The Corrupting Nature of Money in Great Expectations and a Christmas Carol

Topics: A Christmas Carol, Christmas, Charles Dickens Pages: 6 (1997 words) Published: June 28, 2008
Literature often deals with the human drive for wealth and material success. The love of money often exercises a harmful power over individuals, causing a conflict both within themselves and with others. Although the characters in A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations assess the value of people only in terms of their financial contributions to society, they learn that self respect and dignity can be derived from means other than the possession of money and prestige. Through Scrooge and Pip, Dickens shows how the love of money does not lead to happiness but rather defiles the soul, depriving it of morality and grace.

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge shows that his passion in life is money, and money alone. Scrooge is not well liked, in fact the people in the town regard Scrooge as "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner." He was so disliked that

"nobody ever stopped him in the street to say . . . ‘My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?' No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him [the time], no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place." (P 12)

His preoccupation with money robs him of any meaningful relationships, friends or acquaintances. Furthermore, even on Christmas Eve Scrooge has no visitors but his nephew, Fred, who wishes him a sincere ‘Merry Christmas'. In response to the festive greeting Scrooge demonstrates that he believes no one can be happy without money. He asks "What reason do you have to be merry? You're poor enough" (P 13). When Fred is leaving, he wishes Scrooge's clerk, Bob Cratchit, ‘Merry Christmas' and Bob returns the expression of merriment. Scrooge observes "My clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about Christmas. I'll retire to Bedlam" (P 15). Scrooge genuinely believes that without money, felicity is impossible. After Fred and Bob leave the shop, Scrooge is approached by Christians, who ask him for a donation so that they can raise money for the poor during the holiday season. He says,

" I cannot afford to make idle people merry. I help to support [the prisons, the Union workhouses, the Treadmill, and the Poor Law]."
"Many people can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population." (P 17)
Scrooge's stinginess, lack of sensitivity, ethics, and morals is evident. He thinks of everything in terms of money, and bases his entire being on the preservation of his money.

Because Scrooge has no friends or family since his sole preoccupation is his drive for wealth, he spends Christmas Eve alone, and is visited by four ghosts. The first is Marley, his dead business partner. He has come to warn Scrooge that if he doesn't change his ways, he will be forced to roam around earth, carrying a heavy chain, symbolic of the burden of sins. The next are the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. They each help Scrooge to realize his folly.

When Scrooge is visited by Marley's ghost, the spectre tells him how he has ruined his life because he is in love with money. Marley says that Scrooge does not know that "any Christian spirit working kindly in a little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. . .No space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused!" (P 26)

Scrooge is very disturbed by this idea and its application to himself. With wealth prevalent in his mind, he comments that although Marley suffered from this vice, he was a good businessman. Marley responds:

"Mankind was my business. The common welfare . . . charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade [money] were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business . . . Why did I walk through the crowds of fellow beings with my...
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