Imperialism In A Christmas Carol

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The successes of Empire, while it lasted, were largely due in part to their widespread imperialistic tendencies around the world. Although many citizens turned a blind eye to the injustices wrought upon those that were colonized, there is evidence of Britain’s imperialistic nature captured within the literature of the time. The ideas of imperialism can be observed in Charles Dickens’ work, A Christmas Carol, as perceived by the close-fisted way of spending money within the book, the poverty observed within the book and the sense of morality that is highlighted within the book.

The wealth commonly expressed throughout, A Christmas Carol, suggests that there are ideas tied to imperialism within the pages of the work. This can be observed in the way that the character, Scrooge, has the immeasurable wealth at his disposal. Although he is incredibly wealthy, he often chooses to hoard his wealth rather than using it for any form of luxury or charity. Such can be noted in the way that he eats a “little saucepan of gruel,” rather than a sumptuous meal, and again in the way, he refuses to donate to the underprivileged when he could easily bestow wealth upon others. (Dickens pg. 26)

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The aforementioned can be tied into the ideas of imperialism in the way that, Britain, during its time colonizing other countries, kept an ironclad grip around the money accrued from its endeavors; rather than giving what is needed to the citizens of countries under their so-called self-righteous protection. There were many colonies under rule that felt that “[Britain] gave [them] no real aid,” during the time under the heavy hand of Britain. (Giddings pg. 586) Hence, the wealth in the book is analogous to the ideas of imperialism primarily in the way that wealth was not well distributed to those who needed it most.

In addition to wealth, another aspect that can link the book, A Christmas Carol, and imperialism together is the presence of poverty. During the time Britain protected the Solomon Islands there was a time where “no local revenue could be expected,” which alludes to the idea that locals within colonies did not have the means to provide for themselves. (Lawrence pg. 169) Although Britain did not always seek to make monetary gains from the poverty-stricken locals, they were instead seen by Britain as those who were, “to be exploited.” because they could not afford to help themselves. (Howard pg. 243)

Similarly, in, A Christmas Carol, the poor often had to resort to unsavory means in order to make ends meet. The book, when the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come shows Scrooge’s belonging being pawned off for profit. (Dickens pg. 88) In addition to the previously stated, it is referenced within the book that; those who were destitute were sent to workhouses or debtors prisons, and the penniless oftentimes would rather die than suffer the horrors within the confines of the buildings they would be forced to work in. (Dickens pg. 20-21) Ergo, the appearance of poverty within the book, A Christmas Carol, can be directly tied to the ideas of imperialism held by Britain in that, the unfortunate could not easily find a way out of their circumstances without suffering morally or physically.

Another thread in the tapestry that connects the book, A Christmas Carol, and imperialism is the presence of building a sense of morality. For instance, during Britain’s conquest of much of the known world, many colonizers thought they were providing refuge against the “inherent savagery of the local people,” in the form of civil service systems and missionaries. (Lawrence pg. 170) Others felt that people as a whole had a certain, “responsibility [to provide] a great moral stimulant,” (Howard pg. 241) to the locals of the colonized areas because they were considered to be bloodthirsty and barbarous. In addition to the previously mentioned, many Britons felt that “there need not be any fighting,” from the natives as people believed that by imperializing they were helping. (Giddings pg. 588)

Finally, in Charles Dickens’ work, A Christmas Carol, the presence of the urge to spread morality is made blatantly clear. This can be seen in how the Ghost of Marley urged Scrooge to change his unvirtuous behaviors. (Dickens pg. 34) Another time the building of morality is made clear is how in the book the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to show Scrooge the path to becoming a better person. This ties a knot between the ideas of imperialism and the book, A Christmas Carol, because there is a struggle to alter the morality of others into a certain mold that imperial Britain and the Ghosts of the book want (respectively.)

As the aforementioned elements pointed out, the idea of imperialism was prevalent throughout Dickens’ work, A Christmas Carol. Many were not fully aware of the consequences brought by imperialism, but within some pieces of literature, these happenings were brought to light. The wealth, poverty, and urge to provide morality observed within the structure of imperialism can be tied back to the book, A Christmas Carol.

Works Cited

  1. Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol: And Other Stories. The Reader’s Digest Association, 1988.
  2. Giddings, Franklin H. “Imperialism?” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 4, 1898, pp. 585–605. JSTOR, Accessed 31 Jan. 2020.
  3. Howard, George Elliott. “ Imperialism and the Reform of the Civil Service.” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 2, 1899, pp. 240–250. JSTOR, Accessed 31 Jan. 2020.
  4. Lawrence, David R. “The Solomon Islands Protectorate: Colonialism without Capital.” The Naturalist and His ‘Beautiful Islands’: Charles Morris Woodford in the Western Pacific, ANU Press, 2014, pp. 169–196. JSTOR, Accessed 31 Jan. 2020.  


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