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Theme of Redemption in "A Christmas Carol"

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The Theme of Redemption In Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"

The Theme of Redemption In Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" essay

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christmas carol redemption essay

How Scrooge Changes

How is scrooge presented as being selfish, the point behind the paragraph ao1 - big picture (plot) ao2 - zooming in (language) ao3 - context, during the opening of the novel, scrooge is presented as a selfish, closed character who only thinks of himself. the first section of the novel takes the form of a long piece of description where dickens highlights just how selfish scrooge is. he’s described as being “squeezing,” “wrenching,” and “grasping.” all these active verbs suggest different ways that he takes things. squeezing suggests that he holds things close to himself and won’t let them go. “wrenching” means to take things; to snatch them. this might refer to how he runs his business, snatching back what’s his own, as though he’s a selfish spoilt child who won’t share. “grasping” means to reach desperately for something, which isn’t something we’d associate with someone as wealthy as scrooge. equally, he’s described as being “solitary as an oyster.” this wonderful simile perfectly illustrates just how closed off scrooge is: he has a hard shell to keep himself away from the rest of the world. throughout the rest of stave 1 we see more examples of his selfishness: he refuses to go to fred’s house, arguing that christmas is a “humbug;” he refuses to give to the portly gentleman’s charity, saying that the poor should go to workhouses, prisons or simply die if they can’t afford to live and he resents giving bob cratchit the day off for christmas, thinking himself “ill-used.” scrooge clearly thinks only of himself. he doesn’t “make merry” at christmas, and he “can’t afford” to make anyone else merry either. here, dickens uses scrooge to shine a light on the selfishness of the victorian upper classes, who would happily sit by their firesides eating rich food while their poorer brothers froze in the dirt outside. it is also worth remembering, however, that the issue of poverty is not one that is consigned to victorian england; it’s very much alive today, and we would all do well to look outside of our bubbles to see those who suffer in the world around us ., the text above would represent one paragraph from an essay about scrooge being presented as selfish. the second paragraph would look at how scrooge learnt to be less selfish, while the last would focus on how scrooge was presented by the end. each paragraph would have a point, some language analysis (ao2), some key moments of plot (ao1) and a reference to context (ao3)., the extract, during the opening of the novel, and in the extract, scrooge is presented as a “tight-fisted hand at the grindstone.” this is to say that he doesn’t like sharing – he is tight fisted – while the “grindstone” image represents him at work. this image suggests that he drives people hard at work but doesn’t pay them much for it. and this is certainly true of scrooge. dickens also uses a string of verbs to describe his miserly hero: “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching;” all of them imply that he is taking things and holding on to them. he’s described as “hard and sharp as flint” – which implies that he is difficult and even dangerous – “from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire” which implies that one thing flint does well is something scrooge is incapable of, because fire is warm and looks after others. most interestingly, however, scrooge is described as “edging his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance.” this is an interesting image as it implies a certain strange compassion from scrooge. in fact, he isn’t just rude or obnoxious, it’s as though he recognised that he is socially and emotionally dysfunctional and now “warns” other humans to keep away., by the end of the book, however, he has changed and he does this by realising a few very important things., firstly, he understands that people and emotions are more important than money. at the beginning of the book scrooge things money equates to happiness – he says that “i can’t afford to make idle people merry,” suggesting that happiness can only be provided through financial means. during his visits with the ghost of christmas past, however, he sees his old manager fezziwig throwing a party and comments that “the happiness he gives is quite as great as if it had cost a fortune.” here, he shows the beginnings of an understanding that happiness isn’t just financial. throughout stave 3, also, scrooge sees people enjoying christmas without any money. he is taken across the country from the poor tin-mines in cornwall to the most distant lighthouses and even across the sea to where he sees people singing and laughing and making merry despite being on meagre means. he also sees the cratchitts enjoying christmas with next to nothing – with their chipped glasses and broken custard cups holding the drinks as well as “golden goblets.” dickens repeatedly uses references to gold in the book, and at one point bob mentions that tiny tim is “as good as gold and better.” here, bob is clearly celebrating the key theme of the book: that people and human relationships are more important than money. by the end of the book, with the third spirit, scrooge seems changed. he says “lead on, time is precious to me.” here he recognises that time – which is irreplaceable – is actually the most valuable commodity on earth and he seems changed., also, scrooge is changed by the compassion he sees other’s treating him with. when belle speaks to him, she does so with “tenderness” – suggesting that even at this moment of deepest sadness, she feels sorry for him, and not resentful. also, bob toasts him over their dinner, raising a glass to celebrate him. through this scrooge is forced to reflect on the fact that he is supported and loved despite his behaviour. his nephew, fred, also insists on defending him – albeit that he playfully teases him in the group’s game – when he says that he insists inviting scrooge to dinner every year – “for i pity him.” again, the compassion and sympathy felt by others would have affected scrooge and softened him, melting his cold and bitter heart, rather than making him angry and isolated. finally, scrooge allows himself to become absorbed in society when he becomes tiny tim’s “second father.” this final statement shows clearly that scrooge is now a fully-fledged member of society, and even though he had no relationship with his own family, he has an adopted, extended family that he can be a part of., it’s also worth noting, that the first person scrooge feels compassion for is himself. in the school room, when he “wept” to see his “poor forgotten self” scrooge shows sympathy for his own plight. it could well be that his father – the father that fanny didn’t have to feel “afraid” of anymore – was the source of scrooge’s anger and resentment. in this respect, you could easily argue that scrooge was deserted by those who were closest to him and, in turn, deserted those around him; however, by the end, an extended family of society have proven that they care for scrooge and can forgive him, and in this way he learns to feel compassion again., a christmas carol and death, a churchyard. here, then; the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground. it was a worthy place. walled in by houses; overrun by grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation’s death, not life; choked up with too much burying; fat with repleted appetite. a worthy place, the spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one. he advanced towards it trembling. the phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape., “before i draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said