Written on: 09/09/2008 by Mouchi (2 reviews written)
One of the more popular stories at Christmas time is 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. This was the first of his Christmas books and was published in 1842, seven years after the poor law was introduced. This story has great morals and this is partly the reason for there being so many adaptations of it, one of which - 'A Muppet's Christmas Carol' - has enlightened many young children before they have read the book on the Christmas spirit. The setting of London is important as at the time London was a place for the rich and poor to live together in one community but to regard themselves as total opposites. Because of this story, Ebenezer Scrooge has become such an iconic figure who is generally associated with mean people at Christmas. In this essay Scrooge's development throughout the story will be explored and analysed.
When we are introduced to the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens portrays him as a hard-hearted and cold person. From a particular passage he is described as being, "Tight fisted," and, "clutching." Being "tight fisted" suggests that he is unwilling to offer anything of his away and that he is definitely not a generous, giving man. From the word "clutching" one gets the impression that he will relish the chance to get money and he will be willing to do anything for a profit.
Also to depict Scrooge, Dickens makes several references to the weather to reflect them on him. One of these is, "no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose." Dickens is trying to say that Scrooge is a bitter character - like snow - and that when he is going somewhere or doing something he will stay focused and only stop once he has reached his goal, much like falling snow. The metaphor shows us how he resembles snow which only stops once it has hit the ground.
In the following paragraph, Dickens uses an unusual technique of description by relaying Scrooge's general characteristics through saying not what he does do, but what he does not do. From the quotation, "Nobody ever stopped him in the streets to say with gladsome looks, 'My dear Scrooge, how are you?" this is evident. From this one can draw up the conclusion that Scrooge is an unsociable man who is very much disliked in the community due to his unwillingness to interact with others and general insolence.
The overall impression that we get of Scrooge at the beginning of this novel is that he is a vile man who seems perfectly contempt with how he acts. This is outlined in the quotation, "But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked." He is comfortable with making his way through life, isolated from the community and earning an honest living. Because of his arrogance he does not seem to care what others think of him. There is a quotation saying "the crowded paths of life" which suggests there may be obstacles to overcome, but he will get there in the end.
Scrooge generally has a very niggardly attitude which is highlighted in his reactions to other people. From his encounters with three people; his nephew Fred, his clerk Bob Cratchit and some charity collectors we can learn his true nature and how he can be classed as a grumpy old miser - a person who hoards wealth yet spends little.
We are first introduced to Scrooge's nephew Fred when he enters Scrooge's office. Scrooge treats him as though he is a servant to him, not in fact a relation. From the quotation, "Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with a stake of holly through his heart," Scrooge's attitude towards people and Christmas is highlighted. Scrooge is over exaggerating the fact that he has a natural dislike of Christmas. At this stage of the story we are unable to explain why, but that becomes clearer as the story progresses.
Scrooge's second encounter is with two charity collectors who are aiming to collect money for the poor so they can have something to eat at Christmas. When asked, Scrooge questions about whether the prisons, workhouses and poor law are still in operation. To give some context about these, the poor law was set up in 1834 by Earl Grey - the Prime Minister at the time - and basically stated that those unable to support themselves were sent to the workhouses and were housed and fed there at the cost of hard manual labour every day and being split from the rest of their families. Scrooge supports these institutions and he is callous enough to not have a care about those less off than him. When told that some would rather die than be sent to the workhouse, Scrooge snaps back saying, "If they would rather die then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." This further goes to show how callous and insensitive Scrooge is.
Another way in which we can see Scrooge's odious nature is by the treatment of his clerk Bob Cratchit. When Bob requests Christmas Day off work, Scrooge responds by saying, "A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty fifth of December." The use of this metaphor here shows how Scrooge feels that Bob is in effect stealing from him by being paid for a day off work, regardless of the fact that it is Christmas. But even so, Bob stays loyal to Scrooge as he is poor and he knows that if he loses his job then it is almost certain that his entire family would be sent to the workhouse. The Cratchit family represent a happy family with little money, but they do have one thing that Scrooge does not have: a family that loves and cares for them. Scrooge is clearly richer than the Cratchits but this does not stop them from having a better time than him.
