-ready quest for materialism, forging capitalism. It is in this newly flourishing blaze of capitalism that Dickens finds his voice to counter what he sees as a wildfire set to destroy humanity, choosing not to appeal to ecclesiastical values, but rather to the altruistic nature of man. Setting an early tone of fundamental benevolence, Dickens opens his A Christmas Carol with the call for an act of goodwill.The caring nature of Ebenezer Scrooge is plainly absent from the very outset of the novel. While the opening lines of Dickens’ critique first identify the capitalist society that runs his London and the protagonist as a subscriber of that economic system, they also show the cold, unfeeling streak that runs through Scrooge. Dickens first reveals Scrooge’s apathy toward his late friend and business partner, Jacob Marley, then his standoffish and gruff disposition toward his nephew, i.e. his family, and finally his attitude toward greater mankind. It is this third and final aspect of Scrooge’s cold, businesslike manner that will run throughout the novel as a humanitarian motif, an attestation of Dickens’ new philanthropic religion. Approached in his office by two gentlemen seeking donations for the poor, Scrooge inquires as to the status of the laws meant to provide basic necessities and means of debt payment for the poor, then flaunts his true capitalist colors when he says “‘If they would rather die…they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population'” (p. 6). The reader only feels the full harshness of this line, however, because a page earlier one of the two altruistic gentlemen states that “‘at this festive season of the year…it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time'” (p. 5). This stark contrast against the cold nature of capitalism claims only a humanitarian mission-to help those who are in want, to spread joy to the joyless. Furthermore, the speaker here yields not to the hope of a selfless action mirroring the life of Christ, but rather to the notion of festivities and mirth. Spreading goodwill and happiness is of greater concern to these aid workers. With the memory of a similar kindness toward all, the Ghost of Christmas Past elicits a spark of humanity from the otherwise callous protagonist.In the second stave, the first of three Spirits visits Scrooge, allowing the old man to vividly relive memories from his past. In the third of these Scrooge finds himself at the business of a former employer on Christmas Eve, where before Scrooge’s eyes he watches everyone employed by Fezziwig partake in the celebration, even his younger self. In accordance with this overhauled religion, Dickens herein shows a crowd of merry people of all levels of society (from shop owner down to the lowly boy from down the street) joining together to dance, eat, and drink their full. The moral of the Spirit’s tale does not lie within a biblical message of divine redemption, but salvation through community and merriment. This parallels a scene later presented by the Ghost of Christmas Present, who himself is a symbol of this post-Darwinian reformation of religion.Stave III presents the reader with the most tangible of the three Spirits, and indeed the scene as Dickens describes it is nearly palpable. Entering a room adjacent to his bedchamber, Scrooge finds a giant sitting in a well-lit-which counters the single candle Scrooge had burning himself-and festively decorated hall which furthermore had “heaped upon the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters…” (p. 32) and numerous other delectable foods. The giant himself is attired in a style reminiscent of the Greeks or Romans: a simple green tunic bordered in fur, barefoot, and wearing a holly wreath upon his brow jeweled with icicles. Dickens undoubtedly intends for the image of a crown of thorns to present itself to the reader here, as this character can be interpreted as a pagan Christ figure. The seemingly endless hoard of food-which Scrooge notes before the Spirit himself-suggests the Spirit as a sort of divine caregiver, supported more so in that he likens it to a throne. A few pages later, Scrooge and the Spirit are present on the streets to watch the masses flock to Church, but not before turning their Christmas dinners over to the bakers. In Dickens’ world of general satisfaction, the Church falls second to that which causes true happiness on Christmas-a good meal and the festivities surrounding it. Scrooge observes as shop-goers jostle how the Spirit sprinkles water from his torch, likened to the horn of Plenty, thereby pacifying all and maintaining the Christmas spirit of goodwill. Right after this scene the Spirit takes Scrooge to the Cratchit household, wherein the family enjoys a poor, yet contented Christmas dinner. Never does the transition between the streets of London and the humble home of Bob Cratchit stray to the pews of the Church or the message delivered before them. Dickens mentions the Church as the destination of the masses, as well as the place from which Bob and Tiny Tim arrive, but never as more. This limitation on the Christian aspect of the holiday nonetheless provides a fleeting glimpse of religion, thereby offering a sacred ambiance without an overtly doctrinal implication. The resulting pagan theme is reflected in the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Fezziwig party, and even the Christmas party of Fred, Scrooge’s nephew.Just as in the previous Christmas party at Fezziwig’s, the one thrown by Fred, though modest in comparison, nevertheless champions pagan ideals in lieu of Christian values. In Fred’s party Dickens stresses the importance of friends during the festivities of the season, as well as emphasizing the rakish nature of youth in such games as blind man’s bluff and the merriment of mixed company. Topper’s shameless pursuit of one maiden over the others, as well as his “necessary” groping when blind in her direction (p. 46) underscores this bawdy atmosphere and further detracts from the religious nature of the holiday. Yet the final departure from Christianity comes in the form of the novel’s ultimate redeeming figure, Tiny Tim.The epitome of the poor and a potential casualty in Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, Bob Cratchit’s young crippled son is the savior of mankind in A Christmas Carol. While the second spirit shows a pagan mirror image of Christ, Tiny Tim can be likened to Christ in the redemption that he [inadvertently] offers. At the end of Stave III, the Spirit draws back his robe to reveal the forms of Want and Ignorance at his feet, two symbols Dickens uses to show the impending doom of mankind at the hands of capitalists like Ebenezer Scrooge. This damnation, however, will only occur if those champions of selflessness and timeless joy-represented in the figure of Tiny Time-are destroyed by an unfeeling, greedy capitalism. The world dies with the death of Tiny Tim in Dickens’ novel because he has spent the better part of the five staves showing how no man is his neighbor’s better. Conversely, if Tiny Tim lives, so too does mankind, and in this way does the destitute invalid offer the world salvation as a secular Christ.This religious (though not Christian) worldview in A Christmas Carol argues against capitalism and social Darwinism, as well as the materialism it advocates. Dickens’ stance is plainly in opposition to materialism; from the weights that burden Marley in the afterlife (p. 11) to the minute profit granted the robbers of Scrooge’s possessions upon his death (p. 55) Dickens shows the futility of stockpiling monetary wealth. Instead, with an emphasis on family and community relations, he paints a warm and cheery picture of life in moderation, yet without want. In a society jaded by a Church too lost in its own doctrine to fulfill its founder’s teachings, Dickens strays from the beaten path of Christianity in favor of a spiritual, perhaps pagan religious tone in A Christmas Carol in order to emphasize philanthropy and community while minimizing the dogma of a stale faith.

Ghost of an Idea

Much of Charles Dickens’ representation of morality in his most famous of Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol, is derived from “the wisdom of our ancestors.” (1) From the beginning of his narrative Dickens explains his usage of the phrase “dead as a doornail,” in relation to Marley, as trusting in the “wisdom of our ancestors,” even if it were not the simile he himself would have invented. He continues to carefully craft his story in attribute to traditional culture. Christmastime, as a setting, stands for the temporary breakdown of restraints felt within a normal life in a Dickens society. Scrooge’s nephew describes Christmastime as: …the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys….though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it! (6-7)Indeed the fragmentation and restoration of a set of values is the theme of A Christmas Carol- a story set not in chapters, but sung in staves. The characterization of a story told in song is in itself a return to ancestral and traditional values. One remembers the well-known opening “I sing of warfare and a man at war,” (ln. 1) from Virgil’s Aeneid. The poems by Ancient Roman writers, such as Virgil and Ovid, speak to a culture’s history but perhaps most importantly to teach a lesson in morals. By adopting this medium Dickens pays homage to his ancient predecessors, and also to the art of Christmas carols in themselves (as the title suggests). Before the twentieth century one of the only means of widespread education was through the Christian Church. And through Dickens’ characterizations of church officials as often being corrupt, it can be assumed that Dickens probably did not like the tainted information churchgoers were receiving. However Christmas carols maintain their integrity no matter who sings them. Their message is clear and their words unaltered, save for children’s common mistakes (going ‘waffling’ as opposed to ‘wassailing’). Principally what Dickens’ novel does is take the eroding moralistic traditions of the past and deliver them intact to the common man. His many characters allegorize the traditional values Dickens is concerned with in the past, present and future. Ebenezer Scrooge is perhaps the most allegorical among them. Albeit in crisscross order, we see Scrooge’s progression and depression throughout his time as a schoolboy into his elderly, miserly years. His first vision is of himself is as a terribly lonely child at Christmas, trying to keep himself company with the characters from books. The first spirit, that of Christmas Past, is himself a young child and an old man all at once; and the luminous glowing of his head speaks for the importance of the human mind. This first ghost represents memory and its ability to tie all of one’s life together. Indeed the fluid movement of time throughout the story suggests that in terms of humanity it is not the “when” that is important; it is only the “what” that one should concern himself with. The second spirit, that of Christmas Present, exemplifies the concerns one should ideally have in association with Christmas: goodwill, generosity, love and celebration, to start. The food “heaped on the floor to form a kind of throne,” (57) aids the spirit in evoking thoughts of prosperity and merriment. Similarly the moral theme of A Christmas Carol has little to do with the solemnity of a religious occasion (although the sway of organized Christianity is present, in the tolling of the church bells to mark the hours, for instance), but mostly in praising the abundance of joy, which have the capability of sharing with one another. In essence Dickens’ Christmas is not about self-restraint and religious piety. It is a time for sharing one’s riches, be they on a scale of poverty or one of wealth- be they monetary or spiritual. Here Scrooge begins to realize what is perhaps already apparent to the reader: to celebrate by feasting is an extremely enjoyable experience, but only if one shares that feast with others. The Cratchit family is able to demonstrate the ability to derive great joy from having little by sharing it with loved ones, in opposition to the very little joy Scrooge derives from plenty because of his solitude. This visit from the Ghost of Christmas Present also highlights the importance of teaching that joy to the next generations to come. In literature the presence of children embodies the natural human response to innocence within a loving environment, or one lacking in love. The children in the story at hand are no different as they serve to greatly focus the course of the book. Chiefly this focus is achieved through the pathetic character of Tiny Tim. His endearing faith and spirit in the face of deathly illness is one of the reasons A Christmas Carol has maintained its extreme popularity through the centuries. Tiny Tim correctly highlights the connection between himself and Jesus Christ when he tells his father: …he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day who made lame beggars walk and blind men see. (67)Growing up in an environment of monetary comfort but little love, Scrooge ages into a cold-hearted miser. Yet growing up in a world of much love and little money, the youngest Cratchit possesses the kindest soul in the story. In contrast to the spiritual light radiating from Tiny Tim’s character are the “devilish”-looking creatures: the boy called Ignorance and the girl called Want. “They are Man’s” (86) children, as they are a product of the neglect of social responsibility. Ignorance and Want are explained by the second spirit to be humanity’s “doom” if ignored. The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas yet to come, carries with him a grim tint to the story. He represents the fate of Scrooge (i.e. greater humanity) if poverty goes on unaltered by those who have the power to change the conditions. As Scrooge begins to understand that a desolate and perverted future is to be his own fate, the fear of death and imminent reckoning causes him to connect his new lessons and memories into an emotional landscape where not only can he relate with the common man’s suffering, but he also cares outright as a humanitarian. As it is earlier noted, Scrooge is able to see other people as if “…they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” (6) Dickens comments on 19th Century Britain’s economic corruption by picturing the world of the counting house. Yet he goes on to visualize a restructuring of selfish society, by embracing the most basic human morals of love. The society Dickens suggests is one of a kind of voluntary socialism. As Scrooge learns that all men are men regardless of their station, the reader is lead to envision each of themselves as responsible for the happiness or suffering of others. What we have here is the suggestion that all men have the same capability for joy or sadness no matter what their natural abilities or resources are. This message is carried to the reader through a collection of ghosts, yet they are not at all tied to the definition of ‘supernatural’. Each ghost standing for past, present, future, memory, generosity or responsibility, carries a piece of the whole moral that Dickens lays out. What Dickens creates in A Christmas Carol is a representation of the most poignant wealth humans possess: first the ability to change, and second the capacity for brotherhood and communion. In essence what Dickens creates is an allegory of love.

Movement Within the Episodes

Like Christmas morning itself – when each present represents a discrete mystery, separate from the last – the Christmas Carol is divided into a set of episodes. The book’s chapters are episodic, with the duration of each spirit a single episode. Within each chapter, there a number of discrete scenes that can be considered separately, and called episodes. While the division into episodes becomes predictable, the way Scrooge and the ghost physically move between these intra-chapter episodes is not predictable. One example of such movement occurs when the present spirit and Scrooge travel from the miner’s village to a lighthouse over a “frightful range of rocks” and “a dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league or so from shore” on their way to the lighthouse (56). In this case the movement is very prominent; both we and Scrooge are aware of the movement. In each chapter the prominence of this inter-episode movement is consistent within the chapter, but different than in other chapters. The most fundamental difference is between the prominence of the inter-episode movement in the future on one hand, and the present and past on the other. In the past, Scrooge and the spirit “left the high-road, by a well remembered lane, and soon approached a mansion of dull red brick” (29). As when he is moving toward the lighthouse, in the present, Scrooge is explicitly aware of the movement he is making. Scrooge experiences not only the episodes but also the movement between episodes as discrete events. In the future, Scrooge’s awareness of the time between episodes disappears. When, in the future, they move from Scrooge’s bedroom to the city center, “they scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city seemed to spring up about them” (66). Later in the chapter Scrooge “recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed” without any signal (72). Like the future spirit itself, movement in the future cannot be seen or heard. The past, however, is predictably different than the present; it is separated from the present by its excess of travel. The episodes are not as discrete, and the transportation, the movement itself seems to take prominence: the entire chapter seems to be spent wandering. The physical difference in the way Dickens portrays these times allows us to create models through which we can consider the three times. Now, neither the future nor the past is ever experienced in physical form as it is in this novel – it is always an element of our imagination – so it might seem silly to consider this story as a useful model for differentiating these three times. But the physicality that Dickens gives these times allows us to see past and future as something other than the abstract intellectual concepts they usually are. The models might be described as follows: The future extends out over a flat plain in front of us, with isolated events sticking out. Our view is level with the plain so we cannot actually see the ground between events, but we can see discrete pillars that are events. The distance and course between events is disconcertingly out of view. Looking at the past, on the other hand, is like viewing a wall map of time: the distances and directions between events is clear, but no events stand out – the view is two dimensional. The present thus emerges as the only three dimensional, interactive time (like virtual reality versus Gameboy, it is the obvious choice (yet some still choose Gameboy?)). And it is on the present that Scrooge is able to interact with the time. When the present spirit appears ready to move on Scrooge’s nephew and his family are just beginning another game. Scrooge pleads, “one half hour, Spirit, only one!” While the spirit does not explicitly answer, Scrooge is allowed to watch the new game “called Yes and No” (61). Scrooge has agency. In both the past and future Scrooge makes similar appeals to alter the apparent course of movement, but is denied.

Have a Capitalist Christmas: The Critique of Christmas Time in “A Christmas Carol”

