Negative Reviews and Criticism (Or Lack Thereof) on Dickens and A Christmas Carol

Through many a vigorous search, we have found that there are very limited reviews and criticisms that reflect a negative perspective on A Christmas Carol. It is a beloved classic that doesn’t seem to lose any magic or momentum as the years progress. However, a few were found that gave some slight criticism to the novel (although they usually followed or were followed by praise). Edgar Johnson, once a Dickens biographer, stated that Dickens, “leaves his surface so entirely clear and the behavior of his characters so plain that they do not puzzle us into groping for gnomic meanings…surely all the world knows that Dickens is never profound?” (Gold 153) This is a general statement on Dickens’ work overall, but can, therefore, be applied to A Christmas Carol. Johnson is claiming that Dickens’ characters are easy to interpret, without much complication. This makes them predictable and less meaningful.

In reference to other negative criticism, there are suggestions of what general populaces think as a whole. For example, in another writing by Edgar Johnson: “There have been readers who objected to Scrooge’s conversion as too radical to be psychologically convincing” (Johnson 488). People like this criticize Scrooge’s character development, declaring it unrealistic and unbelievable. We must take note that none of these readers seemed to ever write about their thoughts on the matter, but Johnson claims that they do exist. He then goes on to say that to state such things about Scrooge’s character, “is to mistake a semi-serious fantasy for a piece of prosaic realism” (Johnson 488). Through this statement, Johnson briefly expresses his belief that such people are wrong on the subject. Edward Wagenknecht, a twentieth-century literary critic, does something similar in his book Dickens and the Scandalmongers: Essays in Criticism: “Shall we ask what Scrooge would be like if we were to follow him beyond the frame of the story? Unquestionably he would relapse when the merriment was over…into moroseness, vindictiveness, suspicion…if a critic finds the conversion of Scrooge unconvincing, let him say so” (Wagenknecht 116). Both Johnson and Wagenknecht leave the floor open for others to criticize, and even give possible examples of what they might say (even if they don’t necessarily agree with the statement themselves). They likely do this because of the lack of negative criticism out there on Dickens and A Christmas Carol. So many people praise him that Wagenknecht even says himself that, “Dickens, after all, has no real need of protection” (Wagenknecht 119).

Jonathan H. Grossman, an English professor at UCLA, claims that there is an “absent Jew” in a few of Dickens’ works, including A Christmas Carol: “he never constructs a Jewish character like his mimetic characters, who exist in the context of a home or a community. Unless, perhaps, ironically a Jew at home and in the community is suggested by the character Ebenezer Scrooge” (Grossman 50). Grossman goes on to express the possibility of Scrooge being Jewish and uses the first conversation between Scrooge and his nephew, Fred, as an example. Scrooge asks Fred why he got married, to which Grossman proclaims, “makes sense if Scrooge is Jewish: a Jewish uncle sees his (Jewish) nephew’s celebration of Christmas dinner as a direct result of his marriage to a Christian” (Grossman 50). Here, he states that Scrooge may be upset at Fred’s marriage because it involved a Christian and now a Christian holiday. This is, of course, only valid if Scrooge is accepted as an originally Jewish character. The revelation of Scrooge accepting Christmas and the ideals that come with it in the end might suggest that Dickens is portraying Christianity as the more perfect religion and value system; the only belief that can really “save” a person, making the moral value of the novel almost unavailable to other religions.

Is A Christmas Carol too narrow or allegorical in its portrayal of a true Christian Christmas? Do you think that Scrooge’s personality shift throughout the novel is meant to symbolize him being “saved” in a Christian sense?

Is Dickens suggesting that, for a society to be morally good, it needs to uphold Christian values?

