How is wealth treated in A Christmas Carol? Is it a sign of moral corruption and greed, or does Dickens offer a more complex assessment?
This is a very interesting question, as it seems that Dickens does not present wealth as an automatically negative trait in this text. Rather, he creates a much more complex view of wealth which indicates that it is not the possession of wealth by itself that leads to corruption, but it is the atittude that one has towards one wealth that defines whether wealth becomes a vice or not. This is shown by the end of the story, where Scrooge remains wealthy, but the difference is that he is far less stingy and much more willing to share his wealth in a way that is good and just. Note how he meets the same man who asked for a donation at the beginning of the book and clearly gives him a lot of money. In the same vein, Scrooge is clearly very generous towards Bob Cratchit:
I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!
It seems clear therefore that possessing wealth in itself is not a vice in any way and does not naturally result in moral corruption; it is the attitude that one has towards that wealth that matters. At the end of the text, after Scrooge has suffered his ghostly visitations, he is able to change his attitude and remain wealthy, and as a result the text says that "his own heart laughed," clearly indicating that the money boxes that were chained to Old Marley's ghost, and would have been tied to the ghost of Scrooge when he died, have been severed, and Scrooge remains a happier and lighter person as a result.