An audience member’s gleeful first-hand account of Charles Dickens’s public reading of “A Christmas Carol” unwittingly exposes an often overlooked contradiction in the story’s climax: “Finally, there is Scrooge, no longer a miser, but a human being, screaming at the ‘conversational’ boy in Sunday clothes, to buy him the prize turkey ‘that never could have stood upon his legs, that bird'” (96). Perhaps he is no longer a miser but, by this description, Scrooge still plays the role of a capitalist oppressor, commanding underlings to fetch him luxuries. While Dickens undoubtedly lauds Scrooge’s epiphany and ensuing change, “A Christmas Carol” also hints at the author’s resentment for an industrial society’s corrupted notion of the “Christmas spirit.” Through instances of goodwill which Christmas provokes, Dickens suggests that Christmas is only an interruptive exception from the otherwise capitalistic calendar. Even when Scrooge becomes altruistic, as in the above scene, his philanthropy still operates under the guise of capitalism, measured in economic terms and aimed ultimately at providing himself with pleasure.Dickens subtly turns his critique of ephemeral and selfish “holiday time” to the reader. The straightforward, Aristotelian structure of the narrative and the constant foreshadowing and repetition reduce any potential anxiety about the story’s outcome. The main cause for anxiety over the conclusion of any sentimental tale is to identify with the protagonist in some way. Although Scrooge is a caricature with whom few would commiserate (or admit to so doing), Dickens’s Three Spirits lure us into sympathy with the miser while simultaneously engendering empathy in him. But the production of Scrooge’s humanity is just that, a manufactured, nearly focus-group mode of voyeurism that attacks Scrooge at his most vulnerable and solipsistic‹either forcing upon him visions of his harm to others or, more saliently, of his own past and future selves at their lowest. For Dickens, the altruism Christmas breeds is a false exercise in guilt-reduction, and the pat ending of “A Christmas Carol” reinforces this; the satisfaction of listening to a story whose conclusion is never imperiled (and grows more knowable with each year’s retelling) spares the reader the self-examination Scrooge endures that a darker turn might provoke.Christmas is only a bright spot if the rest of the year is comparatively dark, and Dickens exposes this contrast through Scrooge’s nephew’s optimistic ruminations on’Christmas timeŠas a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.’ (8-9)The nephew’s breakdown between Christmas, the “only time” of the otherwise “long calendar,” corresponds to Gérard Genette’s terms for the narrative techniques “singulative” and “iterative.” The narrator is not exempt from optimistically meditating on the benevolent singulative at the expense of the malevolent iterative: “And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year” (57). The scene, a ship, is rife with hierarchies‹”the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who had the watch” (56)‹that melt away with the good cheer. The Christmas spirit unites with the temporary equalization of social structure, just as the nephew’s vision of the “fellow-passengers” leads to the quasi-miscegenation of the different economic “race[s].” Both cases gracefully elide what, exactly, occurs on those other, non-Christmas days, and what motivations define them. Scrooge baldly outlines the economic temporality of Christmas: “What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen months presented dead against you?” (8) Unlike his nephew and the men on the ship, Scrooge draws no binary between holiday time and the rest of the capitalistic calendar but, at least, remains more honest about the other 364 days of the year.Despite the examples of the nephew and sailors, Scrooge is not the only holder of an isochronic philosophy. Everyone in “A Christmas Carol” is a slave to time and, worse, everyone retains a hypocritical capitalistic attitude in the face of holiday time. He presents the city as functioning at the behest of bells‹”When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up” (35)‹originally installed to unify public time, and their routinized reminders of capitalism echo throughout holiday time. Mrs. Cratchit makes explicit her own contradictions when Cratchit asks her to drink to Scrooge’s health: “‘I’ll drink his health for your sake and the Day’sŠnot for his'” (53). This form of artificial benevolence operates on subtler levels in the narrative, when the narrator places an exclamation point after the optimistic conclusion the characters reach:And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humor was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was! (47)Just as the consumerist competition between the “dinner-carriers” is remedied by the incense from the Ghost of Christmas Present’s torch, the narrator’s words sprinkle a positive final comment on the event, which began with “angry words.” The narrator, too, is implicated as attempting to impose an artificial diachrony over the ischronic capitalistic calendar.Such a pervasive capitalistic ethic appears even in description of characters. Scrooge’s niece is delineated by various monetary strokes: “She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-looking, capital face: a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be