12 thoughts on “Negative Reviews and Criticism (Or Lack Thereof) on Dickens and A Christmas Carol

  1. Profile photo of Cassandra BalliniCassandra Ballini

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

    Some may say A Christmas Carol implies that Christian morals are the only correct morals, and that Scrooge is Jewish and it’s a subtle conversion story. However, we believe that Dickens was focusing more on the morals that Christians, along with other religions, promote rather than the religion itself. It’s difficult to argue that A Christmas Carol is overtly religious in nature. A quick glance at the novel reveals that there are no uses of Christian imagery or terminology, such as “Christ,” “Holy Ghost,” etc. Though there are frequent mentions of God–most famously in Tiny Tim’s exaltation of “God bless us, everyone!”–these mentions come across as colloquial rather than profound. For instance, Fred bids Scrooge farewell not with a goodbye, but a “God bless you.” In those days, such statements were no different than “God save the queen,” or “bless you” after a sneeze. Though it can be argued that the nondenominational mentions of God support the Jewish conversion theory as presented by Grossman (being that the Jewish faith believes in the same God as Christianity), the notable lack of supporting biblical figures and themes makes these phrases sound casual.

    Moreover, Scrooge’s change of heart at the end of the story is meant to embody the goodness shown in the Cratchit family rather than a spiritual salvation. The scenes of the Cratchit’s Christmas celebration shows us that while the family is thankful to God, their focus is on the joy they share in each other’s company rather than the religious aspect of the holiday. They are good and charitable, but not missionaries. When Scrooge begins displaying generosity and kindness, it is shown as a form of altruism in the vein of the Cratchit’s behavior rather than a display of Christian morality. Scrooge’s change in behavior is not unlike the change shown in Nancy from Oliver Twist: Nancy was introduced with a broken moral compass, only to change her ways upon her exposure to Oliver’s innocence. Upon realizing the inherent goodness of Bob Cratchit and his family, Scrooge chose to follow their example rather than changing his mindset in a religious experience.

    Reply
    1. Hannah Sugarman

      We agree with Group 4 in that the lack of direct references to Christianity make it seem as though Dickens is focusing on the morality of the holiday as opposed to a religious experience. It does seem valid to admit that for Dickens’, the focus on his novel is not celebrating the birth of Jesus, but instead celebrating family values, love, and behaving as a good person. However, it’s important to note that for Dickens, who from all appearances remained a devout Christian from his birth to death, the idea of morality is inherently tied up with Christianity and religion. It seems as though Dickens may not have needed to explicitly reference Christianity in order to bring his idea of Christian values into the story. Even the colloquial mentions of God that Group 4 pointed out can serve as evidence for the fact that Dickens’ religious identity was tied into everything he said and everything he did. Even Nancy fits into the trope of a “fallen angel”, or a character that has been limited by life circumstance and begun to exhibit un-Christian behavior, but can be “saved” by a re-introduction to God and the morals of Christianity. The good and charitable behavior of the Cratchit family comes directly from Christianity, and so it is unfair and possibly even incorrect to completely remove religion from Dickens’ vision of Christmas.

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  2. Profile photo of Nivedita RajanNivedita Rajan

    Group 3

    Dickens, having been raised Christian, would have certainly grown up knowing the Biblical tales that showcased the concept of morality, such as the parable of the Good Samaritan, or even the acts of Jesus Christ. Due to Dickens’ Christian background, it is safe to assume that A Christmas Carol was written for a predominantly Anglican readership. However, we discussed the lack of overtly Christian imagery in the story-line itself, and agree that Dickens would have been preaching the importance of having a good heart rather than having a Christian soul. In the face of the suffering of the impoverished in times of great need, especially during the harsh winters of the Christmas season, Dickens was more concerned about the moral platform upon which the public operated. As we see in the dialogue between the donation collector and Scrooge at the beginning, Scrooge personifies the expected mentality of those who were better-off than the people who were forced to live on the streets. In Scrooge, we see the stereotype of the miserly, well-off, upper-middle class gentleman, and his reluctance to help those in need, which highlights the obvious lack of compassion and a moral compass of any sort.

