How does Dickens intend to educate the reader through Scrooge's redemption and reflective journey in A Christmas Carol?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dickens intends for readers to think about how they treat their loved ones and fellow humans, and learn to care more about them.

In “A Christmas Carol” we experience a journey of redemption.  Scrooge is described as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” (ch 1, p. 5)  He is a miserable human being who does not care about anyone or anything.  Yet there are people in his life who care about him and would like to make him part of their lives.

Jacob Marley’s ghost tells Scrooge what is required of every man (or human).

[The] spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. (ch 1, p. 14)

Scrooge shrugs off this warning until he gets visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, who shows him that he was not always alone and miserable.  Scrooge’s journey back to the hopeful young boy he once was slowly makes him see his own life in a different way.  His fiancé Fran releases him from their contract to marry.

“You may—the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will— have pain in this. …. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!” (ch 2, p. 26)

Dickens populates the tale with memorable characters, such as Scrooge’s clerk Bob Crachit and his nephew Fred.  Yet no character is intended to pull at our heart strings as much as Crachit’s son Tiny Tim.

Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame! (ch 3, p. 32)

Although the description of the little boy drips with sentimentality, Tim is a metaphor for the poor and hungry, the “surplus.”  The Ghost of Christmas Present chastises Scrooge harshly for suggesting that not feeding the poor will decrease the surplus population.

[Forbear] that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? (ch 3, p. 34)

In the end, Scrooge is reformed.  He has had an opportunity to reflect on his life, and determine the kind of person he wants to be.  He decides he wants to be warm and kind.  He wants to have people in his life who care about him.  He does not want to die alone.  Dickens wants the reader to reconsider his or her own life and come to the same decision.

Read the study guide:
A Christmas Carol

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