During the mid nineteenth century a new form of supernatural, mystery and fantastic literature emerged, that often revolved around larger than life characters. Many of Dickens' contemporaries and Dickens himself introduced us to the ghost story. This was an aim by the author to not necessarily scare the reader, but enlighten them with the unknown. One of Dickens' great rivals at the time, William Thackeray, was also into writing ghost stories - one of which was "The Story of Mary Ancel". This particular genre is a good choice for the story as many actually believed in ghosts in the Victorian times and this story has great morals and henceforth it has become one of the more popular ghost stories to date.
As we reach the end of the story we can see how the visits of the four spirits have affected Scrooge. The events of the last stave highlight his true colours due to the effects of the spirits.
This can be acknowledged from the quotation, "I am as giddy as a drunken man, a Merry Christmas to everybody!" This is an immediate contrast to the beginning when he was a stubborn, stern man who avenged death upon anyone who said "Merry Christmas". The simile "As giddy as a drunken man" shows also how Scrooge has changed. The old Scrooge would have never been able to let himself go, as his work was his main priority in life. He now has the emotional strength to have some fun and be strong enough to show his emotions and feelings. Scrooge has evidently come across the error of his ways as he is trying hard to correct them.
This is also amplified in the quotation, "It was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!" Scrooge here for the first time is feeling happy. Dickens uses repetition of the word "laugh" to outline this. He also uses the metaphor, "father of a long, long line " Dickens is simply trying to put across the fact that that Scrooge's laugh is so significant and passionate that it betters all others. Because of his apparent happiness he goes on to do good deeds, to change his ways, so as to be a better person.
The first spirit is that of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's deceased business partner. Scrooge is warned of three ghosts to come but he does not believe this. "There's more of gravy than of grave about you," are Scrooge's words to the spirit. Scrooge is implying here that he does not believe in the spirit and it must be some faulty food to blame for him seeing things. The metaphor here implies that Scrooge is still stubborn and adamant that he is always right.
The ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge how joyous yet miserable he used to be. He is shown his childhood and his younger days. From the quotation, "There were more dances and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake," the amusement Scrooge used to have at Christmas time is notable. Now he is a grumpy old miser but the spirit shows us his true nature and his youthful fun. Seeing this, Scrooge now feels that he should have done things differently.
Scrooge is shown the true meaning of Christmas when the ghost of Christmas Present visits. This is shown when Bob Cratchit says, "Merry Christmas to us all, my dears, God bless us all." This particular quotation shows that even though they are poor, they can still have a good time at Christmas with their family. Bob refers to his family as "my dears" as he feels so close to them. The spirit has shown Scrooge what he is missing and this touches him. He feels a sense of loneliness.
The final spirit to visit is the ghost of Christmas Future. He shows Scrooge the bad things that are yet to come. Scrooge sees his and Tiny Tim's (Bob Cratchit's crippled son) graves and says, "Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone." The metaphor used here is to "sponge" away the writing, much like a sponge absorbs up liquid to rid it from view. This could be interpreted as how Scrooge has seen enough and how he wishes that all of his wrong doings in life could just be absorbed and be gotten rid of. From this point in the story, Scrooge's mind is pretty much made up and we can finally state that Ebenezer Scrooge has changed for the better.
In conclusion, this story has earned a place in all of our hearts due to the transformation of such a miser. Scrooge has developed from an old, tight-fisted man into a kind, giving and respectable human being. It just goes to show that the moral of the story is that kindness goes a long way. The fitting words right at the end of the story, spoken by Tiny Tim, "God bless Us, Every One!" highlight the true spirit of Christmas. This story is a timeless classic that even today, 166 years after Dickens wrote it, it is still as well known and respected as he intended.