Scrooge is a caricature of a miser, greedy and mean in every way. He spends all day in his counting house looking after his money but is so cheap that he keeps his house in darkness, his fire small and allows no extravagance even on Christmas day. But we soon learn that he is the most impoverished character – he is lacking love, warmth and the spirit of Christmas, all of which make lives like Bob Cratchit’s so worth living despite their hardships.
The story’s structure and Scrooge’s character development are engineered so that as Scrooge becomes aware of his own poverty and learns to forgive and listen to his buried conscience, he is able to see virtue and goodness in the other characters and rediscovers his own generosity – he even becomes a symbol of Christmas in the final stave.
Scrooge is remedied in the novella by the Christmas-conscious characters that surround him, including his own nephew and Bob Cratchit and his family, who show Scrooge in the Ghost of Christmas Present’s tour the true meaning of goodness. All of the generous characters in the story are financially downtrodden but succeed in being good and happy despite their lot, whereas Scrooge needs to go through a traumatic awakening in order to find happiness. But the virtue that really ensures Scrooge’s transformation is forgiveness – it is this key of Christian morality that saves him when the characters that he has always put down—Fred, Bob Cratchit—welcome him into their homes when he undergoes his transformation, giving Dickens’ tale the shape of a true religious redemption.
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness ThemeTracker
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Quotes in A Christmas Carol
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
'A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!' cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
'Bah!' said Scrooge, 'Humbug!'
'Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'
'Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made, you were another man.'
The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch.
Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. […]Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it
was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so.
'God bless us every one!'
'Ghost of the Future!' he exclaimed, 'I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?'
'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.'
He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up, which, though it was dumb, announced itself in awful language.
Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.
'I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!' Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. 'The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!'
He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk – that anything – could give him so much happiness.
'Now, I'll tell you what, my friend,' said Scrooge, 'I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,' he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; 'and therefore I am about to raise your salary!'