Key Message of Christmas Carol: Each Actions Has Consequences
Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ displays the key message of how actions have consequences through the main protagonist Scrooge and his encounters with the ghosts. Right at the beginning of the novella, Scrooge is presented as a miserly and misanthropic man who has a pessimistic outlook on everything, including Christmas. In return, Dickens positions Scrooge as a lonely character when he sums up his role in relation to Jacob Marley. The solitary nature of the lives both men lead is emphasised and we are exposed to the key message.
Dickens creates a theme of the supernatural to create anticipation amongst the readers. Scrooge envisions ‘the air filled with phantoms’ and ‘every one of them wore chains like Marley’s ghost’. The ‘chains’ are symbolic of the deep regret and guilt of these ghosts who disregarded and refused to help people who were in desperate and vulnerable situations. The use of ‘chains’ is symbolic of the weight of his sins and connotes being trapped with constrictions as if they were prisoners damned to eternal punishment; this reminds us of the same fate of Marley. Dickens uses listing to describe Marley’s ghost wearing a chain made of ‘cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses’. All these items are related to money and business symbolising greed during his life. His appearance serves as the first warning to Scrooge that he too can be punished for his avarice and lack of social responsibility if he fails to change his self-centred ways. Dickens hints at religious reasons for Marley’s torment when he says ‘I wear the chain I forged in life’ and he is ‘doomed to wander through the world’. The former money lender is suffering in the afterlife because of his uncaring, tight-fisted behaviour whilst he was alive. With this punishment, Dickens references the Catholic belief in Purgatory, a place where the evil souls of the dead endure great suffering before they are purified and go to heaven. However, Dickens’ use of the verb ‘doomed’ implies that Marley has been judged and condemned to ‘wander the world’ and has no hope of going to heaven. The alliteration with ‘wander’ and ‘world’ slows down the sentence, almost slowing down time to emphasise the eternal length of his punishment. Deep regret and guilt is conveyed highlighting his loss in pursuit of money and self gain. Dickens stereotypes the Victorian society as self-contained and mindless people who turn a blind eye to the lower class claiming that there are consequences to your actions.
Subsequently, Scrooge encounters the Ghost of Christmas Past who unveils an event where young scrooge is with his fiance, Belle, who is breaking off their engagement. ‘Another idol has displaced me…a golden one’. This metaphor associates religious imagery as it compares Scrooge’s devotion to making money to that of a religious devotee’s worship of a sacred statue. It displays how he let the love of money overtake his heart even the place of someone who loved him immensely. The Ghost of the Christmas Past shows Scrooge how he lost the love of his life due to the prioritisation of worldly and materialistic matters.
Dickens depicts the last ghost, the Ghost of Yet to Come using death imagery. He looks like the grim reaper, the personification of death, shrouded in a ‘black garment’. The grim reaper is said to collect the souls of the dead and the word ‘black’ connotes fear and evil. This character’s aim is to warn Scrooge that he will receive a lonely demise and further suffering if he does not change his ways. Dickens employs a pun with ‘shrouded’ which has two meanings. A shroud is a length of cloth used to wrap around a corpse before burial; it is also something that covers something else, making it difficult to see. By covering every part of its body in a shapeless ‘garment’, Dickens is aligning this character with terror. Terror of the future which will make Scrooge want to redeem himself. This is evident when Joe and Mrs Piper are stealing Scrooge’s belongings whilst showing no remorse for the fact that he is dead. ‘A wicked old screw,… Why wasn’t he natural in his lifetime?’ Scrooge realises how greatly despised he was amongst the lower class as he showed no responsibility for the community. As a result, he begins to perceive his mistakes and is fearful of a solitary death if he does not change himself.
Finally, Scrooge becomes a considerate and kind being who is willing to help others. ‘I’ll raise your salary Bob’. This implies that Scrooge is now a charitable man with good moral values as he tries to help his destitute employee, which indicates Scrooge’s enthusiasm for becoming socially responsible.
Ultimately, in A Christmas Carol, we learn of the impact actions have on our lives so we must be careful and take responsibility. In order to portray this message, Dickens shows how Scrooge transforms into a caring and responsible individual.