Beware Ignorance and Want:
What Humanity Can Learn About Integrity From Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"
A Christmas Carol is the famous story of how a man named Ebeneezer Scrooge learned the importance of moral goodness just in time for Christmas. The original version of this story was published in 1843, written by Charles Dickens. This beloved holiday classic has manifested itself in many remakes throughout the centuries because of its true-to-life characters, powerful imagery, and morally righteous message. "A Christmas Carol" has had the ability to transcend many generations due to its consistently relevant social commentary about humanities lack of kindness toward each other. Nevertheless, the story takes its audience on a journey through the power of redemption when it feels all hope is lost.
The story is centered around a man named Ebeneezer Scrooge, a wealthy business man, who owns a counting house and makes his fortune lending people money and charging interest; however, despite his wealth, he is miserly and ill-tempered.
The first major character we are introduced to is Scrooge's former business partner Jacob, who died seven years prior to the story's beginning on Christmas Eve. Jacob's corpse lies in a casket, as Scrooge looks down on him with mild contempt and signs his death certificate. Jacob's character serves to potentially foreshadow Scrooge's gloomy future. Secondly, Scrooge has a single employee named Bob Cratchit. Scrooge does not pay Cratchit nearly enough, nor does he treat him with any dignity, as we see Cratchit sitting at his desk, putting his hands around a tiny flame because Scrooge will not put coal in the furnace. Lastly, there is Scrooge's nephew Fred. Fred attempts to develop a positive relationship with his uncle, but is constantly met with a cold shoulder. His and Cratchit's characters are juxtaposed with Scrooge's character traits to highlight how nasty Scrooge's personality is.
Scrooge is visited by three ghosts: one to show him his past, one to show him his present, and one to show him his future. The past ghost manifests itself in the form of a tiny flame, to illuminate past trauma and offer guidance to healing. The present ghost is Father Christmas. He shows Scrooge what people think about him, how they talk about him behind his back, and what affect his current actions have on those around him (this ghost also introduces two important characters that will be discussed later in this analysis). Lastly, the third ghost is a shadow of death or darkness, exposing the grim reality or possibility of Scrooge's future and lasting impact on his community.
As briefly mentioned earlier, The Ghost of Christmas Present introduces the most important characters of this story, ignorance and want. They are illustrated in the form of feral children, savage in their mannerisms and animalistic in their movements.
"They are man's. Beware them both."- The Ghost of Christmas Present
The point Dickens is demonstrating through these unconventional characters is humanity has been plagued by ignorance and greed, resulting in far too many people like Ebeneezer Scrooge, especially people like Scrooge who hold positions of power. The ghosts Scrooge sees in the beginning of the story all bear chains of regret, their spirit only realizing after it is too late that they should have been better people. "A Christmas Carol" is saying don't wait until it's too late. Don't be ignorant, unemphatic, and selfish people. Have the humility to self reflect now and recognize the ways we can be improve ourselves, those around us, and our community. Like Scrooge, learn and seek to treat people with kindness, otherwise your bad deeds will haunt you into perpetuity.
Scrooge serves to portray humanity's mean-spirited nature. He must reflect on his past, present, and future to then be awarded a redemption arc. What Scrooge eventually has to learn is to put his pride aside to allow himself to be redeemed before it is too late. Part of his redemption calls to atone for how poorly he has treated people. If Scrooge wants any chance at eternal rest, he needs to make amends and share his newfound moral goodness with his community. Dickens wants his audience to internalize this message and avoid becoming like Ebeneezer Scrooge altogether, emphasizing the importance of moral integrity, and suggesting it is never too late for a change in character. Furthermore, Christmas should not be the only time we show each other decency, be kind to people always. To quote the late Maya Angelou, "astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness."