The Influence of A Christmas Carol on how Christmas Has Come to be Understood

Christmas is a holiday that people all around the world are familiar with, and take joy in celebrating each year. However, the Christmas that we know and love today was not always centered on the same ideas and principles that we are so well accustomed to. With the publication of Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, came the introduction of new customs and traditions. Dickens shifted the focus from one of community-based activities to being much more family-centered, and more specifically, child-friendly. As noted from our reading of Oliver Twist, as well as A Christmas Carol, it is evident that the welfare of children was an issue near and dear to Dickens’ heart. Along the same lines of child welfare, the welfare of the poor was also an equally important issue to Dickens. His concern with these issues can be seen most prominently in A Christmas Carol, in which he popularized the idea of the “spirit of Christmas” and the need for generosity throughout the year, rather than exclusively reserved for just one day of the holiday season; the association between Christmas and the spirit of giving is most obvious played out in the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, whose transition from mean-spirited to generous is charted by the appearances of each of the ghosts.

With the arrival of A Christmas Carol in the literary world came a new definition and meaning to what Christmas should be. Dickens was a strong advocate for the poor and disadvantaged. Through his writings he let out his frustrations over the manner in which the impoverished were treated, and the conditions in which they worked and lived. The scenes in which he depicted this level of suffering inspired him to reconstruct the holiday of Christmas to focus primarily on those who dearly needed the generosity that came with the holiday season; the need to appreciate family, friends, and life, no matter how much, or how little people had. This reinterpretation of the true meaning of Christmas is evident in the scene that depicts the Cratchit’s Christmas as seen by Scrooge when he visits with the Ghost of Christmas Present. Dickens writes, “They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker’s. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time…” (Dickens 108). Here, Dickens brings forth the idea that Christmas is a time to simply enjoy the presence of loved ones and forget one’s troubles – at least for that day. It is obvious to the readers that the Cratchits have very little, but by simply observing their actions one would not know this. Instead, they embody the spirit of Christmas that Dickens was such a proponent of. That is, one of joyfulness, good cheer and appreciation for those you love most.

However, Dickens is not referred to as “the father of Christmas” simply because of the ideas and concepts he revitalized with the holiday. Rather, it also has to do with the cultural aspects that he brought back into play, such as sending Christmas cards and caroling at people’s doors. Dickens also created the “scene” that one may call to mind when picturing the ideal Christmas. This scene may include, but is not limited to, large spreads of indulgent foods (replacing the often bony Christmas goose with a plump turkey), Christmas trees and the giving of gifts, normally only to children.

It is interesting to investigate just how much the publication of A Christmas Carol impacted Christmases to come all over the world. One must wonder just how many of these traditions and ideas would still be practiced had it not been for Dickens making his way onto the scene, both with his writing and his activism for the poor and disadvantaged. Perhaps naming him “Father Christmas” is more accurate than we think.

Blog post by: Alyssa Knott

Group Members: Maxwell Garnatt, McKenna Miller, Nivedita Rajan, Hannah Sugarman

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles, and Michael Patrick. Hearn. The Annotated Christmas Carol: A Christmas Carol. New York: C.N. Potter, 1976. Print.

“Dickens “the Man Who Invented Christmas.” The Victorian Web: An Overview. Ed. Phillip V. Allingham. N.p., 14 Dec. 2009. Web. 21 Sept. 2014.

Hudson, Alex. “Charles Dickens: Six Things He Gave the Modern World.” BBC News. BBC News Magazine, 15 Dec. 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2014.

Perdue, David. “Dickens & Christmas.” David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2014.

Pold, Tom. “Fathering Christmas: Charles Dickens and the (Re)Birth of Christmas.” The Victorian Web: An Overview. N.p., 14 Dec. 2009 Web. 21 Sept. 2014.

Discussion Question

What role do the children in the story, and the vision of childhood that the story incorporates, play in shaping the vision of Christmas that Dickens intends for us to have?