kissed” (57-58). Beginning with the shift to excess (the revision of “very pretty” to “exceedingly pretty”), the niece is presented as a material good, with “capital” and “ripe” features. The mouth, especially, which is not used to speak, is described in terms of production and specialization. The men at the Christmas party respond to the women accordingly; Topper chases after the “plump” sister and “assure[s] himself of her identity by pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain about her neck” (60). As the sister is identified by the narrator only as “plump,” a word whose connotations of wealth ring throughout the story, most often in respect to food, it is no wonder that Topper impresses her, literally, with his own signifiers of affluence.Nevertheless, most readers will ignore these warning signs of an illusory Christmas spirit and instead revel in the holiday cheer, as the narrator keeps prodding them to do. To acknowledge the other half (or, more accurately, 364/365) of what characters continually refer to under their breaths as they praise the community of Christmas is to recognize the presence of selfishness in themselves, for Dickens indicts those, like Topper, who cause no harm but are inescapably guilty of seeking pleasure through capitalist means. The Christmas Spirits humanize Scrooge by capitalizing on this selfishness, and this process highlights the reader’s sympathy for Scrooge as similarly flawed; we pity a man who is, at heart, self-pitying. Attaching ourselves to Scrooge’s struggle is a way of exonerating our own selfish sins‹by “learning” to identify with him as he “learns” what it is to be human, we assume that we were far removed from him at the beginning of the narrative. Scrooge expresses remorse for his life several times. Prompted by a scene of “two apprenticesŠpouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig,” Scrooge responds by saying that he “should like to be able to say a word or two to” (36) his clerk. The selfishness is diluted and understandable, evident in Scrooge’s desire to be loved as Fezziwig is. The more pronounced instances of Scrooge’s reformation follow visions of him at his most despairing. After Scrooge sobs over remembering himself as an ostracized schoolboy, he reflects, “‘There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something'” (31). As with the apprentices, he achieves this epiphany only through identification, and here the identification is more self-centered. The solipsism masquerading as outward empathy reaches fruition when Scrooge sees his future grave: “‘Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!'” (79) Only this extreme case forces Scrooge to reverse his previous isochronic vision of time, turning it from capitalist to holiday: “‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year'” (78).Not only has Dickens shown that such an honorable attitude is impossible under a capitalist system, that even good-hearted souls like Mrs. Cratchit use Christmas to cover their true feelings, but the narrative thrust of “A Christmas Carol” denies any ability to live, as Scrooge vows, “‘in the Past, Present, and the Future'” (79). The story is constantly in forward motion, even when revisiting the past. Such a vision to the future, what Genette calls “proleptic,” accomplishes two central tasks. First, it seats the narrative in a capitalist temporality in which all present (or past) actions are made to secure a future profit. Scrooge is often impatient throughout his tour, and expresses a desire for futurity in a vocabulary of economics. He beseeches the Ghost of Christmas Present, “‘Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it'” (44). In the future, he commands, “Lead on!ŠLead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on!'” (66) The triple repetition of “Lead on!” mimics his proleptic motivations in all three tenses, which calls into doubt his ability to meld the past, present, and future. Before his visit from the first of three ghosts, he tries to compress his eventual epiphany into a uniform temporality: “‘Couldn’t I take ’em all at once, and have it over, Jacob?’ hinted Scrooge” (22).Scrooge’s “hint” to Jacob is also a hint to the audience of the lesson Scrooge will eventually learn, and the second purpose of the proleptic narrative expressly concerns the audience. The foreshadowing in the story leaves little doubt about the conclusion, or even what will happen next, and the repetitions reinforce and return us to the foreshadowing. The opening line sparks the method of foreclosure that will continue throughout the narrative: “Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that” (5). After stating that “Marley was as dead as a door-nail,” the narrator spends the next paragraph dwelling on the cliché he just invoked and then, after examining the repetition inherent in the cliché, comments through iteration: “You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail” (5). We are returned to the idea behind the first line, whose original intention was to provide an advance mention of Marley’s ghost and quell doubt about the future while leading the reader there.This technique works in concert with the flawed sympathy for Scrooge as a reproach of the reader. The flawed sympathy convinces us that we are different from Scrooge, and that he is learning to be more like the reader, who already holds holiday time in his heart. The proleptic narrative reduces any anxiety