Symbolism in a Christmas Carol

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A Christmas Carol—Theme Expressed Through Symbolism

"Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my
business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business."

A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens is a straightforward narrative, which effectively uses symbolism to develop the major theme of the novel, "Mankind is everyone's business." Dickens' careful choice of words demonstrates his excellent use of this literary technique. He begins his use of symbolism with the book's title and carries through to the end of the story. The characters in A Christmas Carol also reflect symbolism. The main character, Scrooge, whose name comes from the words "screw" and "gouge", means hard-hearted. Marley, Scrooge's deceased business partner, represents the conscience of mankind. The three ghosts who visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve stand for memory, charity and the fear of death. By effectively blending symbolism into his characters and various objects within the novel, Dickens reminds his readers of the importance of taking notice of those around them. In the opening Stave of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens describes Scrooge as a "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutch, covetous old sinner." Scrooge symbolizes all that dampens the Christmas spirit—greed, selfishness and a lack of consideration for mankind. Dickens clearly shows Scrooge's character when two gentlemen approach him about a donation to help the poor at Christmas. Scrooge insists, "It's not my business. It's enough for a man to understand his own business and not interfere with other people's." The main character's Bah! Humbug! attitude is further seen in his treatment of his one employee, Bob Cratchit. The author characterizes Bob Cratchit as meek and gentle, which sharply contrasts Scrooge's sour disposition and harsh treatment of mankind. Dickens' uses Bob Cratchit's character to symbolize the difficulties facing the lower class in England. Due to the meager salary, Bob Cratchit is unable to afford the necessary medical treatment for his youngest son, Tiny Tim. Cratchit is also faced with the reality of having to give his son a pauper's funeral in the third stave of the novel. Dickens used this picture to address and undermine upper class prejudices, awaken readers to the harsh realities of poverty and bring attention to the strict, unjust laws governing those in poverty during the Victorian Era. As the story continues, Jacob Marley's ghost visits Scrooge. Through Marley's character, Dickens furthers his use of symbolism to expand the major theme in the book. Jacob Marley, a miser much like Scrooge, is suffering the consequences of his greedy ways in his afterlife. He appears to Scrooge draped in a heavy chain made of "cashboxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel." Dickens cleverly uses the chain to represent Marley's misplaced values while on earth and the misery he must now suffer because of his selfishness. Scrooge learns that he too wears a chain, much larger and longer than Marley's. Jacob warns Scrooge that any human who does not socialize with others during his life must travel among them in death. Dickens uses Marley's warning as a way to express the novel's major theme, "Mankind is my business. The welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business." Marley warns Scrooge he must change his ways or he too will suffer the same fate. Before leaving, Marley tells Scrooge of three more spirits that will visit him and hopefully change his destiny. At a designated time, each spirit appears to Scrooge, taking him on a journey through his miserable life. The first ghost, Christmas Past, comes as both a child and a man with a "bright, clear jet...
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