 

 

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “The Influence of A Christmas Carol on how Christmas Has Come to be Understood

  1. Audrey Buechel

    Group 1

    Group 3 made the claim that “Dickens was inspired to reconstruct the holiday of Christmas to focus primarily on those who dearly needed the generosity that came with the holiday season; the need to appreciate family, friends, and life, no matter how much, or how little people had.” We agree with this, but we wanted to highlight Dickens’ usage of the inherent innocence of childhood as a vehicle to convey his message to view the Christmas season as a time to give back to those who need it the most, which is a major tenet of our modern Christmas celebration.
    In Dickens’ use of childhood and innocence, much like in Oliver Twist, one can speculate that the writer is indeed trying to play to the sympathies of the reader. Here, Tiny Tim is a small child who is disabled, malnourished, and born into an environment and family of poverty– none of which is any of his fault– and yet, innocent and moral as he is, this hardly seems fair to us. Nevertheless, he and his family are “happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time…” (Dickens, 108), stressing that the “true” spirit of Christmas is not something that can be bought but is nurtured through love, family, and thankfulness. While observing the Cratchit family with the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge is overcome with grief when he inquires of the spirit why the seat at the table that once belonged to Tiny Tim is now vacant. “Tell me if Tiny Time will live”, Scrooge pleads, to which the Ghost of Christmas Present replies that “if these shadows remain unaltered by the future, the child will die” (Dickens, 76). The spirit then quotes an earlier statement made by Scrooge himself by saying to him that, “If he like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population” (Dickens 77), all perhaps in an effort to allow Scrooge to see his own ignorance reflected back at him through another resulting in his ever-growing sympathy towards the Cratchit family which represent the plight of the poor. Tiny Tim’s death demonstrates to the audience the cruelty and unfairness of their society, as such a young boy never even got a chance to live a full life.
    Dickens conveys this idea through Scrooge’s transition from an amoral man to a caring and responsible member of society.Towards the end of Stave Three, Scrooge notices and makes a remark about something “strange” protruding from within the Spirit’s robe and upon this observation comes to find that they are two children who are “wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable” (Dickens 89) in their appearance. Horrible and dreadful for Scrooge to see, he is essentially left speechless and when he recovers himself, inquires of the Spirit if these children are his, but the Spirit, much to Scrooge’s surprise, replies that “they are Man’s” (Dickens, 91): the boy representing Ignorance, the girl Want. Born of “Man.” These two children are a poignant symbol to the audience that the conditions of poverty do not arise in a vacuum as a “natural phenomenon” of sorts, but that they are the direct result of none other than mankind itself. Dickens appears to be hinting at the fact that Victorian England has both created and perpetuated this problem, and if this is indeed the case, then “Man” must also come up with a solution for said circumstances. In the end, Scrooge does indeed realize his ignorance and sets out to right his wrongs, starting with the Cratchit family. He embodies Dickens’ vision for the wealthy members of 19th-century England to give back to the entire community, as though they were all members of one family.

    Reply
  2. Profile photo of Audrey BuechelAudrey Buechel

    Group 1

    Group 3 made the claim that “Dickens was inspired to reconstruct the holiday of Christmas to focus primarily on those who dearly needed the generosity that came with the holiday season; the need to appreciate family, friends, and life, no matter how much, or how little people had.” We agree with this, but we wanted to highlight Dickens’ usage of the inherent innocence of childhood as a vehicle to convey his message to view the Christmas season as a time to give back to those who need it the most, which is a major tenet of our modern Christmas celebration.

    In Dickens’ use of childhood and innocence, much like in Oliver Twist, one can speculate that the writer is indeed trying to play to the sympathies of the reader. Here, Tiny Tim is a small child who is disabled, malnourished, and born into an environment and family of poverty– none of which is any of his fault– and yet, innocent and moral as he is, this hardly seems fair to us. Nevertheless, he and his family are “happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time…” (Dickens, 108), stressing that the “true” spirit of Christmas is not something that can be bought but is nurtured through love, family, and thankfulness. While observing the Cratchit family with the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge is overcome with grief when he inquires of the spirit why the seat at the table that once belonged to Tiny Tim is now vacant. “Tell me if Tiny Time will live”, Scrooge pleads, to which the Ghost of Christmas Present replies that “if these shadows remain unaltered by the future, the child will die” (Dickens, 76). The spirit then quotes an earlier statement made by Scrooge himself by saying to him that, “If he like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population” (Dickens 77), all perhaps in an effort to allow Scrooge to see his own ignorance reflected back at him through another resulting in his ever-growing sympathy towards the Cratchit family which represent the plight of the poor. Tiny Tim’s death demonstrates to the audience the cruelty and unfairness of their society, as such a young boy never even got a chance to live a full life.