scrooge, “answer me one question. are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only”, still the ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood., “men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said scrooge. “but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. say it is thus with what you show me”, the spirit was immovable as ever., scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, ebenezer scrooge., the extract is from the end of stave 4 and explores scrooge’s final realisation of his fate as the ghost of christmas yet to come points to his grave. overall, death is a prevalent theme in the novella, one which haunts scrooge at every turn, enough to finally transform him for the better., at the beginning of the novel, scrooge’s encounter with the terrifying spectre of death, his old business partner jacob marley sows the early seeds of receptiveness to a new way of life. at first, scrooge refuses to believe that anything dead could return, joking ‘there’s more gravy than the grave about you’ however, the chilling horror of marley’s appearance ‘i wear the chains i forged in life’ –which are constructed of financial elements: purses, and sales ledgers, suggest an unhealthy obsession with money and the way one’s profession will manifest itself and weigh you down after death. also, the clear warning to scrooge ‘mankind was my business’ and the image he shows outside scrooge’s window of dead people desperately trying in vain to change their ways and reconcile themselves with their families, is a message that once one is dead, there is no opportunity for redemption and change. in this section, dickens draws on his knowledge of the gothic genre –churches, door knockers that turn into the face of marley, and marley’s stories from beyond the grave that to chill the victorian reader to the core. of course, they would also be only too aware of the potential of hell, something that dickens was sceptical of, but a huge proportion of his readership would have believed in., another aspect of death that strikes a chord with scrooge early in the novella is when the ghost of xmas past reveals the scene when his sister, fan came to take him home from the boarding school for christmas. this is clearly a treasured memory for scrooge and the reader learns of what a strong bond the two had. ‘fan, fan, dear fan’ and she reminds him ‘father has changed’. the ghost reminds scrooge of the fact she has died and has only one surviving relative, her son, fred. scrooge instantly feels guilty about how he treated fred at the beginning when he received his usual invite to xmas dinner. dickens conveys here how a memory of a death has a significant impact on scrooge’s gradual transformation into a more caring person., in the extract, the reader is presented with the final scene from the ghost of xmas future and scrooge’s terror reaches a dramatic peak. the setting is described as ‘a worthy place’ with this adjective from dickens’ narrator serving to identify the bleak spot as one which scrooge heartily deserves. pathetic fallacy is used to convey the place with lines like ‘overrun by grass and weeds –the growth of vegetation’s death’ indicating how the unwanted weeds, a clear metaphor for death, have destroyed any flowers, and made the location one that resembles the fate that potentially awaited scrooge: one where no-one would tend his grave. it is even ‘walled in by houses’ and at the start the reader learns ‘the furniture was not the same’ in his office. this suggests that in death, everything continues on as normal –someone will take scrooge’s place as a loan shark, and no-one will notice or visit his grave as it is hidden from view., the mood of this piece builds in dramatic tension as scrooge desperately implores the ghost to speak and to reassure him that ‘if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. say it is thus’ but the short sentence ‘the spirit was as immovable as ever’ conveys how dickens allies death with silence and that perhaps it is not god or anyone else who will change our life’s path, only by reaching within one’s self that a genuine transformation can occur., further evidence of scrooge’s doom laden panic as he faces up to the reality of his own death is found in the verb ‘trembling’ as he approaches his own grave, the question ‘am i the man who lay upon the bed’ and the repeated exclamations ‘no, spirit oh, no’ overall, it is an extract that encapsulates the horror of facing up to one’s death, and the added fear for scrooge that no-one will remember him. it is the final catalyst in making him change his ways., the cratchits, cratchits extract, intro / “happy, grateful pleased” vs scrooge at school “not afraid” // “shut out the darkness” vs fred welcoming scrooge // “in a glow” vs belle’s family // grave / as good as gold, charles dickens wrote a christmas carol during the victorian times, when the gap between rich and poor was very big. in the novel dickens shows that money is not as important as family when it comes to happiness. he was inspired partly because his father had been taken into debtors’ prison when he was younger, something that would have left dickens understanding just how much more important family was than money., the first paragraph of this extract deals with the cratchits, who are not wealthy – as shown by their “scanty” clothes – but are happy. dickens uses four key adjectives to describe them: “happy, grateful, pleased” and “contented.” these adjectives show that despite the fact that they didn’t have any of the things that victorian society would have valued, they are still capable of being happy in a range of different ways. this contrasts directly with scrooge’s younger years, where he was “forgotten” by his family and left in school. scrooge is rescued by his younger sister, fanny, who comes to tell him that he is welcomed back because their father doesn’t make her feel “afraid” anymore. this adjective gives us a suggestion that their father may have been abusive to them, and would go some way towards understanding why scrooge rejects family so firmly later in his life., despite fanny’s death – another desertion that would have affected scrooge – her spirit lives on through her son, scrooge’s nephew fred, who repeatedly invites scrooge to his house for christmas dinner. scrooge repeatedly refuses with his famous “bah humbug” line, but fred insists that he will keep inviting him for “i pity” him. the fact that fred pities scrooge for being rude, shows just how far family will go to remain loyal to each other. this idea is also shown in the extract, where the families prepare to close their curtains so they can “shut out the darkness.” in many ways, these curtains could be seen as metaphoric blinds that help keep families together; they keep out the outside and sometimes even blind each other to our failings in order that the family unit is kept happy., the second paragraph also describes some “handsome girls, all hooded and fur-booted” who enter a house “in a glow.” here, dickens makes the point that family is not just for poor people, but is something that unites us all (like the “trip to the grave” that fred mentions in a speech earlier in the book.) the fact that they are “in a glow” suggests that they aren’t just happy, but are actually glowing – a symbol of light that is used repeatedly through christmas carol. also, the preposition “in” suggests that they are within this glow, protected by it, in the same way that families protect us all. in one of the most heart-breaking scenes in the book, scrooge is taken to see his former girlfriend with her new family, a family that could have been his own, had scrooge not chosen worship his “golden idol” above her., in the end though, it is the lack of respect given to his death that really changes scrooge for the better. once he’s seen his own “neglected” grave, he understands the true cost of being alone and understands the reasons why tiny tim’s father calls him, proudly, “as good as gold – and better”.

