Redemption & Change
Exploration of a Theme
The novella pivots around the idea of change as the reader witnesses the transformation of Scrooge. Part of the appeal of the story is this idea that if Scrooge can change, then there is hope for us all.
‘solitary as an oyster’
At the start of the novella, Scrooge is described as isolated and miserable.
The simile could represent Scrooge as someone with a hidden pearl inside of him, someone who has an inner goodness that, if the shell is opened, will be revealed. From the beginning, there is hope that Scrooge can be redeemed.
‘Is its pattern strange to you?’
Marley challenges Scrooge to recognise his chain which he forged in his life with every selfish decision based on avarice not compassion. The direct question forces Scrooge to begin to think about his own way of life. It is also a question to the reader to consider his or her morality. Part of the novella’s purpose is to transform the reader and society, not just Scrooge.
Context: One of Dickens’ purposes in writing ‘A Christmas Carol’ was to raise awareness in his readership of the dreadful conditions that the poor suffered in and to change the attitudes of the rich towards social responsibility. Here he challenges the wealthy readers to confront the way they conduct their lives.
‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business’
Marley tells Scrooge how wrong his way of life was. He realises now that is it too late, that he should have been more interested in humankind, not profit.
These declarative simple sentences show the conviction with which Marley speaks. He is certain in his new knowledge that he should have helped the poor. Marley’s understanding that he has made the wrong choices foreshadows Scrooge’s transformation; as they were close friends, we hope that Scrooge will also understand the error of his ways and make changes before he too is doomed to an eternity of suffering.
Context: Dickens was deeply concerned with the poverty in Victorian England, having experienced hardship himself when he was a boy and his father was sent to prison for debt. He stated that he wished to ‘strike the heaviest blow in my power’ to help change society; ‘A Christmas Carol’ is this heavy blow.
‘Without their visits… you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow…’
Marley informs Scrooge that the visits of the ghosts will show him the error of his ways, Here he acts as a plot device as he explains the purpose of the ghosts: to educate Scrooge and to warn him. This also heightens dramatic tension as we wonder if Scrooge will be redeemed or whether it is too late.
Marley embodies the idea of redemption; he is trying to redeem Scrooge and save him from a terrible fate of walking the earth, doomed to carry a terrible chain. We can only wonder if this one act that Marley takes to care for another is enough to save him from an eternity of horror.
‘Why, it’s Ali Baba!’ Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy’
The Ghost of Christmas Present begins the transformation process as he takes Scrooge back in time to see his childhood self reading a story from the Arabian Nights and the character, Ali Baba, from the story, coming alive for the lonely boy. Dickens allows us here to feel pity for the young Scrooge as we understand how circumstances shaped him, as indeed our own childhood experiences shape us all.
Scrooge is beginning to change. The verb ‘exclaimed’ shows how animated he is and the noun ‘ecstasy’ captures his joy of reading. He is seeing happiness in something other than money.
‘No, no… oh no… say he will be spared’
Scrooge’s agony over the predicted death of Tiny Tim shows how much he is changing; the repetition of ‘no’ shows his emotional pain at the thought of the boy’s death.
There is a sharp contrast with his deep concern over a poor boy and the dismissive attitude to the ‘surplus population’ in Stave 1. Scrooge is learning compassion; he is connecting with humanity again.
Context: Dickens’ aim in writing the novella was to show how the Christmas Spirit can change an individual, and also society, for the better. Scrooge’s transformation shows the reader how it is possible to change.
‘I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy’
Scrooge’s transformation is complete as he states just how differently he feels.
The repetitive sentence structure of similes highlights his newfound positivity. There is a sense of Christian goodness with the comparison to an angel and genuine joy in the comparison to the school-boy. We see the delight and hope that transformation brings. Scrooge then proceeds to correct the mistakes he made in Stave One by giving money to charity and improves Bob’s Christmas; Dickens uses a mirrored structure to show the change in Scrooge.
Grade 9 Analysis
Look at the character in a different way.
How far is ‘A Christmas Carol’ a Christian tale of redemption?
Christian: Scrooge is described as a ‘sinner’ and the ghosts work to redeem him from the vice of avarice (love of money). The Ghost of Christmas Past is described as having a ‘bright clear jet of light’ that ‘sprung’ from his head and so is linked to Jesus Christ, who was named the ‘Light of the World’ and died to redeem mankind’s sin. This links into the theme of redemption, as Scrooge is a sinner who needs to be redeemed (saved).
Non-Christian: Dickens draws on pagan ideas as well as Christian; the Ghost of Christmas Present holds a torch which resembles the Horn of Plenty or Cornucopia from Greek and Roman mythology. His view of redemption goes beyond the realms of the established church and connects to a wider view of humanity.
Dickens often criticised established religion and its practices, rejecting Sabbatarianism, a practice which promoted keeping Sunday as a strict day of rest, which meant that bakers’ shops were closed and the poor had no means of cooking on their day off. The novella focuses more on humanity than religion.