    Dickens conveys this idea through Scrooge’s transition from an amoral man to a caring and responsible member of society.Towards the end of Stave Three, Scrooge notices and makes a remark about something “strange” protruding from within the Spirit’s robe and upon this observation comes to find that they are two children who are “wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable” (Dickens 89) in their appearance. Horrible and dreadful for Scrooge to see, he is essentially left speechless and when he recovers himself, inquires of the Spirit if these children are his, but the Spirit, much to Scrooge’s surprise, replies that “they are Man’s” (Dickens, 91): the boy representing Ignorance, the girl Want. Born of “Man.” These two children are a poignant symbol to the audience that the conditions of poverty do not arise in a vacuum as a “natural phenomenon” of sorts, but that they are the direct result of none other than mankind itself. Dickens appears to be hinting at the fact that Victorian England has both created and perpetuated this problem, and if this is indeed the case, then “Man” must also come up with a solution for said circumstances. In the end, Scrooge does indeed realize his ignorance and sets out to right his wrongs, starting with the Cratchit family. He embodies Dickens’ vision for the wealthy members of 19th-century England to give back to the entire community, as though they were all members of one family.

    Works Cited:

    Dickens, Charles, and Michael Patrick. Hearn. The Annotated Christmas Carol: A Christmas Carol. New York: C.N. Potter, 1976. Print.

    Reply
    1. Kelsey

      Group 6 Reply

      Although we agree with Group 1 that Christmas is in fact a season of charity, reconciliation, and mutual understanding, we would also add that children play a very specific and crucial role in how Dickens wants us to view Christmas and this is not something to be overlooked. Children, with their compassionate, gentle, and meek natures, embody the true spirit of Christmas. Like Group 1 did in their original post, we also mentioned the importance and impact that the children Ignorance and Want had on Scrooge. The message given to Scrooge is the same that is intended for the Victorian reader; beware of the ignorance in oneself and help out those in want, or need. These child figures are not representatives for suffering children but for the poverty stricken underclass as a whole.
      In Stave four, we see the underbelly of the city. When Scrooge witnesses thieves dividing a dead man’s possessions, the liability of their actions lays on Scrooges shoulders as the representative of the upper class for being so fiancially selfish. We make a full circle in seeing what the two starving children evolve into; desperate thieving beggars and a dead rich man that is being stolen from as a last resort. Dickens addresses the extreme stratification of social classes through his characterization of children. Like we mentioned earlier, Dickens use of children throughout his short story serves a higher purpose than a mere “adorability factor”. The unique characteristics that children such as Tiny Time or even Oliver Twist possess, provide a model for every man to pursue—at Christmastime and every day after and to address the issues they have become ignorant of.

      Reply
  3. Profile photo of Courtney CavalloCourtney Cavallo

    Group 5

    Dickens uses children in A Christmas Carol to incorporate the vision of Christmas that he wants his audience have. Dickens uses impoverished and suffering children to show the flaws in the way that Christmas was being celebrated and the changes that needed to be made. Some people may say that Tiny Tim is the best example of a child that Dickens uses to show poverty in England during the time that he was writing “A Christmas Carol.” However, we believe that the children that accompany the Ghost of Christmas Present, named Ignorance and Want, are equal to, if not better than, Tiny Tim as a representation of poverty in England. Dickens uses Ignorance and Want as representative of all children living in poverty. Ignorance and Want provide a particular strong example as they are juxtaposed with the Ghost of Christmas Present, who is plump and jolly. This strongly contrasts the image of the starving, desperate children clinging to him beneath his robes. Furthermore, Dickens’ use of children to represent the poor and starving lower class is highly relevant as he is better able to draw sympathy from his readers. This helps establish the vision of Christmas that Dickens intends for there to one day be: a Christmas absent of ignorance and want, poverty and starvation.

