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How does the main protagonist in A Christmas Carol change throughout the text?
Paragraph 1 - Introduction (1.1)
“A Christmas Carol” is still popular in the modern world where the division between the well-off and the destitute is still a case. With its themes of importance of moral values rather than obsession with money, importance of family, the power of a man’s free will, and social poverty and hardships faced by workers during the Industrial Age, it offers a fictional a story of an old stingy man who finally learns to appreciate life and act generously. Set in the mid-nineteenth century, the novella focuses on mystical experience of Ebenezer Scrooge, its protagonist. Scrooge, which is undeniably a dynamic character, undergoes a series of changes within his personality and evolves a man completely different from what he used to be. The goal of this paper is to analyze how exactly Scrooge changes throughout the text and provide accurate evidence of these changes. In addition, the paper discusses whether the language has been used effectively, whether tone and images have efficiently conveyed these changes. It also depicts the social and cultural setting of the novella. The paper concludes with the summary of the ideas discussed and evaluation of relevance of the issues raised by Dickens to the problems found in the modern society.
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Paragraph 2 – How Scrooge changes throughout the text (1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2)
Before identifying actual changes within the character of Ebenezer Scrooge throughout the text of “A Christmas Carol”, one should focus on the main message of the novella. It is certainly moral. No money and no work can replace humane attitude, happy family life and morality. No financial success will lead a person to happiness, if it is rooted in making other people unhappy and penniless. Besides, it seems, Dickens wanted to show that any person who lives unjustly will be “rewarded” accordingly, be it in afterlife or in the earthly existence. Respectively, the author’s intention was to show that a person who is burdened by his or her stinginess and obsession with material wellbeing may and should change his or her lifestyle so that financial success is not achieved at the expense of relations with the people around.
Driven by this intention, Dickens makes Scrooge, the novella’s protagonist, a truly dynamic character. At the beginning of the story, Scrooge is described as a person devoid of compassion, a businessman who achieves success thanks to penny pinching and ruthlessly exploiting other people (for example, his poor clerk Bob Cratchit). Yet, by the end of the story, Scrooge has already turned into a virtually exemplary man through experiencing a set of feelings and emotions that may be referred to as catharsis. At first, he gets shocked and frightened when he sees the ghost of his late companion Marley. The visitation of Marley’s ghost seemed even scarier if to think that the ghost opened the door which was locked by Scrooge from inside. Also, he looked dreadful covered in numerous chains and locks. This made his warning about the visitations of three spirits sound really ominous. So Scrooge is frightened.
When he is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge is taken to his past. The vision of his fiancée and young Bob Cratchit brings some change into Scrooge’s character and his heart seems to start melting. To illustrate, Scrooge begs the spirit to stop showing him the pictures that torture him: “Spirit!” said Scrooge in a broken voice, “remove me from this place” (…) “Remove me!” Scrooge exclaimed. “I cannot bear it!” (Dickens, 1858: 44). The visit of the second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, which shows to Scrooge his greediness makes Scrooge realize his stinginess. He changes his attitude to money and realizes that he should give alms and raise his clerk’s wages. The visitation of this spirit also teaches Scrooge to have fun and enjoy life. Lastly, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who chases the miser around the city and shows how people celebrate his death, makes Scrooge horrified by his own self. The appalling pictures leave Scrooge resolute to dramatically change his lifestyle. Scrooge begs the apparition for forgiveness and promises he will change his life. This is how Scrooge manages to reinvent himself through moral renewal brought by visits of three dreadful apparitions and a prophetic insight into his Scrooge’s grim future.
Paragraph 3 – Language (4.2)
If to follow Dickens in his use of language and tone employed to depict Scrooge in his moral reinvention, a vivid description of how he becomes an exemplary man emerges. At the beginning of the story, Scrooge is a miser. This is evident from the following description by Dickens found in Stave I:
“But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster” (Dickens 1868: 2).
The foregoing passage contains an expressive use of language. For instance, Dickens uses a simile to provide an insight into the nature of his protagonist and compares him with an oyster, as well as with a flint. This effective comparison of two unlike objects works well and constructs a vivid image of the miser in readers’ mind. Besides, such epithets as clutching, covetous, and self-contained, etc. make the narrator’s language highly descriptive, which helps to grasp the extent to which Scrooge was ruthless and miserly.
