A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens is a straightforward narrative, which effectively uses symbolism to develop the major theme of the novel, “Mankind is everyone’s business. ” Dickens’ careful choice of words demonstrates his excellent use of this literary technique. He begins his use of symbolism with the book’s title and carries through to the end of the story. The characters in A Christmas Carol also reflect symbolism. The main character, Scrooge, whose name comes from the words “screw” and “gouge”, means hard-hearted. Marley, Scrooge’s deceased business partner, represents the conscience of mankind.
The three ghosts who visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve stand for memory, charity and the fear of death. By effectively blending symbolism into his characters and various objects within the novel, Dickens reminds his readers of the importance of taking notice of those around them. In the opening Stave of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens describes Scrooge as a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutch, covetous old sinner. ” Scrooge symbolizes all that dampens the Christmas spirit? ‘–greed, selfishness and a lack of consideration for mankind.Order now
Dickens clearly shows Scrooge’s character when two gentlemen approach him about a donation to help the poor at Christmas. Scrooge insists, “It’s not my business. It’s enough for a man to understand his own business and not interfere with other people’s. ” The main character’s Bah! Humbug! attitude is further seen in his treatment of his one employee, Bob Cratchit. The author characterizes Bob Cratchit as meek and gentle, which sharply contrasts Scrooge’s sour disposition and harsh treatment of mankind. Dickens’ uses Bob Cratchit’s character to symbolize the difficulties facing the lower class in England.
Due to the meager salary, Bob Cratchit is unable to afford the necessary medical treatment for his youngest son, Tiny Tim. Cratchit is also faced with the reality of having to give his son a pauper’s funeral in the third stave of the novel. Dickens used this picture to address and undermine upper class prejudices, awaken readers to the harsh realities of poverty and bring attention to the strict, unjust laws governing those in poverty during the Victorian Era. As the story continues, Jacob Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge. Through Marley’s character, Dickens furthers his use of symbolism to expand the major theme in the book.
Jacob Marley, a miser much like Scrooge, is suffering the consequences of his greedy ways in his afterlife. He appears to Scrooge draped in a heavy chain made of “cashboxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. ” Dickens cleverly uses the chain to represent Marley’s misplaced values while on earth and the misery he must now suffer because of his selfishness. Scrooge learns that he too wears a chain, much larger and longer than Marley’s. Jacob warns Scrooge that any human who does not socialize with others during his life must travel among them in death.
Dickens uses Marley’s warning as a way to express the novel’s major theme, “Mankind is my business. The welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. ” Marley warns Scrooge he must change his ways or he too will suffer the same fate. Before leaving, Marley tells Scrooge of three more spirits that will visit him and hopefully change his destiny. At a designated time, each spirit appears to Scrooge, taking him on a journey through his miserable life. The first ghost, Christmas Past, comes as both a child and a man with a “bright, clear jet of light” shooting from the top of his head.
Dickens uses this spirit to symbolize the experiences in a person’s life that influence who he or she becomes. The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge from his boyhood, as a “solitary child, neglected by his friends”, to the point where his fianc? “© rejects him. Belle sees no future with a man obsessed with money and warns Scrooge to “be happy in the life you have chosen. ” The second ghost appears as a great giant dressed in a green robe and surrounded by food. The Ghost of Christmas Present represents all of missed opportunities in life to help others.
This ghost leads Scrooge through the city streets showing him how others celebrate Christmas. While at the home of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, a small, weak child catches Scrooge’s attention. When asked if the child, Tiny Tim, will live, the ghost informs Scrooge that unless things change the child will die. When Scrooge protests, he is haunted by his earlier words, “If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population. ” As the spirit begins to fade away Scrooge notices two horribly dirty children tucked under his robe. Dickens uses these children, Ignorance and Want, to further his theme.
They symbolize the difficulties facing the poor and mankind’s obligation to them. The last ghost that appears forces Scrooge to look into his future. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a phantom “shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. ” This spirit symbolizes fear of the future and of death. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come forces Scrooge to look into the future at a dead man whose passing goes unmourned by family and friends. Scrooge also returns to the Cratchit home and observes a funeral being planned for Tiny Tim.
As the final scene in the Stave unfolds, Scrooge finds himself in a churchyard “overrun by grass and weeds”. Scrooge is startled when he sees his own gravestone. He realizes he must reverse his ways or this will become his fate. In his final words to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come Scrooge promises to change, “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, Present, and the Future. The spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. ” In his novel, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens is a master at using symbolism to develop his theme.
Through his careful detailed descriptions of objects, characters and their actions, Dickens takes his readers on a symbolic journey exploring the theme, “Mankind is everyone’s business. ” A Christmas Carol clearly shows how self-serving, insensitive people can be converted into charitable, caring members of society. As Dickens so clearly illustrates, if a society is to succeed, the business of mankind should not be the responsibility of just a few individuals, but should be everyone’s concern. In order to make the world a better place, everyone must take an active role in improving the lives around them.