Christian Themes (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
“A Christmas Carol” is deeply rooted in the important nineteenth century question of how Christian morality would survive in the face of an increasingly utilitarian and capitalistic world brought on by the Industrial Revolution. The financial success that Scrooge enjoyed is precisely the goal of capitalism, but a fixation on the accumulation of wealth seduced Scrooge into seeing every aspect of life in such terms. Not only Christmas, but his fiancé, his dying friend and business partner, his reputation, his office staff, and his only living family member are all weighed against their financial cost and found unworthy. The costs of such selfishness and bitterness are not borne by Scrooge alone, however. Dickens’s portrayal of the social costs—prisons, workhouses, increased mortality, the creation of ghettos and slums, the miserable state of both wealthy and poor alike—clearly makes a case for morality and social justice on a larger scale.
On the other hand, the solution to social injustice in “A Christmas Carol” is not a social movement but individual redemption. The world becomes a better place almost immediately following Scrooge’s conversion. In fact, the story implies that a renewed connection to humanity is, in fact, the very essence of redemption. Though the Christmas setting invites a traditional Christian interpretation of Scrooge’s redemption, his change is rooted not in a commitment to deeper spirituality or orthodoxy but in an...
(The entire section is 280 words.)
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Guilt and Innocence
Often in ghost stories, the ghostly apparitions function to remind the main character of something evil he or she has done in the past. In other words, ghosts act as the character's conscience. Scrooge certainly has enough to feel guilty about: he is mean and tight-fisted with his assistant, Bob Cratchit; dismissive of his nephew, Fred; miserly and cold with the men from the local charity association; and nasty to the little caroler that he chases away from his keyhole with a ruler. Each of these people are associated with some form of innocence, a reminder of the less fortunate or the love of family and friends.
Marley's ghost raises the question of guilt directly, explaining that he himself is forced to walk the earth as a ghost because he was a heartless, self-involved man. The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future make no accusations toward Scrooge about his behavior—but with the warning that Marley has given him, Scrooge interprets the visits to mean that unless he changes his life and learns to value the people around him, he will end up like Marley. Moreover, by revisiting events and people from his past, he realizes just how much he has missed by shutting himself off from family, friends, and coworkers. With the help of the ghosts, he resolves to change his life.
"You fear the world too much," Belle tells Scrooge as she is breaking off their engagement. It...
(The entire section is 739 words.)