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Character Analysis of A Christmas Carol

Ebenezer Scrooge

At the start of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is described as a miserly and cold-hearted character. The use of listing depicts him as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.” Slightly later, a simile is also used to paint the character “as solitary as an oyster” – something closed and very distant.

Scrooge first shows signs of change when he is visited by Jacob Marley’s Ghost. The ghost’s dialogue serves as a warning to Scrooge: “I wear the chains I forged in life,” whereby the chains are symbolic of how “heavy” guilt can be. Charles Dickens also provides a clear warning in stave three, where Scrooge’s character cannot bear to hear his own words echoed back by the ghost:

“Are there no prisons… And the union workhouses?”

By the end of the novella, following the ghostly visits, Scrooge has a renewed attitude: “He did it all, and infinitely more” – his character laughs, cares and becomes generous. Dickens shows that even the most selfish of people can transform and take social responsibility.

Bob Cratchit

Bob Cratchit (the clerk) presents working-class struggles and a sense of virtue. Dickens portrayed the lack of rights that lower-class workers experienced at the time. Bob also represents the overworked and underpaid. He is a foil to Scrooge:

“Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal”

Bob shows warmth and kindness consistently, despite trial and tribulation, whilst Scrooge is contrastingly cold and selfish.

Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past is perhaps the first symbol of hope in the novella – it is “the purest white” (possibly a spiritual link to Jesus or saint-like imagery). This ghost foreshadows a redemptive journey ahead. It is an ephemeral ghost (goes and comes quickly), both young and “like an old man”, with a “bright, clear jet of light” streaming from its head.

The purpose of each ghost is didactic (to teach). The ‘Christmas Past’ takes Scrooge on an uncomfortable journey through his memories:

  • Scrooge sees himself with his father and sister
  • His relationship breakdown with Belle
  • Fezziwig’s party

Through these moments, the character is forced into a supernatural self-awareness where he must reflect.   

Ghost of Christmas Present

This ghost is presented as a “jolly giant” with an “open hand.” This character also has dominating dialogue, with imperatives and exclamatives such as: “come in!” and “look upon me!”

Interestingly, when the Ghost of Christmas Present is introduced, he is seated on a throne. This is perhaps Dickens’ way of challenging the Malthusian view: there were not enough resources for the lower classes because the wealthier classes hoarded the abundance.

It could also be that Dickens foreshadows the God-like influence that the ghosts will have over Scrooge by the end of the novella. This phantom mocks Scrooge’s own words regarding ‘the surplus population’ – acting as a voice for Dickens’ own mockery of the attitude that some people held towards the poor.

Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Future)

The most lamenting and startling of the three main ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, is described with three adverbs: “slowly, gravely, silently.” Covered in “a deep black garment,” this ghost symbolises the Grim Reaper, personifying death. This is Scrooge’s final warning to repent, and a complete contrast to the “light” symbolised through the first ghost.

If Scrooge does not change now, then his future and afterlife (remember – it was a largely Christian society) will be dark and bleak. The silent Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come provides a prolepsis (a flash forward), showing Scrooge his future gravestone, where he “read upon the neglected grave his own name EBENEZER SCROOGE.”

Tiny Tim

“God bless us, every one” has become a well-known declarative from the story, spoken by the sick and frail Tiny Tim. The character’s potential for death is upsetting for readers. This is not only because he is a young child, but also because he is suffering as a result of the Victorian class system. Tiny Tim functions as the catalyst for Scrooge’s change.

Belle

Belle’s character signifies lost human connection and relationship, and is another motive for Scrooge’s reflection. Her character despairs “another idol has displaced me…Gain engrosses you,” revealing how hurt and rejected she felt when Scrooge began idolising money, instead of enjoying time with her.

Fezziwig

Dickens juxtaposes Scrooge with Fezziwig, who is a compassionate and fair employer. This is exaggerated by Dickens when he describes the jovial Christmas party that Fezziwig held for his employees, and Scrooge recalls:

“The happiness [Fezziwig] gives is quite as great as if it costs a fortune.”

Dickens again emphasises the value of human connection over excessive wealth.

Ignorance and Want

Ignorance and Want (two metaphorical children clinging to the Ghost of Christmas Present’s cloak) are explicit visual symbols of society at the time. They are described as “wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable.”

‘Ignorance’ represents a lack of awareness surrounding economic inequalities at the time, whilst ‘Want’ represents how the poor were weighed down by the basic need to eat to survive.

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