A Christmas Carol | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Christmas Carol | Stave 5 : The End of It | Summary

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Summary

Ebenezer Scrooge is overwhelmed with gratitude to be alive, in his own bed, and given a second chance. He falls to his knees, trembling, thanking Jacob Marley and the spirits for showing him the error of his ways: "I am light as a feather, I am happy as an angel. I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man." He looks around his room delighted by everything he sees: the saucepan with gruel, the fireplace, the door knocker, the window. He bursts into laughter and trembles with joy. Although he knows he's home, he has no idea what day or time it is: "I don't know anything. I'm quite a baby. Never mind. I don't care. I'd rather be a baby." He calls out the window to a passing boy who tells him that it's Christmas Day. With a whoop of laughter, Scrooge offers the boy a large sum of money to buy the prize turkey hanging in the butcher's window. When the boy returns, Scrooge happily pays him and pays for a cab to deliver the turkey anonymously to the Cratchit home. After his business is completed, Scrooge doubles over with laughter that gives way to tears.

Inside, he begins dressing to attend Fred's Christmas party. Trembling with excitement, he struggles to dress and shave, "but if he had cut the end of his nose off, he would have put a piece of sticking-plaster over it, and been quite satisfied." As he walks to the party, he wishes everyone he meets a "Merry Christmas," much to their, and his, delight. He doesn't get far before crossing paths with one of the charity collectors he had so rudely turned away the day before. Now, however, he shakes the man's hand and apologizes for his behavior. The stunned collector can hardly believe his ears, stammering thanks when Scrooge offers to make a large donation, including "a great many back payments." The gift gives Scrooge even more joy than it gives the charity collector: "[Scrooge] had never dreamed that any walk—that anything—could give him so much happiness."

At Fred's house, Scrooge bursts in the party, much to everyone's surprise. While he suspects Fred might turn him away, "it is a mercy [Fred] didn't shake his arm off." He passes a wonderful, festive evening, tremendously enjoying the food, games, and company. The next morning, he rushes to work early in the hopes of catching Bob Cratchit coming in late. When Cratchit arrives (18 minutes late) he begins apologizing vociferously to his boss. Scrooge, who has not yet revealed his change of heart, leads Cratchit into believing he's going to be fired but surprises him by saying, "I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer ... and therefore I am about to raise your salary!" The story closes with the happy announcement that Scrooge becomes an even better man than he promised the spirits he would. He becomes like a second father to Tiny Tim—who does not die—and spends the rest of his Christmases surrounded by family and friends.

Analysis

Dickens makes clear again and again that the visits by the spirits were not dreams but reality. As Ebenezer Scrooge looks around his room, each joyful detail reminds him of what he experienced and the lessons he learned: "It's all right, it's all true, it all happened." Everything around him is transformed. Even the weather, once foggy and ominous, is now "clear, bright, jovial ... golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells." Scrooge views the morning with the same excited anticipation as a child—the tender emotions still stirred from his visit with the Ghost of Christmas Past. Like many adults who relive childhood traditions for the next generation, Scrooge sets about recreating happy Christmas memories, including a huge turkey, party games, and enjoying a lavish feast.

The theme of time is returned to with the cacophony of chimes on Christmas morning: "dong, ding, hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!" Scrooge is overjoyed to see that time has been returned to him. He rejoices to realize the spirits have "done it all in one night" and that the time he thought he had lost is "his own, to make amends in!" As soon as Scrooge awakens, he is transformed. He is a completely different man. The rebirth is symbolized through the references to babies—"I would rather be a baby," Scrooge thinks, suggesting his new innocence. The greedy, unhappy Scrooge is dead, replaced by a happy, generous Scrooge. In acting generously—through his gifts of money and time—Scrooge's redemption is complete. He begins making amends immediately, surprising everyone who crosses his path, from the charity collector, to the Cratchits, to Fred.

Scrooge's transformation isn't just external. Even his internal thoughts have changed. While he once silently chided passersby—like the caroler in Stave 1—he now enjoys the interaction: "An intelligent boy!" Scrooge thinks while talking to the boy who runs to buy the turkey, "It's a pleasure to talk to him." He looks around with a new attention to detail, realizing the happiness that can be found in everything from a servant's pleasant smile to the shape of a simple door knocker. Realizing all he has been missing out on, Scrooge is once again overwhelmed with emotion as he "[sits] down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried." Years of pent-up emotion pour out of him in a moment of catharsis (when a person both releases emotions and is released by them). Once again reminding the reader of his rebirth, Scrooge literally cries like a baby.

An important element in Scrooge's redemption is that of forgiveness. Yes, he has been transformed into a generous man, but part of making amends is seeking forgiveness for the wrongs committed. It is not simply enough for Scrooge to move forward generously; he must apologize for his years of cruel treatment. When he makes the large charity donation, for example, he opens with the request, "Allow me to ask your pardon." He asks that the collector accept the overwhelming donation as "a favour." Similarly, the reader sees both Fred's and Cratchit's forgiving natures as they heartily shake his hand or embrace him tenderly. Their forgiveness has been offered even without Scrooge requesting it.

At the end of the story, all the characters, including Tiny Tim, are happy, healthy, and full of life. In this final paragraph, Dickens reiterates the story's moral message: goodness can overcome anything, including sickness, poverty, suffering, and in the case of Tiny Tim, even death. If readers can take the simple message of charity to heart, God will "bless us, every one!"

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