In this extract, we see how the Cratchit family are happy despite their poverty. The novella was published in 1893 which was in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, so many people were moving into cities, leading them to become overcrowded and therefore poverty-stricken. This poverty is evident here in the quote ‘ the family display of glass’ which we then learn consists of ‘two tumblers’ and a ‘custard cup without a handle’. The word ‘display’ shows just how little they own, as they seem proud to showcase these small dilapidated objects off, as this is all they have. However, they seem content as such trivial matters don’t change how they feel towards each other. Dickens compares the cups to ‘golden goblets’ which to me suggests that the Cratchits feel enriched simply by each other’s company, which is worth more to them than anything materialistic.

Earlier in the same scene, we learn first how vibrant the scene is among this family when Dickens personifies even the potatoes, saying they were ‘knocking’ to get out of their pan, as if the joyous atmosphere was so desirable to be amongst that even inanimate objects wanted to be part of the festivities. In the extract, we are told that the chestnuts cracked ‘noisily’ which conveys the same ideas, building a feeling of community despite the poverty in the scene.

The Ghost of Christmas present first takes Scrooge to see the Cratchits Chirstmas, which makes him realise the importance of family at this time, then continues this theme of company by showing him other scenes brought to life by Christmas spirit. For example, when the ghost takes him to a lighthouse, the poor workers there are described as having ‘horny hands’. This suggests that they have struggled through great hardships and have suffered more in their life than Scrooge ever would, and yet their show of unison when they all sing together at Christmas let them disregard their struggles for a time. By comparing the Cratchits and these workers, Dickens shows how the poor could overcome their lack of materialistic value and settle for things of emotional value.