    This vision of Christmas is further implied when Scrooge asks the Spirit if the children have any resource or refuge, and the Spirit repeats Scrooges own words to him; “‘Are there no prisons,’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses?’” (125). The scorn with which the Spirit speaks implies that prisons and workhouses are not viable options for the poor. They are cruel and do not provide a solution. It is also highly relevant that these children are associated with Present, rather than Past or Future. With this Dickens draws attention to the fact the problem is still current, and still happening. It is an issue that needs to be addressed, with an implied “or else.” The Spirit alludes to this future as well, telling Scrooge, “…beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased” (123). Dickens is warning of the possible consequences that could occur in the future. However, he is not outright condemning hope for the future. There still is the option that this writing can be erased, providing hope for future Christmases.

    Reply
    1. C Peartree

      Group 5 posits (as we read it) that the wealthy ought to help the poor celebrate Christmas in a way that is equal to the way the Wealthy celebrate: free of ignorance and want, poverty and starvation. While we agree that there ought to be such a degree of communal support, we find that Dickens’ idea of Christmas does not cling so tightly to the notion of social class. The spirit of charity is not necessarily a one-way street in that the wealthy–people with more–should try to help the poor celebrate in the exact same way. We think that the Christmas spirit should erase lines of social strata–not simply cross them temporarily– to truly foster a community that feels like a family.
      We would also argue that the figures of Ignorance and Want support our original theory of dependence and children, because these figures personify two specific types of dependence. These figures might not only represent the needs of poor children, but of the entire poor community, demanding the attention of the upper class in a family-like dynamic.

      Reply
  4. Profile photo of Angie CarsonAngie Carson

    Group 4: Angie Carson, Erin Duffy, Jacob Trost, Cassandra Ballini, Heather McFarlane

    A common belief of the church was that children are born sinners and need to be disciplined and taught proper morality in order to prevent them from naturally following evil paths. However, several points of A Christmas Carol suggests that Dickens disagreed with this notion. We argue that Dickens supported the belief that children were born inherently good, and he used this to influence our view of what Christmas should be about.

    The entirety of A Christmas Carol focuses on the themes of innocence and forgiveness, and expresses these themes through the depiction of children. The First Ghost shows us that Scrooge’s childhood was filled with neglect and emotional abuse at the hands of his father; by contrast, his younger sister Fan is the picture of kindness and innocence. This reminds Scrooge of how his own father’s actions influenced Scrooge’s abusive behavior towards the Cratchit family. By showing him this from the big picture, the spirit (and presumably Dickens) is warning Scrooge (and the audience) against continuing this chain of corruption.

    The Second Spirit shows Scrooge his nephew at his Christmas Eve celebration. Fred (his nephew) continues to defend and pity Scrooge despite his party’s continuous criticism of Scrooge’s intolerable behavior. This response to his uncle’s unkindness demonstrates the notion of ending the cycle of selfish behavior Dickens observes with the first spirit. Fan, his younger sister, is depicted earlier as the ideal of perfection as she presumably maintains her childhood goodness even as an adult. Fred’s defending of Scrooge shows the adult generosity and forgiveness that was passed down to him from his late mother.

    Finally, the Third Spirit demonstrates the looming death of Tiny Tim (the epitome of childhood innocence) if this selfish behavior continues. In a reading of the story where Tiny Tim represents all the inherent goodness of humanity, it would be interpreted that the undesirable behavior illustrated by Scrooge will eventually prevail and all that is good within people will die. With this somewhat terrifying scene, Dickens is warning readers against their own self-serving and stingy conduct.

    Another point worth mentioning is the lack of Christian references Dickens uses in his representation of Christmas. One would expect to see many direct Christian parallels as the holiday is one of the most notorious celebrations within the Church. One possible reason for this is the era in which A Christmas Carol was written. Today it is easy to see how quickly religious connotations can be dissolved in the celebration of Christmas. However, then it was a strictly religious celebration as the church had a much stronger influence on a greater portion of the English population. However, there is another argument for the lack of Christian remarks. The upper class of the Victorian era has often been criticized for not practicing what they preach, or in other words, deviating from the original values of the Christian community. Like Scrooge, the church had also been affected by this cycle of moral corruption as it primarily served as yet another source of power for the elite. Most people would have been able to recite the bible verses until they were blue in the face, but more often than not they did not embody the values demonstrated in the bible. Dickens focuses on generosity, kindness, and compassion as opposed to the Bible and church to remind people that it’s the values embodied by Christ, and not simply knowing the facts of his birth and sitting in the front pew, that is the true meaning of Christmas.

