illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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Ebenezer Scrooge was hardened by life, but became reformed into a good person again after his visits with the ghosts.

Scrooge is not described as very pleasant at the start of the book.  Dickens goes out of his way to point out what a terrible man he is to be around.

Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! (Stave 1)

It is important that the reader understand what a bad guy Scrooge is at this point, because if he wasn’t terrible, then his transformation would not have been as profound or as important. 

Dickens chose to set the story at Christmastime because he felt that it was a time when people should care about each other and look out for their fellow man.  The fact that Scrooge does not even want to be happy at the time of year that most people try to be happy makes the reader even more irritated with him.

Scrooge’s lack of family is an important element of his character at the beginning of the story.  Dickens is basically telling us that Scrooge is such a sourpuss because he has eliminated all attempts to be happy—he has pushed aside any chance at family.

This point is driven home when Scrooge’s nephew Fred makes his yearly pilgrimage to try to ask Scrooge to dinner.  Scrooge refuses, and his nephew is still polite.  He is aware that Scrooge desperately needs family.  He has surrounded himself with isolation to avoid the pain of loss.  We see this in his sister’s death, his fiancé’s leaving him, and his father’s treatment of him when his mother died.  Scrooge wants a family.  Look how quickly he responds to his old friends in the past, and the sympathy he shows the Cratchits in the present.

The ghosts transform Scrooge because he is open to transformation.  We see in the journey through his life that he was not always cold and hard.  At the first trip down memory lane, Scrooge becomes positively joyful at seeing his old school.

The jocund travellers came on; and as they came, Scrooge knew and named them every one. Why was he rejoiced beyond all bounds to see them! Why did his cold eye glisten, and his heart leap up as they went past! (Stave 2)

This trend continues as he sees Fezziwig and Belle.  These are people he used to be very close to.  At first he is thrilled to see them, and the old feelings he has been hiding for so long come out.  By the time the Ghost of Christmas Present comes, Scrooge’s hard shell is beginning to crack.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.” (Stave 3)

By the time the last ghost appears, Scrooge is eagerly awaiting whatever lesson is next. He does not even realize that the man whose death he is seeing is himself, because in his mind he is transformed.  He already is a new man.

Scrooge is as good as his word.  He not only goes to dinner at Fred’s house, he also becomes a second father to Tin Tim and a friend to Bob Cratchit.  By the end of the book, he really is a new man.  He is generous, jovial, and kind to all who are less fortunate.  This is the lesson Dickens wanted for all of us.  It is never late to change, and when you do you are helping yourself as much as anyone.

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