A Christmas Carol

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Images of Age and Youth Symbol Analysis

Images of Age and Youth Symbol Icon
Dickens was especially aware of the plight of poor children in the 19th century, and children appear in the story as symbols of the ruined youth of Industrial Capitalism. The youths of Ignorance and Want are especially clear representations of these problems. And Tiny Tim is a lasting symbol of the power of goodness and generosity to overcome adversity. Putting these large themes in the figures of children emphasizes the tragedy of the premature suffering of the Victorian youth, affected by the grinding poverty created by the Industrial Revolution and England's poverty laws which made being in debt a crime punishable by forcing debtors into working houses. The story is also populated with images of age, which taunt Scrooge with the idea of the past and of his approaching death. The Ghost of Christmas Past is a strange mixture of the two, both elderly and childlike.

Images of Age and Youth Quotes in A Christmas Carol

The A Christmas Carol quotes below all refer to the symbol of Images of Age and Youth. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of A Christmas Carol published in 2003.
Stave 2 Quotes

It was a strange figure-like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions.

Related Characters: The Ghost of Christmas Past
Related Symbols: Images of Age and Youth
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

When the ghost of Marley leaves, it tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts. The first one arrives as the clock strikes one o' clock, and tells him it is the Ghost of Christmas Past--not all Christmases past, but all of Scrooges'. 

This quote describes the ghost's appearance, which is both aged and youthful. The incongruity of its appearance--a child-like face and demeanor, but stooped and small like an old man--speaks to the tension between memories of the past and the time that has actually passed since Scrooge's childhood. The contrast between old and young within the same ghost shows the tactic by which he will attempt to educate Scrooge on the true meaning of Christmas and empathizing with his fellow men: he will show Scrooge how, over time, his fondness for the company of others was worn down by the trials of life. At one point, deep in the past, Scrooge did approach life with the optimistic joy of a child. The Ghost of Christmas Past will attempt to bring old Scrooge into the mindset he held as a young child, and show him how his current attitude is part circumstance and part pessimism--and he is now being given the chance to amend his ways. 

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Stave 4 Quotes

'If he wanted to keep them after he was dead, a wicked old screw,' pursued the woman, 'why wasn't he natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he'd have had somebody to look after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone by himself.'

Related Characters: Ebenezer Scrooge
Related Symbols: Images of Age and Youth
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

The Ghost of Christmas Future brings Scrooge to the room where people are picking apart the possessions of a man who recently died. In this quote, an enterprising woman who is taking the deceased man's things argues that if the old man wanted to keep his things or give them to a person of his choosing, he should have been kinder (more "natural") in life. Due to his meanness, the reader learns that this man died entirely alone, "gasping out his last...alone by himself."

As Scrooge soon learns, the man in question is him--and this solitary death is to be his fate if he does not change his ways. As a wealthy but stingy man, the townspeople who hear of his death revel in taking from Scrooge the things that they could never have for want of resources. Had Scrooge been more generous with his time, kindness, and wealth, he may have had friends and family surrounding him as he gasped out his last breath. But due to his miserly ways, he had no one, and died completely alone. As a result, there was no one to protect his estate after his passing, rendering his possessions completely up for grabs. To those whom Scrooge spurned in his living days, stealing the dead man's possessions is a kind of revenge on his stinginess in life--if he wouldn't be generous and donate his time or money, then they would take what they needed in his death, if only out of spite. When Scrooge realizes that the man they so despise is himself, he suddenly sees that this is not how anyone should aspire to end their days. Scrooge soon learns that empathy and kindness is worth far more than its weight in gold, and the company and love of others during and after one's life will always be more important than how much is in one's bank account. 

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Images of Age and Youth Symbol Timeline in A Christmas Carol

The timeline below shows where the symbol Images of Age and Youth appears in A Christmas Carol. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Stave 2
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
This new ghost appears as if through “some supernatural medium”, giving his aged features child-like proportions. He has white hair, but smooth skin. He wears a glowing white... (full context)
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
...over the scenes of Scrooge’s boyhood. The ghost is wise and motherly, and Scrooge becomes childlike in his care. He feels like he is surrounded by ghostly “odours”, full of hopes... (full context)
Stave 3
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
...conditions the revelers are in. But as they travel, the Ghost of Christmas Present is noticeably aging . He says his brief life will be over at midnight. (full context)
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Social Dissatisfaction and the Poor Laws Theme Icon
...and time passes, Scrooge notices something strange under the Ghost of Christmas Present’s robe. Two children creep out. They are miserable animals, so sick and shriveled that they look old instead... (full context)
Stave 4
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
...Scrooge realizes that Tiny Tim has died. Bob is due home but one of the children says he’s been walking slower recently, and they all agree that he used to go... (full context)