    Reply
    1. Max Garnaat

      The response of Group 4 focuses largely on the portrayal of Christianity and Christian beliefs within Dickens’ work, stating that although A Christmas Carol is concerned with the titular holiday, it spends comparatively little time on the actual contents of Christianity. They attribute this lack of reference to traditional Christianity to a desire on Dickens’ part to separate Christian values from Christian practice: the author, they say, believed that the mainstream religious of the upper-class had forgotten the need for virtues such as compassion, mercy, and charity, and wished to reassert them away from institutions like churches or scriptures. However, while Dickens certainly sought to bring those values to prominence again when writing A Christmas Carol, we feel that Christianity’s portrayal was not as muted as they assert.

      When reading through the text, it did not seem as Dickens was leaving out references to Christian practice or belief – quite the opposite. Consider the line delivered by Marley’s ghost: “Why did I walk through cords of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?”. While some of the appeals to the common faith might be more implicit than others, quotes like the one above suggest that Dickens’ was not trying to keep Christianity quiet within his work. Rather than try to distinguish one part of his religion from another, Dickens’ seemed more concerned with reminding people of the faith that was shared by most at the time, and what that faith demands: goodwill to your fellow man.

      Reply
  5. Mike Stoianoff

    Group 2

    Group 3 identifies in their post that “Dickens shifted the focus from one of community-based activities to being much more family-centered, and more specifically, child-friendly.” It would seem in the post that their focus rests chiefly on the immediate family. However, we assert that Dickens believes it is appropriate to include anyone in need of generosity within one’s definition of ‘family’, especially with regard to the Christmas season.

    In A Christmas Carol, Dickens uses children symbolically to represent dependency in regards to the larger family structure, or community. Just as a child is dependent on the family that supports them, the poor depend on the community-at-large for support. A prime example of this symbolism is Tiny Tim, who is highly dependent upon his family (and community) in many ways: he is a child, he comes from a relatively poor family, and he is crippled. In spite of their fragile financial position, the Cratchits have an obligation to care for Tiny Tim; he is their child, and as his family, they have a responsibility to look after his needs by any means necessary.

    Similarly, on a larger scale, those in the community who are able have an obligation to care for the poor. The idea is cyclic in nature, and we argue that dependency, like childhood, is not necessarily a permanent status. If the family or community takes care of their child–or the dependent poor–it provides them with the potential to gain independence, and provide for the next dependents.

    Furthermore, when Scrooge is visited by the first ghost, he is reminded of kinder and more innocent, youthful Ebenezer. He recalls, among other things, Mr. Fezziwig, a member of the community, treating him like a son, with greater compassion than even his own family. These tender memories of childhood and dependency stir Scrooge to become a more benevolent, generous, fatherly man, embodying the Christmas spirit Dickens intends to impress. While the Ghost of Christmas past provided the impetus for Scrooge’s change, Mr. Fezziwig provided the inspiration.

    Members: Hannah Glaser, Kevin O’Connor, Colin Peartree, Michael Adams

    Reply
    1. Profile photo of Matt SpitzerMatt Spitzer

      While Group #2 portrays the relationship of the classes as a loving, familial relationship, indeed with “obligations,” we agree with this only after the reconstruction of Victorian England society, which, as we have seen in Dickens’s Oliver Twist more broadly, is heavily unjust. We feel that Dickens uses Christmas– a short, temporary holiday– as a metaphor for living out better values in life for individuals. However, both the character Scrooge and the Christmas holiday are individual/temporary. While the familial analogy works for Scrooge, who grows to love the Cratchits and his neighbors in general, and can be said to redeem himself, this “obligatory” relationship Group #2 asserts for a relationship among the broader social and economic classes is not one Dickens’s explicitly had in mind. For sure, he wanted that relationship eventually, but for now, the multitudes of the wealthy and powerful are not loving parent-figures to the poor and oppressed. They have benefitted from the system they put the poor into and continue to keep them in.
      In short, the Christmas, familial bond between all people is what Dickens’s is presenting for individual people, but the analogy cannot be easily magnified to also fit society as a larger whole. At the city-wide level, the parent-child, loving bond does not fit the relationship Dickens’s feels is owed to the lower classes. A Christmas Carol is a story of an individual, and we feel that although Group #2 has Dickens’s message mostly correct, we feel their analogy isn’t quite right for an oppressed society.

