In Stave One when Marley’s ghost enters Scrooge’s home, Dickens give the reader a hint on what is going to happen by saying that ‘Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains. ’ This is because Marley had lived his life as a money grabber like Scrooge, and because he failed to change his ways he must spend an eternity dragging chains and money boxes around. The ghost tells Scrooge that he is here to warn him that he must change or face Marley’s fate: ‘A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer’.
Marley then tells Scrooge of the three spirits that will visit him, and to capture his shock Dickens describes this to the reader as ‘Scrooge’s countenance fell almost as low as the ghost’s had done’. Marley’s ghost teaches Scrooge that he must listen to the spirits or ‘he cannot hope to shun the path I tread’. The first of the three spirits is the ghost of Christmas Past and he takes Scrooge back to his time at school. This is the first point in the story where Scrooge is showing lots of different emotions, which contrasts with his cold and careless attitude before the spirits arrive.
The spirit says that the school is not quite empty and that there is ‘a solitary school child, neglected by his friend’s’. Scrooge sobs at this because he knows the child is him. The ghost of Christmas Past is trying to convince Scrooge to change his ways so that he never has to experience another lonely Christmas, and instead help others never to experience what he has been through. The second spirit is the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows Scrooge what it is like to have a traditional Christmas dinner by taking him to the home of the Cratchit family.
As I explained in paragraph four, the Cratchit’s only have a small amount of food to share between eight of them, because Scrooge does not pay Bob Cratchit enough to support his family. The spirit also torments Scrooge about Tiny Tim at this stage by saying that ‘if the shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die’. Scrooge is annoyed by this and Dickens uses this to show that he cares for Tiny Tim and wants him to survive. The ghost then quote’s Scrooge’s words from the scene with the charity men: ‘If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population’.
To this, Scrooge hangs his head in shame. The spirit then compares the Cratchit family, who are fairly poor but still happy and generous in spirit, with the home of Scrooge’s nephew Fred who lives a comfortable and happy life with his family. This teaches Scrooge that wealth does not always lead to happiness and can sometimes lead to the opposite, which in this case is Scrooge’s life. After this, the spirit shows Scrooge the two children from deep poverty, as explained in paragraph seven. The third and final spirit is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come who does not speak, but points Scrooge in the right directions.
He takes Scrooge to four different places, showing him men talking about a funeral, a person buying the dead person’s belongings and then on to the Cratchit’s house again, where he realises that the family are sad and quiet because Tiny Tim’s life has ended. The spirit finally takes him to his own grave, where Scrooge realises that the dead man’s funeral and belongings are his own. The ghost of Christmas Yet to Come teaches Scrooge that unless poverty is changed or improved, the end of society is near. Scrooge asks if there is any refuge or resource for them to which the spirit replies with a quote from Scrooge: ‘Are there no prisons?
Are there no workhouses? ’ The moral points shown by the spirits are that there is still time left on earth to change no matter how bad you have been or how many things you have done wrong, and that people are prepared to forgive you. This is shown by Dickens at the end of stave four, where Scrooge says ‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!
’ This is very significant as it sums up what the spirits have taught Scrooge and show that he has taken it all in. Charles Dickens uses lots of great language and many different techniques to describe and comment on everything happening throughout the storyline. The structure of the novel is separated into the Three spirits, with ‘Marley’s ghost’ and ‘The End of It’ outlining the story. Dickens uses wide-ranging dialogue to show what different characters are thinking such as Scrooge and the spirits. Dickens uses the story to offer different moral messages to the reader such as the Ignorance and Want scene.
One of Dickens’ techniques is the use of adjective lists to describe an event or place in great detail, such as the first appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Present, where Dickens lists at least ten different items that had appeared. In the first pages of the novel, Dickens uses personification and metaphors to compare and describe people as the weather, such as ‘the cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait’ and ‘a frosty rime was on his head, and his eyebrows, and his wiry chin.
’ Throughout A Christmas Carol, Dickens explains the dangers of poverty, emphasised with the use of Tiny Tim, a crippled child with a family that cannot afford to pay for his treatment, because of Scrooge. Also, Dickens shows the effects that ignorance can have on the world and that if nothing is done to help poor families, then the end of society is near, as shown with the two children.
Dickens includes little insights into Victorian life throughout the novel, such as cooking Christmas dinner in the bakers’ ovens and hand me down clothes of the Cratchit family. In addition, Scrooge describes the atmosphere by personifying the potatoes bubbling in a pot at the Cratchits as if they were enjoying the feast as well. In conclusion, I think that Dickens enables the reader to see how much society has changed since the mid nineteenth century, and that the division between the wealthy and the poor is still increasing around the world today.
I think that Dickens did not set out to tell future generations about the nineteenth Century, but to describe the life of poor people and the damaging effects of poverty to the ‘upper class’ of the Victorian times. I also believe that Christmas Carol has some relevance to our current society because many people in the modern world, although poor, consider themselves to be happy which can be compared to the Cratchit family in the novel.