A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: An Expression of Beliefs through Characters and Sentiments

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In the Victorian era, when A Christmas Carol was written, the poor were exploited and family life was very hard. Dickens uses sentiment throughout the story to convey his message of sharing, caring, and giving, particularly at Christmas time.

The novel centres on the life of Ebenezer Scrooge who is an elderly, wealthy man with no wife or children and who is unimpressed by Christmas. He has no time for festivities or goodwill towards his fellowmen. Scrooge is tight fisted, penny pinching, covetous and jealous of everyone else’s good fortunes. In brief, his only interest and passion is making money and he is a miser who shows a decided lack of concern for the rest of society. He particularly detests Christmas which he views as “a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer”. He is also short tempered and cross in his attitude as he becomes richer. Consequently, his dismal, morose outlook on life leaves him friendless.

In contrast to Scrooge, Fezziwig has a very different outlook on Christmas. Fezziwig was Scrooge’s old boss and he believes Christmas should be a time to spend with families celebrating and making merry. His attitude towards his workers ensures that they should be on holiday on Christmas Eve. “No more work tonight its Christmas Eve, let’s have the shutters up”. Scrooge however had very different intentions for his workers. He believed they should continue to work. “Let me hear another sound from you and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation”. This threat by Scrooge confirms his view that there should be no holiday or holiday pay. Even when Scrooge is asked to donate to the poor and destitute, he refuses, believing that institutions and laws were in place to provide for these unfortunate people. These included prisons, Union workhouses, the Treadmill and the Poor Law. “Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course”. This shows that with all the money Scrooge had he would use any excuse possible not to be compassionate to less fortunate people. This clearly demonstrates over sentimentality. These two attitudes, so well described by Dickens are complete opposites.

Similarly, Scrooge’s nephew Fred is very different in character from Scrooge. His “come day, go day” approach and easygoing outlook on life, means he is a friendly and supportive character. Unlike Scrooge, he is happy, generous and kind. Although he is poor, he is cheerful and charitable to everyone. He is always forgiving and humble; showing kindness to the miserable, downhearted Scrooge. He has a fun sense of humour and is warm hearted and loved by many. Fred sees Christmas in the light that Dickens wants the reader to associate with “Christmas time…a good time, a kind forgiving charitable pleasant time”. Further, on he expresses “I believe that it has done me good and will do me good”. These two characters are used by Dickens to introduce the sentiments of fear and disgust, sympathy and laughter throughout the novel.

Dickens is able to create the captivating character of Scrooge, through his use of colourful language such as adjectives, which convey Scrooge as a dark, miserable old man who is motivated by work and obsessive greed. Although he is rich, he is grasping and is described as “hard and sharp as flint”. Flint is a cold, hard rock with sharp edges. This portrayal captures the character of Scrooge extremely well because he is very sharp-minded when he speaks. For example, he snaps at his nephew saying “Nephew! Keep Christmas in your own way and let me keep it in mine”. Here Scrooge comes across as independent and uncaring because he refuses to conform to the idea of celebrating Christmas, preferring to be alone and undisturbed. However, flint is also used to light fires, and as light represents joy and good spirits, this suggests that Scrooge may have a glimmer of warmth hidden inside him after all; there could be light at the...
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