      Reply
  6. Profile photo of Hannah SugarmanHannah Sugarman

    Group 3:

    Some may argue that optimistic and joyful Tiny Tim, who is potentially dying from polio but still remains cheerful while in the presence of his family at Christmastime, is the most important representation of the joyous and positive ideal of Christmas that Dickens hopes to spread throughout society. However, his portrayal of Scrooge’s childhood as well as the mention of “want” and “ignorance” as children are even more telling of Dickens’ true intentions. By showing us Scrooge’s childhood and then painting him as a product of loneliness and neglect, Dickens uses him as an example of what happens when a child is not treated properly. Instead of focusing purely on the positive joy that can come from a Christmas celebration, Dickens’ intention is to once again draw guilt and action from the upper and middle classes. He believes that children are innocent and good, but can be corrupted easily by negative influence.
    When Scrooge is confronted with “want” and “ignorance”, which appear in the form of children, Dickens notes that “they were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds” (Stave 3). Want and ignorance are portrayed as yet another example of what can go wrong due to society’s evils. He goes on to state that they are “man”. According to Dickens, there will always be poverty and ignorance in the world, but all we can do is not allow people to manifest their ignorant ideals and to combat the problem of economic inequality. Dickens uses Christmastime as an example of a time of the year when people like Scrooge really can change, and in doing so appeals to all classes to live with the Christmas spirit in their hearts throughout the year. The importance of Tiny Tim’s youthful optimism despite less than ideal life circumstances is only one situation of many that Dickens presents, and although it’s easy to view A Christmas Carol as Dickens’ most lighthearted work, it’s important to remember that there are examples of children whose lives have been corrupted almost beyond repair throughout the story. Dickens’ intention is to remind the upper classes that Christmas should be a time where they evaluate themselves, their families, and most importantly, contribute positively to society.

    Reply
    1. Profile photo of Erin DuffyErin Duffy

      According to Group 3, Tiny Tim is used in A Christmas Carol to portray the goodness and innocence that Dickens implies is inherent in children, and that Scrooge’s corruption is a product of the neglect and abuse he suffered in his childhood. We agree with this view, and add that this ties back in with the theme of the workhouses depicted in Oliver Twist, and propose that Dickens was focusing on the source of corruption rather than the cycle itself. By looking at these two novels together, we can theorize that Dickens’ message was that people were inherently good, but could be corrupted by an abusive environment during their childhood (as we see in Scrooge, who was abused by his father and in turn abuses his nephew and employee).

      Oliver Twist and Tiny Tim are similar figures in that they both portray the inherent goodness in humanity and that this goodness can be preserved so long as they have support and love from family or friends. Tiny Tim, although he grows up crippled in an impoverished household, is surrounded by a family who loves and supports him, and so he is able to maintain his cheery demeanor. Although it initially seems that Oliver has no such support due to his upbringing in the workhouses, he is shown to have a strong friendship with Dick, who fulfills the role of a nurturing friend that would help keep Oliver morally centered. We do agree with Group Three’s assessment of Dickens’ use of children as the embodiment of innocence, however we would like to add that a supportive and nurturing environment is necessary to maintain this goodness

