With reference to the themes of wealth and poverty, what lessons do you think Charles Dickens wanted his audience to learn from the story of Scrooge’s changing character? Charles Dickens was using ‘A Christmas Carol’ as an attempt to challenge his audience of rich contemporaries into action to combat the problem of the mistreatment of the poor in London at that time. Poverty at this time was rife in London. The penny-pinching, tight-fisted, upper and middle classes exploited the poor and underprivileged around them. Charles Dickens wished to change this with his novella ‘A Christmas Carol’.
He wished to communicate to them the problems that the poor were facing and that they should be helped and not just put in poor houses and prisons to ‘decrease the surplus population’. He felt that the poor were being grossly mistreated and that his work will be able to get through to people as nothing else would. He hoped it would be widely read and would influence people especially at the time of Christmas as people tend to be kinder to their fellow human beings at that time of year. He wished to bring relief to the problems that the poor face day on day.
The Theme Of Poverty In A Christmas Carol
In Stave One, we are presented with the character of Scrooge at his most miserly, the embodiment of all of the appalling qualities of the Victorian money lenders at that time. Dickens uses the linguistic tool of pathetic fallacy in the introduction of this stave to great effect in his description of Scrooge: “He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas”. This is also a good example of how in his descriptions of people he only creates impossibly bad and evil characters (in this case Scrooge) and impossibly good and perfect characters as well (e.
g. the Cratchits). Another linguistic technique that Dickens uses powerfully in this book is listing adjectives and present participle verbs to build up a vivid picture of the characters, especially Scrooge. An example of this comes close to the beginning of stave one as Scrooge is being introduced to the reader: “Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! ” This is also a good example of the hyperbole Dickens uses to hammer home his message of the need for social reform.
We are then presented with Scrooge’s nephew at the counting house. He is juxtaposed with Scrooge, thus emphasising the awful qualities of his uncle. The portly gentlemen that visit the counting house next are used as a device to show Scrooge’s lack of social conscience. This works because of Scrooge’s response to their request of charity to the poor: ‘Are there no prisons? ‘ This is a direct response to the quote ‘Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire’ meaning that Scrooge was very unyielding with money.
Dickens brings the element of social commentary into the book again. When Scrooge returns from the counting house to his own deserted apartment he is visited by the ghost of his long dead partner Jacob Marley. Marley warns him of the trouble that will befall him if he doesn’t change his exploitative ways and informs him of the three spirits. They will show him where he has gone wrong in life and what the world will be like if he doesn’t change his life for the better. Stave Two begins with Scrooge being brought by the first spirit to his school with him as a child.
He is secluded from other people at this school during the Christmas holidays; his peers have somewhere to go during the break and Scrooge has nowhere. This shows to the reader where Scrooge’s hatred for Christmas comes from and also his feeling that all Christmas has done for him is ill. His solitude is heightened through the line, ‘One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy. ‘ He is talking about himself here in the third person emphasising to the reader his feelings of loneliness at this time and how they shaped him later in life.
Another quotation from the text to support this argument is: ‘Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, “Poor boy! ” and cried again. ‘ I think Dicken’s message to his audience in this passage is that even if you have reasons for being the person you are now, you can still change. When Scrooge is brought to Fezziwig’s warehouse and office building we are shown an example of how a good businessman should act towards his employees and apprentices at Christmas. It also shows Scrooge’s guilty conscience.
He later says: ‘I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all. ‘, after viewing how well Fezziwig treats his underlings. There is a realisation on Scrooge’s part of how badly he treats his employees compared to how he could when he remarks ‘He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.
‘ He sees how differently he could behave towards Bob Cratchit and this is the beginning of Scrooge changing as a person. We are next brought to a Christmas later on when Scrooge’s infatuation with money has become so great that his fianci? is leaving him because of his love of money ”It matters little,’ she said, softly. ‘To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve. ‘ ‘What Idol has displaced you? ‘ he rejoined. ‘A golden one. ”
This quote is a warning from Dickens to his audience of the dangers of becoming money-obsessed. It can drive away the people that you hold to be the most important to you and therefore this is to be avoided. This, I feel, is the beginning of Scrooge’s transformation and, through the line ”Spirit,’ said Scrooge, ‘show me no more. Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me? ‘,’ Scrooge’s realisation as to what he has lost. Dickens wanted to show his educated, rich audience that the pursuit of wealth was not everything in life. People should think of others, and that will bring happiness to them too.