Discuss how Dickens presents responsibility in stave 1 and throughout the story A Christmas Carol.

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It's clear from the very beginning of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol that Ebenezer Scrooge has disavowed any personal responsibility whatsoever for his fellow man. His only concerns are for himself and his money.

Scrooge keeps to himself and minds his own business—which he wishes everybody else would do....

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It's clear from the very beginning of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol that Ebenezer Scrooge has disavowed any personal responsibility whatsoever for his fellow man. His only concerns are for himself and his money.

Scrooge keeps to himself and minds his own business—which he wishes everybody else would do. He has no empathy for others, and he doesn't care about anyone's wants and needs except his own. He's miserly in spirit and with his money. He won't open his heart to go to dinner with his nephew Fred's family, and he won't open his pocketbook to help the poor.

In stave 2, the Ghost of Christmas Past reminds Scrooge of his better self when he was with his sister, Fan, and his betrothed, Belle, before he closed his heart and devoted his life to the pursuit of his golden idol.

In stave 3, the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the generosity of spirit of the Cratchits, poor as they are, and shows him the effect of his miserliness—mankind's two pathetic offspring: Ignorance and Want. This touches Scrooge's heart:

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

Christmas Present is quick to chastise Scrooge for his present heartless, miserly behavior:

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come who visits Scrooge in stave 4 leads Scrooge on a journey to his own death where Scrooge sees himself alone and lonely, all of his material wealth gone, and with no family or friends to mourn him. His unkempt grave is a symbol of his emotional and spiritual life.

Faced with an empty, solitary, meaningless life and a death without even one kind deed to his name or caring word at his passing, Scrooge resolves to mend his ways. He takes responsibility for his fellow man and opens his heart and his pocketbook to his family, to the Cratchits, and to his community.

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In Stave I and throughout A Christmas Carol, responsibility is depicted as generous personal giving to other people. Although he takes care of himself without being a burden to others, Scrooge falls short in personal responsibility because he hoards his wealth. He refuses to give to charity, as we see when turns down Christmas time requests to help the poor.

Scrooge also fail to be responsible towards his family when he won't attend his nephew's Christmas celebration. He won't give generously of himself. Financial and personal miserliness go hand in hand,

In Stave I, Scrooge is shown examples of responsible giving, for example, in the form of Fezziwg, his former employer. Fezziwig is generous both with his resources and himself, throwing a great Christmas party that he attends. He adds to the merriment by dancing and shows himself to be a model of engaged and responsible living.

By the end of the book, Scrooge has learned the value of taking responsibility for others: not only does it help them, but he understands now that a generous attitude brings life and joy to oneself. Scrooge's reformation is total: he gives not only his money but of himself, showing up for his nephew's Christmas and, we are told, being an active part of the community for the rest of his days.

This is what the critic Raymond Williams calls a charity of consumption: Dickens is not proposing to change the system through legislation, such as by instituting minimum wage laws or government programs to educate or help the poor. It is individuals behaving with responsible generosity that he relies on to make the world a better place.

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The most obvious example of responsibility in Stave I is when Ebenezer Scrooge is approached by two men soliciting for charity to support the poor and Scrooge refuses to donate. Not only does he refuse to donate money, he asks if the prisons and work houses are still open, which indicates he sees the poor as a burden to society and that they already have their basic needs being met by these institutions. This shows a general lack of personal responsibility, as well as a lack of empathy. 

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”

So, from the beginning we understand that Scrooge feels he is already doing his part to be socially responsible, even though he only does so out of obligation. If he was not required to pay tax, which is what keeps those institutions open, it is obvious he would not be helping these "idle" people. By calling them "idle" he also does not truly understand why they are poor or the complexity of poverty. He sees himself as financially responsible and them as financially irresponsible.

As the story continues, responsibility is show in many other areas by other characters. The two men who are requesting money for charity show their own social responsibility. We see responsibility to family in Bob Cratchit and how he takes care of his family and puts them first above everything. We see responsibility for being a good employer and friend in Fezziwig and his holiday party. We see Scrooge becoming responsible later when he decides to give to the charity, to Bob Cratchit, and to Fred.

The overall message of the story is that one can be entirely selfish and not responsible for anyone but themselves, but that only brings a life of misery. To be truly happy one must embrace others and their responsibilities (both financial and personal) to them.

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