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A Christmas Carol | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Christmas Carol | Discussion Questions 1 - 10


What impact does Ebenezer Scrooge's generosity have in A Christmas Carol, Stave 5?

After his transformation, Ebenezer Scrooge gives generously in different ways. The most obvious way is the raise he gives Bob Cratchit, which allows him to pay for Tiny Tim's medical needs, thus saving his life. Scrooge is also generous with his time, not only sharing Christmas with family and friends (for the first time ever) but with his community as well: "He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good city knew." Further, Scrooge's financial generosity has social impacts by improving wealth distribution and closing the gap between rich and poor. His purchase of the giant turkey, for example, financially benefits the butcher, the errand boy, and the cab driver who delivered it to the Cratchits.

How does Ebenezer Scrooge's transformation in A Christmas Carol, Stave 5 promote Dickens's spiritual beliefs?

Charles Dickens was an active member of the Unitarian Church after leaving the Anglican Church in which he had grown up. He was particularly drawn to the somewhat socialist Unitarian message of avoiding materialism, helping those in need, and striving to make the world a better place for all (not just yourself). These messages are clearly seen in Ebenezer Scrooge's transformation from a greedy miser to a generous benefactor. Not only is Scrooge generous with his money after his transformation, he also looks at the world with greater interest, noticing small details (like his door knocker) that he would have otherwise ignored: "I shall love it, as long as I live ... I scarcely ever looked at it before!" This suggests Scrooge's newfound outlook to identify small problems and change them.

Why do Ignorance and Want cling to the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol, Stave 3?

Ignorance and want are two elements of society that have always existed. Through their presence in A Christmas Carol, however, Dickens argues that they exist in a new way during Victorian England and the rise of the Industrial Revolution. For this reason, Ignorance and Want cling to the Ghost of Christmas Present rather than the ghosts of Christmas Past or Yet to Come. The fact that they are children, small and malnourished, suggests hope that they can be properly dealt with before they become larger problems. This hope comes with the warning from the spirit to "beware them both, and all of their degree." Clearly, Dickens believes Ignorance and Want are the two most important social issues to be dealt with in the present.

In A Christmas Carol, Stave 5 which words are "blithest" on Ebenezer Scrooge's ears and why?

When Ebenezer Scrooge wakes on Christmas morning and realizes he has been given a second chance, he rushes to the streets. Everything about his appearance and presence is so utterly transformed that passersby greet him with "Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you!" as if they don't recognize him. Of these statements the narrator says, "And Scrooge said often afterwards, that of all the blithe sounds he had ever heard, those were the blithest in his ears." The words are so "blithe" or "happy" because they show Scrooge that just by being pleasant, he can become part of the community he had bitterly shut out. He knows he is alive and has been given a second chance to save himself and Tiny Tim.

How does Dickens use similes to support the themes of A Christmas Carol?

The strongest simile Dickens uses in A Christmas Carol is Bob Cratchit's statement that Tiny Tim's behavior was "as good as gold," in Stave 3. This statement not only helps characterize Tiny Tim but also strengthens the story's moral message that love and family are more important than financial wealth (gold). In Stave 1, the story gains gothic appeal by comparing Jacob Marley to a demonic animal with the description of his chain: "It was long and wound around him like a tail." While the opening stave creates images of heaviness and emotional weight, Stave 5 uses similes like "I'm as light as a feather" and "I am as happy as an angel" to underscore Ebenezer Scrooge's transformation.

In what ways is Ebenezer Scrooge a Gothic character in A Christmas Carol?

Gothic characters are typically two-dimensional characters that remain stagnant and flat throughout the story. They rely heavily on stereotypes and literary clichés to make them easier for readers to understand. At the opening of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge's character is a textbook example of a Gothic villain: he treats people terribly, is selfish, and has no redeeming qualities. No background information is given to complicate the character's backstory or garner understanding of his bad behavior. Scrooge is also an example of a Gothic character because he lives in a gloomy setting (both the city of London and his dark house), and his fate is altered by a prophecy (Marley's promise of the three spirits' visits). By the end of the story, however, Scrooge breaks the Gothic character mold by undergoing deep transformation and redemption.

How does Ebenezer Scrooge's character transform between Stave 1 and Stave 2 in A Christmas Carol

In Stave 1, Ebenezer Scrooge is at his miserly peak. He hates everything in life except money and demands that everything happen on his own terms. Even giving Bob Cratchit the Christmas Day off means Bob must come in "all the earlier" the next morning. He is also rude, dismissing the charity collectors and his nephew with vicious outbursts, and defiant, defying the presence of Jacob Marley's ghost when it visits him: "I have but to swallow [this toothpick], and be for the rest of my days persecuted by a legion of goblins, all of my own creation. Humbug, I tell you—humbug!" As the hour of the first spirit's arrival approaches, however, Scrooge begins to transform. He tries to maintain his strong, controlling persona, but finds himself "scrambling out of bed," "groping his way to the window," and "trembling." He is as terrified as a child. By the time he is transported to the first vision, any remnants of his tough façade have fallen away and he is completely exposed, vulnerable, and crying.

What is significant about the goose at the Cratchit family Christmas dinner in Stave 3 of A Christmas Carol?

The goose in Stave 3 creates a meager feast, but the family is elated to share it: "And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker's they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion." The family has scrimped and saved for their tiny Christmas feast, and even though it's barely enough to feed everyone, they exclaim that "there never was such a goose ... Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration." Their joy over this meal highlights how scanty their regular fare must be, and yet the family chooses to be happy with their lot rather than be envious of those who have more. Through their revelry of the goose they teach Ebenezer Scrooge that it is more important to be appreciative than to be rich.

How does the Industrial Revolution create a backdrop for A Christmas Carol?

A Christmas Carol is set in the mid-19th century at the peak of the Industrial Revolution. The increase of factories in London created a dense fog, which is clearly seen in Stave 1 in the "cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal" and the people "wheezing up and down" the streets, breathing the polluted air. The streets are "crowded" and filled with beggars, as hundreds of thousands of people poured into big cities in the hopes of finding factory jobs. Those lucky enough to find jobs, however, were forced into long hours in unregulated conditions. Pay was minimal, which created a wide gap between the "haves" and "have nots" in society, a prominent theme in the story. Although Bob Cratchit isn't working a factory job, he is forced to work long hours in the freezing cold for very little pay.

How is Belle "rich" in Stave 2 of A Christmas Carol?

As a young woman, Belle chooses to end her engagement to Ebenezer Scrooge and marry a man who makes her happy, even if that marriage meant poverty. She makes clear that money is not nearly as important to her as love. Her definition of being "rich" is clearly different than Scrooge's. As a grown woman, Belle lives in a house that is "not very large or handsome, but full of comfort." She spends her Christmas surrounded by so many gleeful children that "the noise in [the] room was perfectly tumultuous, for there were more children there, than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count." Her husband comes home like Santa Claus, arms filled with presents as happy children tumble around him. The sight is so devastating to Scrooge that he leaps upon the spirit to extinguish its light, realizing he invested in the wrong type of "riches."

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