Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a festive classic of the ages. A beautiful novella which reinstates the holiday charm and real meaning of Christmas. Whether you were introduced to the tale as a child, watching The Muppets’ rendition while scoffing mince pies on a frosty Christmas Eve, or, if you are able to appreciate Dickens’s effortlessly distinctive descriptions and thin, printed pages, it is a tale that everyone is familiar with. Young or old, Dickens’s iconic characters and brilliant stories are embedded into all of our imaginations.
It is Christmas Eve, where we are introduced to our bitter protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge, an aging businessman who is formally against the idea of Christmas and all of its traditions. Scrooge is a complex and very real character, he does not take on the typical roles that Dickens usually assigns to the personas in his other novels. Dickens characterises his characters as either entirely villainous, such as Quilp in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, or as purely angelic characters, such as Oliver Twist. Scrooge is an odd mix of both. At the beginning he is cruel and selfish, and highly unlikeable. Apart from his elements of cynicism and sarcasm, he states logical reasons as to why he dislikes the festive period, with the issues it raises of money and idleness.
He says “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas,’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!” Scrooge’s money-based approach to life indicates his incapacity to feel emotion, as he seems closed to human traits such as love and generosity. His depiction as a damaged soul is one of the reasons he is such an intriguing protagonist.
Poor Scrooge, unable to enjoy festive merriment. He directly contrasts the portrayal of his nephew, Fred, who is a much-needed blessing to lighten the tale. Fred is the epitome of festivity and good will.
“But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle! ... And A Happy New Year!”
Dickens balances the characters incredibly well. His dialogue, characters, and settings, each holding their own unique comedic, emotional, or engrossing streak, show that elements within his novel are all very complementary of one another.
Scrooge’s lack of sympathy to those less fortunate than himself is reinstated by his dismissal of charity. His voice comically echoes that of the modern-day grumpy, drunk Uncle who spends the majority of Christmas Day moaning about how much money he has spent on presents, that year and every year before.
During his journeys with the spirits, it is revealed why Scrooge feels the way he does towards Christmas, and as a reader, I begin to sympathise with him. He unravels to be a highly complex and deeply troubled character.
By the Ghost of Christmas Past we are taken back to the various Christmases between Scrooge’s childhood and young adulthood. Discovering the deaths of both his sister and his business partner, Jacob Marley, readers can understand why he relates bitterness, suffering, and painful memories to the festive season. After the death of his mother, he is abandoned by his father at boarding school, leaving him permanently scared, miserable, and alone.
Another memory reveals that his fiancé, Belle, left him around Christmas, due to his downfall into the pursuit of money and greed. Scrooge is reminded of the man he was before his misfortunes, and that his suffering is partially due to his own weakness and shift in values. We all have the regret of a past love haunting us somewhere, it is just unfortunate for Scrooge that his falls over Christmas.
The novel is an ageless classic, as the values and morals that are deeply embedded into each character, completely transgress time. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come implies the harrowing reality of Scrooge’s actions, and the ultimate consequences of bad deeds. Dickens’s way with words encourages his readers to stay wary of the influences of greed and money.
Through his journeys, Scrooge’s spirit softens, making him kind, virtuous, loving, and someone who is willing to embrace the good in everyone. Dickens wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’ in the Victorian period when old traditions of Christmas were being reassessed, such as the traditional carols. It was also a time where newer features of the festive time, which we now see as classic were first instated, such as the Christmas tree. Scrooge’s journey, highlights the importance of family values, togetherness, and everything that should be celebrated around this time of year.