One member of the Cratchit family who strongly highlights the struggles of the poor is Tiny Tim. In this extract his hand is described as a ‘withered little hand’ suggesting it has prematurely withered like a flower with no light. As the word ‘withered’ has connotations of a flower, to me, this could perhaps be seen as a metaphor for how something beautiful has been hindered and killed by the tight fistedness of the rich in society which is something that Dickens was strongly trying to convey in this novella. Light is often a symbol of hope so this flower could be shrivelled due to a lack of light, which is the lack of generosity from the upper classes. Dickens may have untended ‘withered little’ as a juxtaposition, as we would normally associate ‘withered’ with age and ‘little’ with childhood. This contrast highlights how wrong it is that an innocent child should be so shunned by society due to his wealth and status, and this demonstrates Dickens’ frustration over the inequality.

Dickens uses a similar adjective to describe the hands of the children Ignorance and Want. The word ‘shrivelled’ is used here, which compares these children, who are also victims of the struggles of poverty [sic] to Tiny Tim. It creates a similar image of premature decay to highlight the neglect of lower classes in society. The boy in this scene represents Ignorance and the ghost of Christmas Present tells Scrooge to ‘most of all beware the boy’. This strongly conveys Dickens’ message about poverty and the poor, as he is trying to tell society that ignoring the struggles and problems of the poor will be their downfall .

This is demonstrated in Stave 4 when Tiny Tim dies, and the Cratchits say that when Bob had Tiny Tim on his shoulders he walked ‘very fast indeed’. When we have a weight on our shoulders, the phrases normally implies a burden and a worry. However here I think that Tiny Tim represents the burden that the rich think the poor put upon society. Here, Dickens could be saying that if we only realised the potential of the poor they may actually prove helpful and contribute to society, however they are seen only dead weight on the shoulders of society due to the ignorance of the rich.

A Christmas Carol and Family

Question: How does Dickens present family as important to society in A Christmas Carol?

Dicken’s presents family as incredibly important in his allegorical novella ‘A Christmas Carol’ as Dicken’s own father was put in prison when he was young, having a profound effect on him. Scrooge juxtaposes other characters as he rejects the possibility of his own family, we see joy in the Cratchitt’s (despite their poverty) and finally Fred’s kindness is also shown towards his family.

In Stave 2 Scrooge rejects his fiancée by not protesting that he will love her and care for her. Belle uses the metaphor “a golden idol has replaced me” when she “releases” Scrooge from his engagement to her. This suggests that money and wealth are infinitely more important to him than his own family. The Ghost of the Past is instrumental in showing Scrooge what could have been when Belle is described as a “comely Matro” by the omniscient narrator to suggest that she has aged well, is happy and content due to her family. Furthermore, she is “surrounded by children” which shows her large family and how this could have been Scrooge’s fate if he had not loved wealth as much. Family was comforting in the Victorian society as the Welfare State was not in existence meaning families has to look after their elderly relations or they would end up in workhouses (which was the worst fate for the poor). In Stave one Fred is also introduced to us as Scrooge’s nephew and also rejected by him with the repetition of “Good Afternoon” showing how dismissive Scrooge can be when there is no financial gain. Fred shows kindness and caring towards him, but he rejects his offer of “Christmas Dinner” and to “dine with us” suggesting Scrooge likes his isolation and lonely, money-filled life.

