Why was Ebenezer Scrooge given a second chance to change his actions when not everyone gets that opportunity?"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Readers do themselves injustices if they dismiss the significance of the title of a literary work, for it often holds the key to the theme of that work as well as the intent of the author in writing the work.  In the case of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," the author relates the tale of a miserly man who supports the Poor Law of 1834, much like the contemporaries of Dickens in order to serve as a lesson to his society.  For, as an advocate for the poor, Dickens was concerned about the evils of this law and uses his novella as a criticism of the economic system of England. 

In the singing of Christmas carols, people are warmed by the lyrics and music of the songs, they are enlightened by some lyrics, and they are often encouraged to some charitable action or feelings by these carols.  Likewise, in the reading of "A Christmas Carol" much emotion is evoked from the readers.  Often people feel more charitable towards others after its reading; they also conduct some soul searching of their own and examination of conscience regarding their own choice of priorities.  Thus, the character of Ebenezer Scrooge sits on the pages before readers as an extreme example of a man who has lost his hold on that which is truly valuable.  Unlike the "foolish children" of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," who are wise and realize that love is the greatest gift, Scrooge has forsaken what is truly meaningful--his love in his youth, his family with his nephew, his loyal employees with Bob Crachit, and, most of all, the plight of the needy.  Dickens's lesson is presented to all the readers of his novella in order that they, too, may be afforded a second chance and do good deeds and bring "peace to men of goodwill" as one Christmas carol goes.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is Ebeneezer Scrooge's old partner Joseph Marley who gives Scrooge his second chance in the short novel 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. Some may like to perceive the spirit of God working through him to offer Scrooge one last chance of redemption (a man should not be damned if he has not had his wicked ways pointed out clearly for him first, so that he can be seen to reject good for evil quite deliberately - or vice versa of course in happier situations such as Scrooge's.) Jacob Marley comes back briefly from the dead (albeit perhaps in a dream or nightmare) to warn his old partner Scrooge about where a miserable charity-less skinflint life can lead. We can suppose that there must have been some spark of humanity left in humanity in order for anything to be rekindled - perhaps his concern for Tiny Tim?

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dickens does not, of course, actually tell us why Scrooge gets a second chance.  So we can only speculate.  Here are some reasons I can think of:

  • Someone has to get a second chance in this story or there would be no point to it.  Scrooge is the obvious candidate because he is the person in the story who most badly needs to mend his ways.
  • Perhaps someone (God?) can tell that Scrooge actually has the capacity to change.  Maybe God or whoever it is that controls the spirits knows that deep inside, he really is a good person.
  • Maybe that same someone has decided that Scrooge's problems are really not his fault.  Maybe that someone has decided that there are things in his past that made him this way and therefore he deserves a second chance.

What do you think?

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That is an intelligent question. It brings up a fundamental question of selectivity. Dickens does not give an answer, but I think the basic idea is taken from a Christian worldview. The west is influenced by Christianity whether they acknowledge it or not. Christianity is just part of the intellectual and cultural idiom of the west. With that said, the idea of second chances and the idea of "redemption" probably comes from the general intellectual framework within which Dickens in writing. Scrooge can learn from his past and make right his erring ways. Also from a literary point of view, Dickens can offer a moral message by using Scrooge as a moral example of what to do.

mkcapen1 | Student

I believe it is because that is he whole value/message inthe story.  The story is almost like a fable in that it demonstrates to the reader that there is a lesson to be learned.  The lesson is that it is never too late to change.  Scrooge is old and has spent the majority of his life being unhappy and making others unhappy.  He is not really handed the chance to change, it is a decision that he must make on his own.  He could have stayed the same.  People are given chances to change all the time and they don't.  Scrooge made the decision to change.

The other moral in the story is that money doesn't buy happiness.  Scrooge had to learn this lessson as well. He had money but no joy in his life. In the end he had to make the decision to share the wealth he had accumulated.

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A Christmas Carol

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