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Charles Dickens, a classic English, became famous thanks to plenty of renowned literary works. Among them, the readers can find A Christmas Carol, a ghost story-styled novella about the Christmas changes of an old moneybag Ebenezer Scrooge, published in 1843. Researches note that despite the small size of the book, it quickly gained attention and brought even greater fame to its author1. With a more in-depth look, one can find several Victorian-era aspects of the author, but the vital point of the book appears to be its moral sense. This side of the book promotes the possibilities to cleanse one’s sins and correct the wrongdoings.
The story is set up in London, right before Christmas Eve. Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy banker, does not enjoy the preparations for the holiday since he values only money. Nor does Scrooge approve the activity of his clerk Bob Cratchit who asks to dismiss him sooner, and his nephew Fred who unsuccessfully asks uncle to join the party. However, Scrooge is oblivious to the significant changes that will happen soon.
At first, the greedy elder is approached by the ghost of his deceased business colleague Jacob Marley. The spirit laments about his heavy punishment in the afterlife and gives Scrooge a warning that his partner still has a chance to regret the greediness. For this reason, according to Marley, several more ghosts will visit Scrooge and make him reconsider. Afterward, the character runs through three series of visions when the spirits of Christmas.
The first Ghost of the Christmas Pas reminds Scrooge about the days of his youth. Back in school, he was not wealthy but enthusiastic and hopeful. However, business affairs and financial success began to twist Scrooge. The course of events even led to the breakup with his fiancée Belle. Then, the second Ghost of the Christmas Present guides Scrooge to the houses of both Fred and Bob. The former and his friends enjoy the party and laugh about the miser uncle. The latter and his family happily celebrate the holiday, despite their poverty and illness of Bob’s son Tiny Tim. The Christmas Ghost warns Scrooge that Tim will likely not survive to the next year and that the man should fear his Ignorance and Want.
Finally, the Ghost of the Christmas future shows Scrooge the flashforward of the next Christmas. He learns about the death of an unknown person, but nobody mourns. The colleagues agree to visit the funeral only if treated with a meal, and the person’s attendants take away the belongings while mocking the stranger’s cupidity. Then, Scrooge is informed about Tim’s death and finds himself in a cemetery. He realizes that the deceased one is nobody else but himself. The events make Scrooge promise he will change his life to prevent such an outcome.
In the finale, Scrooge awakens in his bed and is happy to feel he is still alive. As the first acts of change, he sends a Christmas turkey to Bob and visits Fred’s celebration, surprising everyone. Eventually, the city came to known Scrooge “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man” (Dickens, 2018, p. 172)2. Even more, Scrooge has helped Tiny Tim to recover and became like a second father to the boy.
Scrooge and his redemption path
The main character of the plot is Ebenezer Scrooge, a money giver described by Dickens as “a tight-fisted hand at a grindstone”3. Hence, the story itself appears to be an arc of redemption for a greedy and uncaring person, who is unfazed by the joy of everyday life, including Christmas. Nevertheless, as everyone knows, holidays are considered the days when miracles happen, and Scrooge’s change of heart is exactly the kind of a miracle.
The Christmas Ghosts, though magical, represent the periods of Scrooge’s life: youth, present time, and probable future. In the first vision, the character relives the moment when he came to be such a stingy and discontent man as currently. In the second one, Scrooge discovers mockery and hate of his person in social groups, as well as the fact that everyone is happy about Christmas except him. In the end, Scrooge realizes that the consequences of his ignorance would not only lead to his grave, but his image without virtues would stay forgotten. Thus, according to Chitwood. Scrooge can be considered “as a model of psychological complexity”4 Since the entire Christmas Carol is, in fact, a reflection of his life. However, only after seeing himself in a mirror or from a side perspective, Scrooge can fully repent.
The ways of Scrooge’s redemption would not be possible without the circle of the characters closest to him. The ghost of Marley represents the punishment of the afterlife that can await the moneybag. Bob Cratchit, a poor clerk, desperately trying to keep his family happy, makes Scrooge reconsider whether real happiness lies in money. Moreover, because of Bob’s financial problems, his employer feels responsible for the illness and possible death of Tiny Tim. Nonetheless, Scrooge’s nephew Fred remains one of the few who welcome Scrooge, despite his constant rejection. What is also essential, Fred reminds Scrooge about his youthful self who treated the life with optimism, yet the main character failed to comprehend the parallel before the Ghosts’ arrival.
There is always time for changing
Of course, Dickens did not mean for the book to represent only one idea or theme at a time. It muses about multiple problems, including family values and the importance of Christian holidays in one’s household, which, according to Hancock (2016), somewhat diminished during the industrialization period 5. But the redemption mentioned earlier can be considered a central theme of the book. Its process does happen under the influence of Christian morals, but they seem to be the instrument instead of the cause. If one looks on Scrooge in the beginning and then on his personality in the finale, the drastic contrast demonstrates everyone’s ability to move forward, whatever the background and age. So, Scrooge’s promise of change after seeing the possible end represents that the change of heart can happen even in the elder days.
Besides, there is one additional but essential aspect of Scrooge’s resolve. The story shows that there is nothing predestined in one’s life. For this reason, one can view Scrooge as a broken and battered man who accepts his fate, but after seeing the consequences, he decided to fight it. Eventually, the vision of the Future Christmas did not come true precisely because of Scrooge’s actions to prevent it.
To sum up, A Christmas Carol of Dickens is one of his famous writings about the miraculous transformation of a former moneybag Scrooge to a joyful philanthropist. The entire plot is centered around his path to redemption, which becomes possible not only with miraculous Christmas Ghosts but with Scrooge reflecting on his life and finally noticing the joy of the close ones. Thus, the book is meant to present hope for a heart change even later in life, as well as the power to prevent the worst outcomes of one’s actions.
Chitwood, Brandon. “Eternal returns: A Christmas Carol’s Ghosts of Repetition.” Victorian Literature and Culture 43, no. 4 (2015): 675–687.
Dickens, Charles. Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol: A Book-To-Table Classic. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2018.
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Hancock, Philip. “A Christmas Carol: A Reflection on Organization, Society, and the Socioeconomics of the Festive Season.” Academy of Management Review 41, no. 4 (2016): 755–765.
Welch, Bob. 52 little lessons from a Christmas Carol. Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books, 2015.
1 Bob Welch, 52 little lessons from a Christmas Carol (Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books, 2015), 1.
2 Charles Dickens, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol: A Book-To-Table Classic (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2018), 172.
3 Charles Dickens, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol: A Book-To-Table Classic (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2018), 4.
4 Brandon Chitwood, “Eternal returns: A Christmas Carol’s Ghosts of Repetition,” Victorian Literature and Culture 43, no. 4 (2015): 675.
5 Philip Hancock, “A Christmas Carol: A Reflection on Organization, Society, and the Socioeconomics of the Festive Season,” Academy of Management Review 41, no. 4 (2016): 757.