we may have about the outcome, an anxiety generally borne from conscious identification with the protagonist. The proleptic drive of the narrative increases through the staves, from analeptic exposition to prolepsis in the first stave, proleptic analepsis in Christmas Past (for in the past we receive clues as to Scrooge’s eventual transformation), prolepsis in Christmas Present in which foreshadowing solidifies (and turns from mere advance mentions into stable advance notices), and in Christmas Future to analeptic prolepsis. The less anxious we feel‹the more foreclosure we receive‹the less we must question why, exactly, we are concerned with Scrooge’s plight. This is not to say the reader feels nothing for Scrooge, but that the reader’s care for him comes from a superior position in which the reader believes that he, along with Dickens, is co-educating the miser in the meaning of Christmas. And, rather than destroy the entertainment value of the story, the foreclosure and repetition of “A Christmas Carol” instead soothes the audience, bringing them in advance the satisfactory ending that they crave.Such satisfaction comes in the final stave but, as I hope to have shown, little temporal adjustment has truly occurred. Another audience member remarks that Dickens has “a twinkle in his eye, as he enters, that, like a promissory note, pledges itself to any amount of fun‹within sixty minutes” (98). So long as he does not overstep his temporal boundaries, the audience is willing to engage his story, and the quick final stave ensures this. All signifiers that Scrooge is a changed man can also be read as indicating no change at all. In returning from his ghostly tour, he awakes: “Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!” (81) The familiarity of Scrooge’s surroundings is part of the reason Dickens repeats “was his own,” but the cloud of ownership hangs over his happiness, which includes a sense of ownership over time. Scrooge still functions like a clock; after he runs into another room, he is described as “perfectly winded” (81). Though we are to believe that his being reset to the present time is part of his new freedom, as when he joyfully responds to the church bells “ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard” (82), he is still rooted in a manic drive to utilize the present efficiently. His reaction to the indirect turkey purchase exemplifies the stagnant capitalist ethic he maintains:’I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!’ whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands and splitting with a laugh. ‘He shan’t know who sends it.’ It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim. Joe Miller never made such a joke as sending it to Bob’s will be!’ (83)Scrooge still exhibits all the mannerisms accompanying those of a corporate takeover‹hands rubbing in greedy anticipation, self-congratulatory laughter‹and is proud of the grandeur he provides for the deficient family, comparing the size of his gift to the minimal stature of the Cratchits’ symbol of poverty. The only anonymity Scrooge seeks is through a whispered contribution to the charity collector he originally slighted, but even then Scrooge asks that the man come and visit him in return, and cries that he is “much obliged” to him, using the language of debt and credit he has always spoken.”A Christmas Carol” has become its subject with time, as each year’s retelling further forecloses the ending. If one agrees that Dickens has made a subtextual critique of holiday time, it is odd, then, that the story inevitably leaves the audience with nothing but good feelings. After Tiny Tim dies in Christmas Future, Dickens details Cratchit’s response by his deathbed: “Poor Bob sat downŠand when he had thought a little and composed himself, he kissed the little face. He was reconciled to what had happened, and went down again quite happy” (76). The sudden effacement of tragedy and the elided interior struggle Cratchit seems to surpass easily all contribute to a possible reason for the audience’s similar reconciliation with Scrooge. We have a short memory for the unpleasant, and look for the pleasure of an unending futurity‹along the lines of “happily ever after,” we are told that Tiny Tim “did NOT die” (87), so that his life spans beyond the closure of the narrative. Scrooge receives the brunt of painful self-examination, and in concluding on a happy note the audience need not dive into self-analysis. The fundamental question is why Dickens makes his critique visible only to those who choose to see it, since they, already presumably aware of their own Scrooge-ness, need the lesson less than the hypocritical Mrs. Cratchits do. Both sets of listeners will, however, seek out the story each Christmas; for the Mrs. Cratchits, an innocuous retelling reduces anxiety about identification with Scrooge, and the Scrooges receive a reminder of the changes that need to be effected on a social, rather than local, scale. In either case, a rereading is what Dickens solicits, and not only for his own canonization. When “A Christmas Carol” marks the memory of various Christmases for readers, they will, if not perceive all time in such a form, at least live in a literary Christmas Past, Present, and Future.Works Cited:Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. USA: Bantam Books, 1997.Genette, Gérard. Narrative Discourse. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1980.

