Themes of Fear and Guilt ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens: Scrooge's Change of Heart

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In the novella, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, the themes of fear and guilt are utilised to exhibit the development of the protagonist, Scrooge. Personal attributes such as cold-hearted and selfish prolong his distaste of Christmas which refers to the bourgeois in the eighteen-forties who were ignorant and treated the proletariat without respect. The fear and guilt that is manifested in ‘A Christmas Carol’ displays the transformation of his character which benefits society as he becomes generous towards individuals around him and to his family. This development further intrigues the audience as the poor are impacted by this change of character from Scrooge which is for the better of society.

Dickens conveys that fear can be huge influencer on Scrooge’s personality. Nevertheless, he fears that no individual will remember him on earth. As Scrooge is a part of the upper class, Dickens wants the audience to relate as they were in the middle/working class. In addition to that, the working class are hard-working but still full of joy as they are depicted as having the best values. Due to Scrooge treating his employees with no compassion as he has a heart, “…as hard as a flint…” this allows the fear that Scrooge feels to become apparent towards the reader. Furthermore, the catalyst of his fear is the entrance of Marley who displays the consequence of living a mean-spirited life, “…the chains I forged in life..” but Scrooge doesn’t want to have the same repercussion as him. The chains that have bound themselves to Marley exhibit the ‘sins’ that he committed and that have become a burden on Marley after he left this world. This incorporates how Dickens utilises allusion to allude to how Scrooge may alter his actions as the memories influence his decisions and use Marley as a guide of what not to become. Consequently, Dickens allows the moral of the allegorical story to become apparent as he wants to display even though individuals aren’t wealthy, they do have other tangible items such as family and friends which is contrasted against Scrooges loneliness, “melancholy tavern” who has no one now. Scrooge’s fear is based off the fact that it dawns on him that he has isolated himself from others which caused him to become miserable and as “solitary as an oyster,” which further prolongs the burden he carries and the same fate as Marley may occur to himself. Dickens proves that fear that can be utilised to acknowledge the fact that to change your morals, fear is a useful tool. This message is directed towards the upper class of the Victorian era thus displayed through Scrooge.

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Dickens displays guilt as the main form of how Scrooge’s character develops into a compassionate person by the end of the novella. As Scrooge feels this quilt, it’s purely based on the visions that the ghosts provide which further causes Scrooge to realise the consequences of his actions. His alienation from specific characters that he used to love such as Belle, “…has displaced me…” whom left Scrooge, due to his desire for money and wealth which grew. This desire grows with him as he is rejecting the christmas joy and spirit as he continuously states that Christmas is a “humbug,” but by stating this it provides comparison. Dickens depicts that Scrooge has become a better person because of fear but in the end he has become kinder. As the audience unravels the novel, they are able to realise Scrooge may have become the person he is today because of past events and neglect from friends and family. This reinforces the idea that although people may have bad experiences in the past, they decision they make to deal with it is the most important. This is compared with Fred and the cratchits even though the latter is poor, they are caring due to the way they dealt with their situation as they are surrounded with love. As Bob Cratchit clearly loves his family, “…he ran home…” he still makes sacrifices by staying as an employee to make a living for his family, “as hard as he could pelt.” Introducing fear into Scrooge’s life was a way of Dickens displaying how fear can contribute to someone’s choices in life therefore leading into a positive life purely based on incorporating fear into someone’s life. ·

The development that Dickens portrays is that fear and guilt lead to a change of morals and personal attributes as Scrooge is a representation of this. As he conveys that Scrooge was originally a mean and cold hearted individual, the ghosts provide that change may occur. The supernatural theme provides an essence for the novella to become intriguing to the audience. Scrooge is enlightened by the Ghosts as they provide visions from the past, present and future. Scrooge is entitled to his money, but over the course of the years, wealth has become the most important part in his life. The ghost of christmas past exhibits these visions to contribute to Scrooge reinventing himself into a kinder character.

ConclusionDickens reinforces the concept and message that the introduction of fear into Scrooge’s life allowed Scrooge’s transfiguration to occur. The consequence of living a life to fulfill nothing in the afterlife triggers Scrooge to modify his actions as eternal doom is the next stage after this world. His realisation of mistakes plays an important part as it shapes his character and portrays the allegorical story as the moral is prominent.


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