Explain how A Christmas Carol suggests that there are different types of poverty.

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When you read A Christmas Carol, you will soon realize that there are several different kinds of poverty. The ideas of poverty and wealth are teased out in several clever ways. Let me give you a few examples.

First, Ebenezer Scrooge is portrayed as wealthy from a financial point of view. However, when it comes to his personal life he is extremely poor. He has no close friends and almost nothing when it comes to intimacy. So, from this point of view, he is very poor.

Second, Scrooge's deceased partner (Jacob Marley), who comes back from the dead, tries to warn him that earthly riches and greed are not good. In fact, Dickens describes the chains that Marley wears as made with cash-boxes and ledgers. Riches mean nothing in the afterlife. From this perspective, Scrooge is a very poor man, indeed.

Third, Bob Cratchit, a clerk whom Scrooge employs is very poor from a financial point of view, and he even has a sick son, Tiny Tim, who will probably die for the lack of medical treatment. However, Cratchit is rich in life. He is loved, has a wonderful family, experiences joy, and shows generosity. This juxtaposition with Scrooge is to show that Bob is actually rich when it comes to the things that matter most.

janihash24 | Student

In A Christmas Carol, Dickens is showing us that spiritual poverty is even more devastating than economic poverty. Ebenezer Scrooge was deprived of love and family for most of his childhood, and loses both people he truly loves—his sister Fan, who dies young, possibly in childbirth, and his first love, Belle, driven away as he digs deeper and deeper into the love of money.

When we meet him, he has plenty of money, but his spiritual and emotional pockets are completely empty. He mocks his nephew Fred, who continues to try and reach out to him, because Fred has married a girl with no money simply because he loves her, and he scorns his downtrodden employee Bob Crachit without any knowledge of the rich family life Bob enjoys.

The Ghosts are employed by Dickens to enlighten Scrooge and give him another chance at a wealthy and fulfilled inner life. Yet Dickens acknowledges the evils of dire economic need as well: Ultimately, Scrooge is horrified by his own comments about the poor: "If they had rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population," and one of the tale's most powerful scenes occurs when the Ghost of Christmas Present reveals the two creatures beneath his robe and tells Scrooge, "This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."

Perhaps Dickens's most powerful statement about the love of wealth vs. the love of humankind is made by Scrooge's first ghostly visitor, his old partner Jacob Marley. When Scrooge tries to compliment Marley's Ghost by saying he was always a good man of business, Marley cries, "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business."

This speech is one of the most powerful Dickens ever wrote, and we may confidently presume it represents his own sentiments in a life of using his work to illuminate the corroding influences of great power and wealth.



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A Christmas Carol

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