Throughout the extract the family is seen as paramount to the happiness of the Cratchitt family. Bob is crushed with disappointment when he thinks Martha is not coming for Christmas dinner suggesting love, tenderness and a family bond towards his child. The adjective in “sudden declension in his high spirits” shows how disappointed he is. Tiny Trim and his siblings are extremely caring towards each other when the younger one “spirit him off” so he can “hear the pudding sing” which seems a simple pleasure, but shows that the little things in life matter and that siblings kindness is important, especially as Tiny Tim is the “cripple” and represents Christian goodwill and charity. Perhaps, Dickens was showing the effects of poverty through the presentation of the symbolic Tiny Tim who encourages the people in church to see him as Christmas is about Jesus and he “made beggars walk and blind men see” showing that although Tiny Tim is crippled he is the heart of the family and represents the way people should be towards each other. Christianity is a recurring theme in the novella and Dicken’s may have been highlighting the juxtaposition in the teachings of the bible and the actions of the wealthy in Victorian London and how Christian values were often bent to suit the opinions and thoughts of the wealthy. Dicken’s appears to be criticising through the charitable and kind and loving Cratchitt’ s the way family is rejected by Scrooge, due to his avarice, while those with the least are celebrated and celebrating Christianity and Christian values. It is ironic that Scrooge covets money and wealth more than he covets family and humanity. Further focus on the love and happiness reflected in the Cratchitt household is the way they all join together and share in the chores “in high procession” is used by Dickens to reflect the joyful atmosphere that is created in the small household when the “goose” is brought in for carving. The enthusiasm with which the goose is met is contagious and all the Cratchitt household join in the celebration of the goose “one murmur of delight” describes vividly the whole family gasping in joy at the sight of the food they have for Christmas dinner, despite the clear evidence of poverty that abounds in the household. Mrs Cratchitt is “brave in ribbons” which metaphorically describes the way she has made do and mended her dress to make it appear more festive as a piece of ribbon would have been a relatively cheap way of dressing up, while a new dress would have been an unquestionable expense and out of reach for the family. Although, poor she shows pride in her appearance and wants to look her best for the festivities and not disappoint Bob, her loving husband. Family here is shown as important as they all collectively share in the hardship and even though they are poor they don’t complain or grumble, they just focus on making the best of their situation. Symbolically, the Cratchitt family are the antithesis of Scrooge and his cruel hearted rejection of his own family.

Earlier in the novella, when the Ghost of the Past took him to the boarding school, we see a glimpse of humanity and caring towards family when “Little Fan” arrives to “take him home”. He exclaims that she is “quite a woman” showing his admiration, love and affection for her and his sadness at the reminder that she “died a young woman” which implies that perhaps, like many women at the time, childbirth was too much for her and she died. Dickens doesn’t explicitly state that childbirth was the cause of her death but there is the implication that Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, is a painful reminder of his loving sister to Scrooge and this could be why Scrooge continues to harden his heart against Fred. Alternatively, his hardened nature and his inability to love could be a mechanism that he has used over the years as he became more and more isolated and less interested in sharing experiences with other people. Scrooge’s behaviour, therefore could indicate fear and an unwillingness to open himself up to loss again, as in Stave 2 it is incredibly evident that Scrooge does have a heart and is capable of love and Fan, his sister, has experienced this love and attention from Scrooge. Scrooge’s nephew Fred is also an excellent example of how family should stick together through all the pain and heartache life can throw at people. Fred arrives at the “counting-house” on a bleak, dark and foggy Christmas Eve in stave one with the pathetic fallacy reflecting the inner sadness and miserly nature of Scrooge. Fred is cheerful and welcoming towards his grumpy uncle, who rejects the offer of Christmas dinner and in Stave 3 we see Scrooge become the butt of the joke during a game of “Guess Who”. Scrooge watches amused and seems to ironically miss the fact that he is being compared to an animal of some sort “Uncle Sccccrooooogggeee” is used in the game, too much hilarity as an example that no-one can guess initially. Scrooge watches on with the Ghost of the Present wistfully and plays along with the games, even though he can’t be seen or heard by Fred and the other guests. Although, they are being slightly unkind and poking fun at Scrooge there is some clear evidence of affection for him, due to the fact that he is family. In this scene family is again seen to be normal, caring and loving and everyone is together, looking out for each other and enjoying each other’s company. Dickens presents Fred’s Christmas as a larger and more opulent affair than the Cratchitt’ s but the day seems to represent a wider sort of family gathering with friends and nieces invited to the festivities as well, suggesting that we are all part of the same human race and that there are more similarities between us than differences.

Towards the end of the novella Dickens introduces us to the idea that Scrooge has changed and has reflected on how family is important and why he should join in and become a part of the family, both the Cratchitt family and his own nephew Scrooge. At the end of the novella Tiny Tim utters the phrase that is synonymous with his good nature “God bless us everyone!” which summarises the change that overcame Scrooge. Tim lived because Scrooge changed and became a better man. Scrooge vowed after seeing the Ghost of the Future, the death of Tiny Tim and the death of himself that he would “live in the past, the present and the future” showing that he understood the importance of being a better person. His first act of kindness after this proclamation is to send a “Turkey to the Cratchitt family” which was a huge gesture and showed that he valued their family and really did not want to see Tiny Tim die, he asks the Ghost of the Future “Will Tiny Tim live?” and this rhetorical question reveals that he already knows the answer to this. Without Scrooge’s epiphany and change Tim will die, so Scrooge shows that he recognises how pivotal to happiness Tiny Tim is by sending the food to them. Due to the way family is presented throughout the novella it is obvious that Scrooge begins to understand that family keeps people together and makes them more humane. In the end Scrooge goes to Fred’s house and is invited in. He also becomes “like a second father” to Tiny Tim and shows that he understands the importance of being a better person and the role that having a family plays in this.

