How does Dickens explore the theme of redemption in A Christmas Carol?
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Having lost love in his youth, Ebenezer Scrooge has become a miser of his gold and of his heart. Because he did not have the security of a loving family, the boy Ebenezer grew into a young man who found reward in making money; greed has become his passion. In Stave II, the Ghost of Christmas Past presents Scrooge with the vision of himself in the prime of his life as a pretty woman in a mourning dress tells him that the death she so sorely feels matters little to him,
"It matters little....To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me: and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve."
The "golden one" is the idol which has replaced Belle. Much like Eliot's Silas Marner, Ebenezer finds in gold the comfort and security he has lacked from others. But, in his fixation upon making money, Ebenezer has lost sight of the worthy young woman's love. Belle leaves him, saying,
"You fear the world too much…. All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach."
But, Scrooge has become a lonely miser and is, indeed, reproached by the world as he comes to realize during his journey with the spirits of Christmas. For, his is an unprofitable dream because there is no one with whom he can share life. The Spirits of Christmas Past and Christmas Present show Scrooge the rewards of kindness and of love with the visions of his nephew Fred and friends enjoying Christmas and the tender and loving moments of the poor Crachits, who enjoy their holiday as much as if they were rich. Finally, when the Spirit of Christmas Future presents Scrooge with the vision of his dead body, cold and alone, Ebenezer has an awakening to the true meaning of life: It depends upon sharing. Nothing is worthwhile unless he can share his feelings with others.
Having thus learned that his parsimony is a path to a cold, lonely death without rewards, Ebenezer Scrooge redeems his soul by becoming the antithesis of what he has been. He socializes, visiting with people on the street--Scrooge regarded everyone with a delightful smile"; moreover, he generously purchases a wonderful goose for the Crachits, and he decides to have diner after all with Fred and his wife and friends. And, when Bob Crachit returns to work late the next day, instead of berating him, Scrooge gives Crachit a raise and promises to help his struggling family. "His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him" as he becomes a second father to Tiny Tim. Truly, Scrooge has discovered the redemptive power of love.
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