      Reply
  7. Rachel Campbell

    Group 6 Response

    In today’s world, and especially during Charles Dickens’ time, many often view childhood as inferior compared to the enlightened stage of adulthood. After reading Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”, however, one may find it near impossible to not sympathize with and idolize the pitiful, yet dear little character of Tiny Tim. His sweet demeanor, despite the wretched situation he is in, melted the heart of even the cold and formidable Ebenezer Scrooge! Although Tiny Tim, with his charming, high-pitched benediction of “God bless us, every one!”, would surely tinge every reader’s heart with a sense of warmth and affection, Dickens use of children throughout his short story serves a higher purpose than a mere “adorability factor”. The unique characteristics that children possess provide a model for every man to pursue—at Christmastime and every day after.
    It can be argued that Dickens had a very similar view of children as Jesus Christ of the New Testament did. Jesus recognized the value that children possess when he proclaimed that, in order for a man to enter the kingdom of heaven, he must become like a child. He goes on to say that “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (NKJV, Matthew 18:2-6). Dickens use of the character of Tiny Tim illustrates Jesus’ point. Tiny Tim is a cripple from a poor family, but is happy and content with his situation nonetheless. He also is not ashamed of his lowly family or of his physical disability, rather, he is genuinely grateful for everything he has. This lowly child is the complete antithesis of the adult Scrooge who has enough earthly wealth and resources, but still is discontented and miserable in life.
    The belief that people get wiser as they grow older is one that is often prominent in our culture today and was especially prevalent in Dickens’ own time. Oftentimes, there is a push for children to “grow up” and leave their foolish ways in order to enter into the glorified state of adulthood. However, Dickens points out that there is immense value in being a carefree child that is often lost when people become grownups. He quotes that “…In short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value” (Stave Two). Dickens, much like Jesus Christ did, quite clearly values the freedom children have from the incessant worry, stress, and egotism that often plague the everyday dealings of adulthood. Although youngsters may be viewed as immature and inferior in intelligence, Dickens believes that there is beauty in a child’s simple naivety and gentleness of soul.
    From a critic’s perspective, it can be argued that children are selfish, nasty, and brutish creatures who are only “civilized” when they are educated and disciplined by the institutions of society. Dickens, however, would completely disagree with this line of thinking for, in his eyes, children are born as innately good creatures and are only corrupted due to their environment and society. The little unfortunate rascals of Ignorance and Want illustrate what happens to the innocence of childhood when tainted by the evils of society. These poor souls were perhaps pure and virtuous at one time, but were eventually turned into the deplorable creatures they now are from the perversion and selfishness that is rampant in the adult world.
    While the imagery of the children in “A Christmas Carol”, specifically that of Tiny Tim, is quite endearing, Dickens’ novella reveals a significantly larger role children play. Dickens urges his readers to reconsider the negative stigma that is often attached to childhood and instead view children for their valuable qualities that we often lose in adulthood. Children are compassionate, humble, and lighthearted beings whom we should not view as being any lesser than adults, but, like Jesus believed, we should model ourselves after their meek examples. “For”, Dickens claims, “it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself” (Stave Three).

    Reply
    1. Profile photo of Jenna CecchiniJenna Cecchini

      Dickens’ picture of Victorian England is a bleak one, indeed. His stories, set in hard times with some unbelievably unfeeling characters are enough to chill anyone’s heart (even at Christmas!). Fortunately, It seems as if his stories often model the classic comedy, with progression out from darkness into new light; A Christmas Carole is no different. It is a story about a man who is changed. Scrooge goes through a dramatic transformation that Dickens suggests everyone experience. He is brought to understand what Dickens imagines Christmas to be: a time of charity, reconciliation, and empathy.

      Although Group 6 makes a good point in drawing attention to Tiny Tim’s role, if we are to acknowledge Dickens comic model, then Scrooge is who we should pay the most attention to, for he undergoes the most thorough and uplifting transformation. Scrooge is an awful miser, and even his name is reflective of that attitude, as Hearn points out in his footnotes (8). His dramatic temperament is one that everyone starts out detesting, but he changes, and so do our opinions of him. From a Christian perspective, Scrooge is the most exemplary character. What makes Christ so awe-inspiring is his ability to equalize both the rich and the poor in his parables, and the ways in which he impacted his disciples. Scrooge is by no means a Christ figure, but he is able to change himself and return to Christ’s teachings through the confrontation and acceptance of his sins.

      Ultimately, what Dickens is trying to say is that people should re-evaluate themselves and their behavior at Christmas. They should confess and reconcile: be charitable and kind toward man and God. And if Scrooge can remember to do it, anyone can.

      Best wishes during this most sacred season,
      Group 1

      Reply

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