Who or what is responsible for Scrooge's change of character in 'A Christmas Carol'?
‘A Christmas carol’ written by the Unitarian and well respected Charles Dickens narrates the novella of the dark and exploitative nature of man whom embodies the story's main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, renowned as a cantankerous and callous Industrialist of the Victorian era. He exercises his parsimonious, gluttonous ways on Christmas Eve and intentionally refuses Christmas festivity. Indeed, A Christmas Carol is a severe and scathing diatribe on the social conditions of the time and the nature of man that exploits those conditions. Dickens therefore employs the four ghosts as a necessary measure to redeem the compassionate full humanity, and restore harmony to society. Christmas is seen as the best season to revolve this revolution, as it is the time Christ was born, which is symbolic of new life, and therefore a restoration or ‘rebirth’ of Scrooge. This is done over a series of ghosts, each fundamental to reconnecting the time synapses of Scrooge’s life, and therefore allowing his redemption.
Dickens uses onomatopoeia to describe Marley's dramatic entrance, "The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound." This experience with Jacob Marley is full of suspense and tension and the use of the word "flew" indicates that the involvement of Marley is dramatic. This helps to evoke fear because of its suddenness. The cellar door could also represent the opening to the changing of Scrooges character. Its opening could resemble Scrooges ability to revert his ways.
When Marley's ghost appears, Dickens' varies the length of the sentences, 'Do it then', 'I don't' and 'I do. I must' to show his hesitation, and fear of the supernatural. This is the same attitude he inherits with the poor and celebration. As Scrooge gets used to the presence of the ghost, he asks more questions, which shows the immediate transition in Scrooges character. Marley informs Scrooge that 'I wear the chain I forged in life'. This discourse indicates that you ‘reap what you sew’ and therefore though the poor whom may be imprisoned literally by ‘chains’ it is the rich whom suffocate them that are emotionally in chains, through their guilt.
He takes Scrooge back to his childhood when he was neglected as a child, which making him in a nostalgic mood, 'Oh Heaven! I was bred in this place. I was a boy here'. The conjunction of the Christian discourse “Oh Heaven” and “I was a boy here” would implicate that his youth was beloved, and the nostalgic “Oh” would suggest his overwhelming desire to revisit his youth. This would therefore suggest his regret for not continuing his compassion for a full humanity.
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He is reminded of Fezziwig’s benevolent demeanour and good business ethics as, 'he has the power to render us happy or unhappy', as does Scrooge. This conveys that Scrooge is in the same position now that Fezziwig was in then, and the word “render” is a connotation of the word “dictate” meaning that Scrooge has the ability to “render” his employee Bob “happy or unhappy”. Employers literally held this power, as in the Victorian era, many immigrants escaping the potato famine in Ireland led to fewer jobs, and a plight for large working class families, and resulting in wages being at rock bottom. Scrooge therefore realises that he hosts the control over the Cratchit family, as he could render them living on the street. Dickens is therefore suggesting that the material wealth is unfairly distributed, as the poor had not control over their own fate.
Scrooge also realizes that what he said to his nephew earlier was completely out of order; he said 'what right do you have to be merry? You're poor enough'. The fact that he experiences no reward from his life enables him to realise that in actual fact, having money does not necessarily result in a more contempt life, as his nephew whom is “poor” is still “merry” in contrast to Scrooge being completely emotionally bereft.
His 'changed nature' tells Belle they should not be together any longer; she says 'Our contract is an old one; and 'happiness when we were one in heart, is fraught with misery now that we are two... I have thought of it and can release you'. The imagery of the ‘contract’ suggests that Scrooge believes love is a signed conditional, likewise, business is managed under this jurisdiction. This shows how with the influence of business, he has deviated from the true meaning of love, and used the ‘contract’ to defend him from potential pain. This deviation is shown through the imagery of the one “heart” separating and becoming two. However, due to this change, he has ironically lost his love. Scrooge is distressed after being reminded why Scrooge broke his heart, 'why do you delight to torture me?', 'No more. I don't wish to see it. Show me no more'. This shows he is uncomfortable with what he has just seen and the word ‘torture’ suggest extreme physical grief. Dickens has used this discourse to express how the underclass are in actuality physically in grief, whereas with the confrontation for wealthier people of uncomfortable situations, the pain is hyperbolised. This therefore contrasts the situation between the poor and rich, in terms of their emotional threshold. He then says 'I should've like, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet been a man enough to know its value'. The words “man enough” suggests that he was frightful, and too wimp to understand the “value” of having a child. This therefore reinforces the idea that he was afraid of being vulnerable.