Evidently, Dickens felt that family was centrally important to the novella as he places the Cratchitt family in the heart of it. They are show to us in Stave 3 during the Ghost of the Present’s revelations to Scrooge and arguably the scene with the Cratchitt family helps to change Scrooge from being a unkind, miserly and covetous man to a more charitable, kind and loving man. The presentation of family was extremely important in showing Scrooge that he could be a much better man.


They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. "Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.

"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end." "Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge. "Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"

In A Christmas Carol, Dickens continually returns the readers’ focus on the children in Victorian society. The recurring character and the famous child in the novella is “Tiny” Tim Cratchit who becomes a metonym for thousands of faceless proletariat children neglected by a ruthless self-serving capitalist society. However, the shocking introduction of the minor characters of Ignorance and Want allows Dickens to create a political diatribe against the greed, selfishness and neglect of working-class children. These children contrasted against the earlier childhood version of Scrooge, serve to expose the dichotomy between the poor and rich in a deeply unequal and uneven society.

In this passage, Ignorance and Want become a metaphorical paradigm of society’s abandonment of the poor and the consequence of their inability to take social responsibility for poverty. The children have a primarily allegorical purpose evidenced in the focus of their physical features. The boy and girl are old before their time as Dickens says their faces are absent of “graceful youth” and the neglect of their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing is emphasised in the image of their “pinched” and “twisted” features. These adjectives heighten the idea of their youth being robbed and their childhood destroyed by physical hardships particularly given “twisted” is synonymous with something that is misshapen and grotesque. Their faces are described as being the antithesis of childhood innocence as Dickens uses hyperbolic language and describes how “devils lurked” in their faces and “glared out menacingly”. The use of hellish imagery accentuates the impression that their existence has been made unbearable by poverty and in turn has tainted and corrupted their view of the world as well as wrecked their own goodness and innocence. The children’s hostility, distrust and hatred of the Christian society meant to protect them is manifested in the verb “glared”, which is emblematic of their disillusionment and discontent. Dickens uses animal imagery to describe the children as “wolfish” which bolsters the impression of working-class children’s metamorphosis from innocent creatures to starving and exploited children hardened by their suffering. The colour “yellow” is symptomatic of sickness and ill health and furthers the idea of their physical and mental decay within a laissez faire society (where no welfare state or support to lift working class children out of absolute poverty exists). The philosopher John Locke theorised man is born a blank slate and our nature is changed by nurture; this idea is evidenced in the way in which societal neglect changes the nature of the children. It is clear that Dickens subverts the image of childhood innocence and sharply juxtaposes Ignorance and Want’s damaged childhood to the wealthy Scrooge’s happier memories of his powerful education (in which his imagination came alive by his schooling), in order to create pathos for working class children and force his contemporary Victorian readers to examine their conscience, particularly their lack of support for the “ragged” poor and homeless children in society.

Dickens believed how a society treated its children, revealed their social mores. He makes it evident that society is to blame for the suffering and dehumanisation of working-class children especially as the spirits uses the short declarative “They are man’s” to indicate societal responsibility and its moral failing. The hypocrisy of a Christian society is exemplified in the way in which the ghost mocks Scrooge and repeats his infamous questions back to him: “Are there no prisons?” and “Are there no workhouses?” The callousness of society and its evasion of social responsibility to take care of the most vulnerable is emphasised in the repetition of the nouns “prison” and “workhouses” which reminds contemporary readers that they marginalised and disenfranchisedinnocent working-class children by socially excluding them and denying them a good quality of life.

