Discuss the theme of ''redemption'' in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme of redemption is the whole point of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."  Ebenzer Scrooge -- a name that has become synonymous with an angry temperant and excessive thriftiness during the holiday season -- is man desperately indeed of redeeming qualities.  He is a aging businessman who has lost all sense of humanity with regard to his treatment of others, especially those less fortunate than himself.  Christmas, a time of spiritual redemption and festive atmosphere, is anathema to Scrooge.  The premature of death of his friend and business partner Jacob Marley has left him friendless and lacking in any kind of personal connection.

Scrooge appears beyond hope.  He treats his employee, Bob Cratchit, and Cratchit's family with contempt, making Bob work long hours without breaks and for minimal wages.  Scrooge's antipathy toward the Christmas season, when families assemble, exchange gifts, and enjoy each other's company, sets the stage for the life-altering experience that lies ahead.

When Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley, he is shocked by the chains his deceased friends has been condemned to drag around interminably.  Those chains, "forged in life," represent the emotional burden that he is forced to wear in punishment for the way he conducted himself in life.  Marley warns Scrooge that such a fate awaits him unless he changes his ways.

During the night, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, one who shows him his past, including the happy times when he was a young, up-and-coming businessman, but also the beginnings of the transition toward the man he would become.  The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the happiness he is missing out on by virtue of his anti-social behavior and hatred of the holiday spirit that brings out the best in others.  Most importantly, he is shown the Cratchit family, in all its poverty, with the youngest child, Tim, crippled by disease, basking in the warm glow of each other.  These people are happy despite their position in life.

The final apparation to visit Scrooge that night, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, shows Scrooge what awaits him, and the Cratchit family, to which he is related, lest he change his ways.  Tiny Tim dies from the disease that has crippled him, followed by his own death and funeral, during which his old business associates demonstate a marked ambivalence about his passing.  Scrooge is then given the exceedingly rare opportunity to see his grave, untended and lonely in a dark cemetary. Scrooge, deeply affected by what he has witnessed, especially the death of Tim and of the isolation he faces in the afterlife.  The frightening apparition that is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come standing over him in the desolate graveyard convinces Scrooge to mend his ways.

Upon wakening from the night's restless slumber, the visions of what transpired still in his head, Scrooge is an entirely different man, no longer miserly and angry, no longer without regard for those less fortunate for himself, and with a new-found sense of family toward the Cratchits.  He redeems himself immediately with demonstrations of largess and a radically transformed demeanor.  He has found redemption.  The story ends with Ebenezer Scrooge redressing wrongs, the "shadows of what may be."

Scrooge finds personal redemption through a tortuous night of self-reflection.