Hypocrisy in a Christmas Carol: A Study of Scrooge

‘Jacob Marley was as dead as a doornail.’ The celebrated author Charles Dickens accentuates this inert nature of a door nail to the society to 1843 England through his classic novella ‘A Christmas Carol.’ The novella’s titular character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is a product of human hypocrisy. Scrooge accedes to ‘Ignorance’ and ‘Want’ in order to be accepted into the society that fathers these ‘wretched children’ and chisels the traits they embody; but are then socially ostracized for doing so. A transformed Ebenezer addresses his accountability after he is confronted by ramifications of his past, present, and future but the society that is pivotal in sculpting Scrooge does not.

Socially ostracized for fostering society’s ideals, Ebenezer has no choice but the pursuit of money. Although propelled by ambition, the winter of Scrooge’s life is founded on the neglect and abandonment continuously thrust on him by society. A ‘poor but content’ man, who only engages himself in the pursuit of wealth in order to elevate himself from the status of a ‘neglected, solitary child’, again finds himself shunned from society. Dickens positions this point in Ebenezer’s life as a shadow climax, which although not explicitly stated in the book, can be observed to be the moment which jolts him to becoming the ‘the notorious miser’ he is famed to be. When this already ‘squelching, squealing, wincing’ young man is categorized as the ‘feared money lender’ and is deserted upon by the few people that provide him with love, he has no choice but to make the pursuit of fortune his only accomplishment in life. As the prominent isolates himself from the ‘business of Mankind’ and accepts his business and Jacob Marley as his ‘sole friends,’ he freezes himself into being ‘hard and sharp as flint.’ Utilizing these analogies, Dickens unearths the old wounds that delve beneath Ebenezer’s hardened exterior and cements the foundation of the ‘covetous old sinner.’ Dickens explores the elements within Scrooge that were inducted by the superficial instinct of human society, thus citing him to be a product of human hypocrisy.

A transformed Scrooge takes accountability for his actions but the society that prompted him into self-destruction does not. Aided by the 3 spirits of Christmas, Scrooge is presented with the ability to accost the anguish of his past, revel in the present and delve into the impending darkness of his future. As he observes the menacing consequences of his mistakes firsthand, he resolves to address his shortcomings and end his aversion to human warmth. This ‘wicked old screw’ wakes up the next morning having transformed himself into the very ‘Spirit of Christmas.’ ‘Striving within the spirits’ of the ‘past, present and future’, Finding that even the most minute things about Christmas ‘yield him pleasure,’ Scrooge not only omits the drastic ramifications of his actions, but also mends his broken heart through the very day he once loathed. But the community that Scrooge aids remain stagnant and sultry. While these bystanders relished the festivities of Christmas and accepted Ebenezer’s evolution as a mere change of heart, they never recognized their own temerity. 1843 England announced itself to Scrooge in an ‘awful language.’ The town which gladly accepted Scrooge’s ‘mercy, charity and benevolence’ as repentance for his own sins never stopped to observe the how they treated the man with the cold, ‘solitary’ heart. Although some characters in A Christmas Carol embrace Scrooge despite his spiteful characteristic, most of the community regards Scrooge as the ‘junk’ of their town. Dogs ‘growl’ when he comes across them, beggars take extra care to ‘hide in the corner’ and general public ensures that their only contact with Scrooge is to sell his ‘last remnants.’ Dickens positions these components in A Christmas Carol in order for the reader to observe the failings of Scrooge as well as society. All these elements can be cited as exhibiting hypocrisy and rejection, thus determining Ebenezer as a product of human neglect and abandonment.

