How fitting is the title for the novella, A Christmas Carol?
Explore the ideas of generosity of spirit/Christmas in the novel
The novella written by the renowned author Charles Dickens centralises around the theme of Christmas, as a pivotal motif for not only the celebration of Christ, but for its analogous time of unification of people of different social classes. It also possesses a metaphorical meaning of ‘rebirth’ as the underpinning story is about the physiological rebirth of the allegorical Ebenezer Scrooge from a callous misanthropist – the rich gentry - into a benevolent being willing to recognise the plight of the working class. This therefore calls for a celebration: Christmas. A time of bestowing material and emotional wealth, which Scrooge has unearthed, and become a part of in the festivity. The theme of Christmas and generosity is exemplified throughout the novella by characters such as Fred, Fezziwig, the Ghost of Christmas past and present and Scrooge as he changes into someone who believes in Christmas and its spirit of generosity. In the novella, Dickens asks, in effect, for people to recognise the plight of those whom the Industrial Revolution has displaced and driven into poverty, and the obligation of society to provide for them humanely.
In the exposition of the novella we are told that ‘it was Christmas Eve’, and are shown that this is a time when society is perhaps more divided than any time of the year. This is shown when the ‘portly gentlemen’ visit Scrooge, and declare: ‘This is the time of the year where want is felt most keenly…many are in need of common necessities’. The phrase ‘common necessities’ implies that some people in society do not even have enough to provide materially to feed their families, let alone be able to celebrate Christmas. The fact that these ‘necessities’ are considered a ‘want’ rather than a desperation is rather ambiguous, and could infer that this deprivation has manifested into a desire, rather than a genuine need, as they have become so adapted to the ill treatment received, especially under the Poor Laws. Dickens reminds us of the inequality between Rich and Poor in the Victorian London, shown in the juxtaposition of Scrooge (representing the class of rich industrialists) and the Cratchit family (representing the Working Poor), and how individuals like Scrooge have the power to change this dynamic, should they choose to distribute their wealth. This links directly to the novella, and especially the word ‘carol’, which suggests a vocal and therefore public expression, something the portly gentlemen try to convey to Scrooge. Dickens could be arguing through this that we should all be vocal in our acknowledgement of Christmas, spreading the word of God through humanitarian action and reducing the misery of poverty.