Throughout “A Christmas Carol”, the protagonist faces a series of changes within himself, which leads him to a decision to alter his lifestyle and commence doing only good things. While the author’s tone is jovial and even jocular in the beginning, as well as quite relaxing at the end, the middle part of the novella is imbued with stern messages and the author’s tone is quite different. It is wry and ironic, and evokes certain displeasure, which is probably simultaneous to Scrooge’s own terror and shock. When the protagonist finally reinvents his personality and opts for a new mode of life, the tone gets sentimental and quite light again. To illustrate at the beginning, the author narrates rather humorously in Stave I,
“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon. ‘Change’ for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was dead as a door nail” (Dickens 1868: 1).
After the protagonist has been visited by three dreadful ghosts and has been shown his gloomy future perspectives, he purifies his soul by recognition of his own greediness, lack of compassion and vanity. What follows after this revelation is described in a tone that may be called rather sentimental. For instance, Stave V starts with Scrooge’s awakening after the last ghost’s visit. The following passage describes what the protagonist feels:
“Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; Sweet fresh air, merry bells. Oh Glorious. Glorious” (Dickens 1868: 93).
Paragraph 4 – Imagery (3.2)
In “Christmas Carol”, a set of powerful mental images and pictures is used to effectively convey the main idea. In my view, the most impressive images used are metaphorical images of the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The Ghost of Christmas Past is a symbol or rather, personification, of human memory. The light shining from the ghost’s head is a symbol of the light of memory each person is capable of evoking. To illustrate it, Scrooge manages to reflect on his past experience by the end of the Stave II. Next, the Ghost of Christmas Carol symbolizes and personifies generosity. The image created by Dickens, with its large breast and a torch which looks like a cornucopia, corresponds to the idea of generosity. As for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, it symbolizes and personifies the progress of time and its movement to a man’s end. In other words, this ghost symbolizes death with its austerity and an impressive manner.
Paragraph 5 – Social, Historical, Cultural Features Implicit and Explicit (1.1, 2.1, 4.1)
Social, historical and cultural features are explicitly and implicitly depicted in “A Christmas Carol”. While the major themes of the novella are the importance of moral values, significance of family in life of every person, the strength of a man’s free will and social inequality, the most impressive details related to the social and historical context are those that reveal the abject poverty faced by British workers in the so-called Industrial Age. It seems, the depiction of how working people celebrate Christmas amidst deep poverty is documentary. Explicitly, the message here is that of a need for expressing compassion and the poor. Filth, disease and malnutrition were the realities explicitly depicted by Dickens. In particular, in “A Christmas Carol”, Dickens showed the neglectful attitude to poor children. To illustrate, instead of feeling compassion towards miserable children, Scrooge says, ““If they would rather die, (…) they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population” (Dickens 1868: 9).
While the explicit meanings of the novella can be easily identified, looking for implicit or hidden meanings requires some research. Specifically, one of the implicit backgrounds found in the behavior of Scrooge, as suggested by Erickson, is Scrooge’s Keynesianism. Erickson uncovers Scrooge’s acting in tune with the thinking of Keynesianism through the way Dickens portrays the atmosphere of consumption as cheerful. It is implied that the readers of A Christmas Carol belong to the same part of society as Scrooge (Erickson, 2009). In addition, the description of the Christmas dinner in the family of Bob Cratchit, especially the focus on the crippled boy, implicitly contradicts the Malthusian philosophy that was popular at that time. The latter stated that a person who cannot provide his/her living or get the subsistence from the nearest and dearest has no right to exist and eat food (Erickson 2009).
Paragraph 6 – Conclusion (4.1)
To conclude, the protagonist of “A Christmas Carol”Mr Ebenezer Scrooge undergoes a series of transformations throughout the text. He learns to value family and people, learns to love, as well as manages to rise above his greed and stinginess. From a miser, he turns into a generous and sympathetic man. It seems, his heart of stone melts and becomes warm and loving. To convey the multitude of transformations within Scrooge’s personality, Dickens uses various literary devices, such as figurative language, ironic and sentimental tone, expressive imagery and symbols, as well as fills the novella with accurate descriptions of the working class realities of his time. Besides, Dickens succeeds in portraying Christmas as a time of unity in a society by Scrooge’s reunion with his family members and his compassion to the poor. In modern multicultural society this seems very important for Christmas has acquired the role of the holiday of unity and generosity.
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