Charles Dickens presents Ebenezer Scrooge as a character composed of many shortcomings that are developed by himself, but are founded by society. A neglected and abandoned child by his family, friends and society, Scrooge accedes to Ignorance and Want in order to to be accepted in the community that fathers these ideas. Shunned for acquainting with these wretched children, Ebenezer is left with no choice but the pursuit of money. A transformed Scrooge takes accountability for his actions, but the society that prompts him into isolation does not. The analysis of these elements presents Scrooge as a product of human hypocrisy. Through a Christmas Carol, Dickens chides society that it will continue to sculpt people like Scrooge if it fails to address its shortcomings

From Riches to Rags

When a man’s name is synonymous with greed and misery, most readers would not associate him with the shining image of a hero. The hero’s journey is a classic literary pattern in which a character goes on an adventure, faces challenges, and comes through a changed person. It was first used during Greco-Roman times in Homer’s Odyssey but has endured through the years to be utilized in countless forms of fiction. A Christmas Carol details the events of one night in which Ebeneezer Scrooge transitions from an immensely dislikable old miser to a generous, joyous friend to many. Setting aside the individual steps, a hero’s journey is set in both a normal world and a special world, as Scrooge has London and the world of time with the spirits. This is the first of many instances that Dickens’ timeless anti-hero aligns with the most popular method of crafting an iconic fictional figure. As a result of his thorough transformation, Charles Dickens portrays Scrooge as an archetype of the hero’s journey.

The beginning of the story represents Scrooge’s departure, the first step in a hero’s journey. Scrooge begins his path to heroism upon his first interaction with the ghost of Jacob Marley, “I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate” (Dickens). The beginning of every hero’s journey is the normalcy, the status quo. However, they will eventually be interrupted by some supernatural aid, giving them a call to action. For Scrooge, this comes in the form of Marley’s ghost, warning him to change his ways and of the incoming three spirits. Next, Scrooge’s reaction to Marley’s warning: “`You don’t believe in me,’ observed the Ghost. `I don’t.’ said Scrooge… `Why do you doubt your senses?’ `Because,’ said Scrooge, `a little thing affects them” (Dickens). Scrooge, following the next step on the path, refuses the call to action. When Jacob Marley first approaches him, Scrooge is unreceptive and wishes to have nothing to do with spirits. By this exposition, Scrooge kept on the journey’s path, through the entirety of the first stave.

Scrooge’s journey through time with the three spirits contains his trials, the bulk of a hero’s journey. In his literary criticism, Marc Goldstein analyzes the lessons Scrooge learns within the trials, “Christmas Past represents memory, especially suppressed memory. As the second spirit departs, Scrooge understands that he has shut out the human race because he… was excluded as a child… Bob becomes a symbol of a world that Scrooge can enter if he will allow himself to do so” (Goldstein). The many challenges Scrooge confronts in his journey with the ghosts and subsequent lessons he learns come into play later in the story, but in the present, follow the hero’s journey structure. His final trial occurs at the end of the third visit: “…read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge… ‘No, Spirit! Oh no, no” (Dickens)! Here marks the lowest point in Scrooge’s circle, often called the revelation, ordeal, or crisis. He even follows the literal criteria of death and rebirth by seeing his own grave. The reader, in this moment, feels the culmination of Scrooge’s emotional swings including, shock, and anguish. Through the greater section of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge sticks with the circle, tackling his obstacles in the special world.

Scrooge’s return to London strongly resembles that of a classic hero in a standard hero’s journey. He demonstrates the primary step of a return in a grand proclamation, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year… I will not shut out the lessons that they [Spirits] teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone” (Dickens)! The moment following the reveal of the grave is the moment of Scrooge’s transformation. He swiftly goes from a cruel miser to a visibly changed man, displaying that the lessons he learned would be put to quick use. This section could also be known as the treasure or reward; changing would be Scrooge’s ultimate prize. On that same token is one of the story’s final lines: “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father” (Dickens). For the reader, this is the sentence of triumph, everything that the book has been building towards. In the hero’s journey, it is the moment of atonement, where they take what they have acquired and return to normalcy, often improving something they left behind. Upon his return to the normal world, Scrooge begins to right the wrongs he made over the many years, finishing the circle by changing as a person and returning to his normal life.

Once more, Scrooge’s complete change of character and distinct adventure through time make him a more than serviceable example of the hero’s journey. Scrooge begins his hero’s journey in normalcy but is interrupted by his supernatural guardian, Marley, in a grand call to action. He continues the arc by facing many of the stories of his past, present, and future that he does not wish to see, coming through them a stronger man. Scrooge completes the circle by leaving his supernatural world and returning to the regular one to atone for his mistakes and become a better man in his normal life. What makes Scrooge so unique in classifying him as a hero is how purely awful of a person he was at the beginning of the story, but the fact that Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, and Odysseus are not that way is perhaps why families are still enjoying A Christmas Carol to this day.