Dickens more importantly uses the recurring character construct of Tiny Tim to dispel the damaging societal stereotype that the working class are deserving of their poverty. In Stave 3, Tiny Tim is romanticised by Dickens to symbolise the beauty and goodness of working-class children who deserve society’s love and charity. He is poor but shows immense courage and huge generosity of spirit. When Tiny Tim uses the biblical story of how Jesus helped the blind and poor, and hopes the bourgeoise remember the poor during Christmas, he becomes a symbol of Jesus and once again exposes the hypocrisy of a Christian society that claims to help the poor but instead neglects them. Though Tiny Tim is dying, he shows courage and endless love and devotion to his family, best demonstrated when he says “God bless us everyone” as he sits next to his dad. Tiny Tim does not ask for anything for himself, but he is the antithesis to Scrooge because he is altruistic and puts others before him. In an increasingly amoral Victorian society, Tiny Tim provides comforting moral guidance on how to live a good life. However, Tiny Tim becomes a symbol of the abandonment of working-class children as he is powerless to improve his situation and is shown to die, leaving his family “still” and destroyed by their grief. His death symbolises how the bourgeoise have the power to change his fate and that of thousands of other vulnerable children but fail to do so, leaving innocent families broken by the death of their babies. The focus on the grief of the family after Tiny Tim dies creates intense pathos and is deliberate as Dickens reminds his readers of their shocking contextual reality - that one in five children in Victorian society did not live to see their fifth birthday.

The fairy-tale reversal in Tiny Tim’s death in Stave 5 is a piercing reminder that a progressive and utopic society is possible, but only if the bourgeoisie (represented by Scrooge) learn to love its children and take social responsibility by improving their poverty-stricken situations and therefore preventing their needless deaths. In this stave, Scrooge becomes a “second father” to Tiny Tim. This lexical phrase is highly symbolic because while it literally shows Scrooge has become more responsible and compassionate, it is an important metaphorical reminder that working-class parents desperately need the support of society to help raise their children and provide a good quality of life for them. The lexical choice “Second” is synonymous here with something that is additional and surplus and so consequently is a strong reminder of the importance of a more responsible and engaged society that is not ignorant or myopic of working-class suffering and exploitation. To reinforce this idea, In Stave 3, Dickens briefly uses the childhood character of Martha Cratchit to remind his readers of the exploitation and premature growing up of Victorian children. In this stave the children are working in the kitchen and Martha arrives home late as she has been working. She is responsible for bringing the goose. She is embraced by her mother. The image of Mrs Cratchit embracing her working child reminds readers how adult breadwinners simply could not support their family and relied upon them sacrificing their childhood. There is no doubt that these moments have great verisimilitude for modern readers, particularly given how two thirds of children living in poverty in the UK have working parents, painfully reminding new readers how the exploitation of the poor is as real as ever.

Finally, the gaiety of Fred's family dinner, contrasted against the hardship of the merry but compromised Cratchit family, is a strong reminder of the terrible and tragic disparity between the lives of the working class and wealthy in society, a context greatly affecting the Cratchit children. To conclude Dickens uses the recurring characters of children to explore society’s lack of responsibility towards its children but also its power to change the fate of these children simply by showing greater compassion and ensuring social justice happens.


A Christmas Carol by Dickens Essay

A Christmas Carol by Dickens was first published on December 19, 1843. Since its publication, this book, arguably one of his most famous works, has made its mark on American culture and literature. It is difficult to underestimate the significance of A Christmas Carol , which was made into numerous TV and stage versions. Some would even argue that this Dickens’s work invented or rather reinvented Christmas, while others underline the importance of his work for the development of the new forms of literature. This essay aims to discuss the theme and the characters of the book. It starts with a summary of the plot, then examines the main characters and the themes and concludes with the personal opinion on the novella.

Dickens offers a story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy and selfish older man living alone in his London house, whose only concern is money. Scrooge hates Christmas and is indifferent to other people’s suffering, including his workers. However, on Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his business partner and by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. The first ghost takes him on a journey through his past Christmases: one of a miserable and lonely little boy and others of a young man, more interested in gold than in his fiancé. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge his clerk’s family Christmas, a Christmas evening of a poor, but loving family, and his nephew’s celebrations, where guests mock him for his unfriendliness and greediness. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Future shows him his own death, which would bring more joy to people who knew him than grief. The terror of this night magically transforms Ebenezer Scrooge into a generous and good-hearted man, kind to his neighbors and eager to help those in need.

The main hero of the book, Ebenezer Scrooge, is characterized mainly by his greediness and by the fear that he creates among people who know him. Charles Dickens describes (1843, 4) him as such: “No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man […] inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge”. Even his clerk is terrified of him and barely dares to speak in his presence.

