What effects does environment have upon Scrooge in A Christmas Carol?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Very much a social reformer, Charles Dickens creates a sentimental tale that celebrates the true meaning of Christmas by depicting the poignant reform of one of the most renowned misers of English literature.

Through the agencies of supernatural forces, Ebenezer Scrooge removes the blinders of his heart to the conditions of London's poor and to the importance of man's brotherhood. The Spirit of Christmas Past returns Scrooge to a time when he exercised sentiments towards others:  He felt a great fondness for a father-figure, Fezziwig, to whom he was apprenticed as a young man.  With dramatic irony, Scrooge describes Fezziwig to the Spirit of Christmas Past.

"He has the power torender us happy or unhappy; to mke our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil....The happiness he give, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune."

Truly, this recalling of the vision and memory of Fezziwig serves to remind Scrooge of the potential that he himself possesses to make Bob Crachit's job "light or burdensome."  In addition, Scrooge had a young, lovely woman with whom he was in love, but he replaces her with another "idol" as "[A] golden one" as she calls it. Having tried to earn enough money so that they could have a comfortable life. Ebenezer became obsessed with the accumulation of money. This remembrance, too, of a past setting serves to teach Scrooge that he has sacrificed the love of a wonderful woman for gold.

When the Spirit of Christmas Present tours the holdiay at the Crachits 

Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party, which was not dispelled for full five minutes.

Witnessing the happiness of this family, albeit poor, and hearing his name as anathema, deeply affects Scrooge. Moreover, when he asks the Spirit if Tiny Tim will live and the Ghost replies, "I see a vacant seat," the old miser is deeply moved, especially when the Spirit says that the boy will simply "decrease the surplus population. Later, after witnessing the joy at his nephew's celebration of Christmas and again hearing his name with similar reactions, Scrooge is is shown a boy and girl, "Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility." The boy represents Ignorance; the girl Want.

Perhaps, the environment which acts as the catalyst for Scrooge's reformation is the vision that the Spirit of Christmas Future shows him in which thieves take all that he has as he lies alone in death, "bereft,...unwept, uncared for...

Finally, the Spirit takes Scrooge to a graveyard with his name on the tombstone. The next morning when Scrooge awakens and realizes he is alive and not yet in that graveyard, he resolves to reform himself. Having witnessed his cruelty, and his great loss of happiness in the community of man, Scrooge undertakes the task of reversing his miserly acts. He calls to a boy to buy a goose and take it to the Crachit household; he enters the street and donates to the charity that he had earlier refused.   When Bob Crachit arrives at work, Scrooge treats him as Fezziwig had so many Christmases ago.  He visits his nephew and joins with his family in celebration.  Charity and love enter the heart of Scrooge after his exposure to the environments of past, present, and future.