The Cratchits are all appreciative for what they have, even though it is not much at all, 'feebly cried Hurrah' shows their gratefulness. The word “feebly” is a connotation for inadequate, representing the unsubstantial food they survive off. Despite this, they cheer “Hurrah”, portraying how they are grateful for still being a family – this was a luxury, as many families were separated as a result of the Poor Laws, which only offered the workhouses, a horrible institution for people convicted for being in debt. 'Nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family' tells us that they understand what situation they are in and do not question it. The word “small” also references not only the inadequate portions, but also is used to reference there insignificance in society, as the rock bottom of the social hierarchy. This is also demonstrated by the name ‘Tiny Tim’ which shows the insignificance he possesses. The fact Scrooge can save him, and has always ignored the family’s desperation also reinforces this. However, Scrooge wants reassurance that Tiny Tim will definitely live, 'tell me if Tiny Tim will live’ after seeing the family’s dire need for help, and their situation. Dickens therefore signifies that the rich are oblivious to the ‘real world’ in essence, as it isn’t until the truth has been unveiled, and they have witnessed the destitution, that they become intrigued and recognise the poverty concurrent. However, when the Ghost of Christmas Past informs him that the chair at the table will be “empty” next year, Scrooge becomes motivated to be less frugal and make a difference. This foregrounds his emotional transition, and shows that the rich oppress the poor, as they hold the power to make a difference, but choose not to.
Bob Cratchit looks up to him - 'the founder of the feast', showing his eternal gratefulness for still holding a job. The word “founder” suggests that it was Scrooge that imposes their situation, as the Cratchits do not possess the power to impose their own fate. However, his wife holds a more spiteful opinion: 'Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name casts a dark shadow over the party'. The imagery of the “shadow” implicates that Scrooge literally has the ability to cast the family onto the street, just by sacking Bob. This is true of the Elizabethan era, as the working class were easily disposable, as many people were desperate for employment.
The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the party of his nephew. Although his nephew knows he is tight-fisted and unemotional, he still thinks he is a good man, and Scrooge hears this from him, 'not so pleasant as he might be... his offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him'. This dialogue has a religious undertone, of the axiom “reap what you sew”. When Marley visited him, he taught Scrooge of the “chains of life” sharing a similar paradox. The motif of getting out of life what you put in is repeated, showing that despite Scrooge being frugal, and refusing to recognise the poverty of others, it will affect him in the long run.
The next emotionally eliciting image he is introduced to is the personification of Want and Ignorance, who are 'yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish', they are children of 'Man'. The names generalise the children of the underclass as being undifferentiated beasts created by selfishness. Their ugly appearance is epiphytical of their ugly demeanour, of being “Ignorant” and the desire of “want” which derives from the desperation inflicted on them by the neglectful upper class. The personified Ignorance foils the crime that prevailed during the Elizabethan times. Dickens was a big proponent of education, to eradicate the terrible cycle of the poor which he felt was the only means to prevent this. The lexis of words to describe the children, such as “meagre” and “wolfish” are used to present how deprived children were, as a result of being neglected. Scrooge feels shocked, as he realises the result of his actions, and that his Malthus philosophy is actual controversial, as it results in worsening the situation. He needs to take a more humanitarian approach to appease the situation.
Finally, Scrooge is visited by the fourth and final Spirit, the Ghost of the Christmas future. His appearance 'tall and stately' intimidates him, as 'his legs trembled beneath him'. Dickens has used onomatopoeia when he says 'trembled' as this gives more emphasis on Scrooges feelings towards the final ghost. The Ghost seems scarier than the other three ghosts as he is not a person; he is more of a hooded shadow. The Ghost does not speak, he only leads. The first place Scrooge was directed to be a funeral of a much disliked man.
The people who attended this funeral were not very remorseful and conceived it as 'strictly business'. They declared, 'what has he done with his money?' and 'I thought he'd never die'. Their careless attitude reflects the attitude inherent in Scrooge in the exposition. This is indicative of the compassionless upper-class, and despite having money being seen as a luxury, Dickens portrays it as a catalyst for bereft of emotion. This cements his change, as he recognises the corruption of loving money, and realises he doesn’t want to have the legacy of being an old miser as Marley had.
Scrooge is then taken to the funeral of a man whom he did not realize where he was as the room was 'too dark to be observed with any accuracy'. This phrase could suggest Scrooges lack of physiological understanding of the value of life, and his distorted mind set “too dark to be observed”.
In conclusion, the book is clearly a social commentary, as demonstrated to have been written to reflect the autobiographical experience and suffering of the author with the intent of suggesting to readers the need to reform the social system which had sprung up around them. The association with Christmas is ironic in that people have come to think of A Christmas Carol as a story about the Christmas spirit when it really embodies a tale of the universal human spirit which needs to be recovered, and which the protagonist Scrooge, the embodiment of the ills of contemporary society of Dickens, recovered through the character catharsis concluding the character arc driving the action of the story thereof. The most affective Ghost in my opinion was the Ghost of Christmas Past, as it catalysed the initial road to redemption for Scrooge, as by the end of the three phantoms, he had already shown change in character. The Ghost of Christmas Past makes him relive the errors and shame of his youth, and causes him to regret the way he treated his true love, which built the fundamental foundation for his quick revolution and his motivation to change his ways.