According to Thompson (2017, 269), the descriptions of Scrooge’s personality allude to the Old Testament figure of King Belshazzar, the ruler who loves wealth and who is punished by God for his greed and pride. However, unlike Belshazzar, Scrooge takes advantage of the warning delivered by the Christmas ghosts and changes, fearing the dreadful end that is awaiting him. He accepts to change and declares: “I will not shut out the lessons that they [the Spirits of the Past, the Present and the Future] teach” (Dickens 1843, 57). Thus, he is a sinner, but the night that he goes through makes hem find the strength to change. This magical and radical overnight transformation becomes central to the figure of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Other central figures are the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first ghost to visit Scrooge; he is quite and rather compassionate towards Scrooge, to whom he shows the pictures of his childhood. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a joyful and vibrant character, wearing a green robe and symbolizing joy and happiness. The third Ghost is the most fearsome one; he wears a black cloak and remains silent during their journey. Although the ghosts have distinct personalities, their common characteristic is their role as the messengers. Their figures also reflect Dickens’ interest in “the narrative possibilities of the communication between the living and the dead” (Wood 2018, 412). Dickens’s interest in the supernatural urges him to experiment with the forms of expression and create the figures of these Spirits to deliver the message to Scrooge.

Another prominent figure is Tiny Tim, who is the most significant figure of childhood in the book. He is a son of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s clerk. He has a disability, but is full of cheer and love and brings a lot of joy to his family. His words – “God bless us every one!” – mark the end of the novella (Dickens 1843, 92). The figure of Tiny Tim reflects the conception of childhood as the stage of innocence, although it is not the only way children are represented in the novella (Robinson 2016, 8). For instance, the readers observe frightening figures of children clinging to the clothes of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Contrary to this image of “figures which are a product of a fallen world (Robinson 2016, 2), Tim is a constant reminder to everyone of the courage in the face of difficulties.

The characters of A Christmas Carol serve to express Dickens’s Christian humanistic views and attitudes. According to Newey (2016, 12), A Christmas Carol is one of the most important works of Charles Dickens in a sense that it “brings into focus many of Dickens’s core concerns and attitudes of mind.” Dickens demonstrates the transformation of a greedy lender with no sympathy to others, which symbolizes capitalist and rationalist values, into the embodiment of Christianity and humanism.

The contrast between Dickens’s characters furthers strengthens the differences between two ideologies, the humanistic and the capitalist one. The family of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s clerk, is a model of a loving family, poor in money but rich in heart, while Scrooge himself reflects utilitarian, purely rationalist values. The values of family loyalty, humanism, kindness, are confronted with the rationalism and greediness of the protagonist.

Another theme of the novella is the relationship between the supernatural and the living. As stated above, Dickens’s works have significantly contributed to the development of the Victorian ghost story. His fascination with the supernatural makes him create the powerful figures of the Ghost of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future, who communicate with the protagonist and act as the messengers of the divine. This communication between the living and the supernatural is central to the plot. This theme reoccurs in Dickens’s works, for instance, in “The Signalman,” although in total, it is present in about 18 Dickens’s stories. The critical result of the supernatural intervention is that it leads to change and transforms the protagonist.

Although often presented as a children’s story, Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol tells a reader a lot about Dickens’s attitudes and views about the world. This novella promotes the humanistic ideology based on Christian values: love, empathy, and generosity. Moreover, the author experiments with literary forms and contributes to the development of the ghost story. The supernatural plays a central role in the transformation of the main hero. However, the idea that the protagonist needs supernatural intervention in order to change might be problematic for the humanistic perspective that is centered on the agency of human beings. The humanistic perspective stresses the inherently good qualities of human nature, which is contradictory to the idea that supernatural intervention is necessary in order to bring change.

Newey, Vincent. 2016. The Scriptures of Charles Dickens: Novels of Ideology, Novels of the Self. New York: Routledge.

Robinson, David E. 2016. “Redemption and the Imagination of Childhood: Dickens’s Representation of Children in A Christmas Carol.” Literator 37 (1): 1-8. Web.

Thompson, Terry W. 2017. “The Belshazzar Allusion in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.” The Explicator 75 (4): 268-270. Web.

Wood, Claire. 2018. “Playful Spirits: Charles Dickens and the Ghost Story.” In The Routledge Handbook to the Ghost Story, edited by Scott Brewster and Luke Thurston, 87-96. New York: Routledge.

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A Christmas Carol Guide + 2024 PREDICTIONS FOR AQA (GCSE)

A Christmas Carol Guide + 2024 PREDICTIONS FOR AQA (GCSE)

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christmas carol redemption essay

Introducing the ultimate revision guide for A Christmas Carol, designed to help GCSE students achieve top grades in their exam essays!

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    A Christmas Carol Guide + 2024 PREDICTIONS FOR AQA (GCSE) Introducing the ultimate revision guide for A Christmas Carol, designed to help GCSE students achieve top grades in their exam essays! This guide includes an overview of the novel's plot, characters, context, along with key quotes and detailed analysis to support your arguments.