    If the argument made by Grossman over the fact that Scrooge may have been the tacit Jewish character that was present in great relief in Dickens’ previous novel, Oliver Twist; this novel was met with heavy criticism over the manner in which Dickens portrayed the Jewish Fagin as the personification of all things wrong. Dickens may have kept this in mind as he wrote this Christmas tale, but still – unconsciously, perhaps – incorporated rather stereotypical Jewish imagery, such as Scrooge’s fascination with making money, his miserly demeanor, his physical features, and so on. Scrooge’s name is also a very un-Christian one: Ebenezer Scrooge is by no means a typical Christian name, and when all this imagery is put together, it is easy to understand why Grossman interpreted Scrooge as being Dickens’ stock Jewish character, which would pull the story deeper into religious conflict over the importance bestowed upon Christmas by each religion. Scrooge is clearly not grumpy over the fact that he may be a lone Jew among the Christian festivities of this holiday, he is grumpy simply because he is anti-social, and cannot seem to abide having to spend time with people, no matter how important a day was.

    Looking at this question from a simpler standpoint, religion does not seem to figure in great detail when it comes to Dickens’ commentary on the treatment of the poor and the things that could be done to better their lives throughout the year, not just during the season of generosity and goodwill. The very fact that Scrooge declares his intention to keep Christmas in his heart “all the year”, makes it clear that Dickens is stating that displaying a moral nature, which is sensitive towards the plight of the poor, is not something that should merely be connected to a Christian holiday; by advocating for the year-round moral goodness that must be practiced by the public, Dickens firmly removes the religious aspect from the simple acts of a morally good soul.

    Reply
    1. Profile photo of Erin DuffyErin Duffy

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

      We strongly agree with Group 3’s notion that Dicken’s did not intend to focus on the Christian versus Jewish aspects of the holidays in his novella. Rather, he chose to focus on right versus wrong, and embodied these two extremes in the figures of Scrooge and the Cratchits. Neither party is depicted as particularly religious, and though the Cratchits are shown to be Christian churchgoers, the narrative instead focuses on the joy they take in each other’s company and their thankfulness for their dinner; this was enough to profoundly affect Scrooge’s worldview, especially after being shown that Tiny Tim will die because of his failure to help. Bottom line is, Dickens never meant to show that one must be overtly religious in order to be a genuinely good person.

      To add to this argument, the interpretation of the final line “God bless Us, Every One” indicates humanity’s universal worthiness of blessing and generosity. The emphasis on ‘us’ and ‘every one’ in most film or theatrical interpretations rather than ‘God bless’ shows that the message is that every person- regardless of religious affinity, race, or social class- is equally deserving of kindness and capable of moral goodness. Moreover, the final chapter of the novella, in which a transformed Scrooge celebrates Christmas as generously as he can, shows Scrooge interacting with many strangers on the streets. Their social class is irrelevant; he wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and speaks kindly to the boy he sends to purchase the Cratchit’s dinner. This further emphasizes the universality of the Christmas spirit and the generosity that comes with it.

      Reply
  3. Profile photo of Matt SpitzerMatt Spitzer

    Group 5:

    Ehh... probably not the case.

    While Grossman’s evidential grounds for a Jewish Scrooge are flimsy at best (though certainly he had a history of anti-Semitism, and later corrected his biased views), we take the position that Grossman was making a larger point that Scrooge’s story is one of conversion. For him, it meant a Jew converting; however, the main question is what Scrooge is converting to.

    Dickens himself was very much a deep Christian, though he had problems with the religious sentiments of his day:

    “[a]s to the Church, my friend, I am sick of it. The spectacle presented by the indecent squabbles of priests of denominations, and the exemplary unfairness and rancour with which they conduct their differences, utterly repels me… How our sublime and so-different Christian religion is to be administered in the future, I cannot pretend to say, but that the Church’s hand is at its own throat I am fully convinced.” (“Allegory in Dickens,” by Jane Vogel).

    Certainly a conversion to Christianity is possible, though we take the position, unlike what Grossman is, perhaps, ultimately implying, that Dickens does not intend Scrooge’s conversion to be to Christianity, but to the values that belong both to humanity, and also Christianity. Joseph Gold writes,

    “[n]o wonder that many contemporary religionists regarded Dickens as a pagan thinker, for his love of holly and mistletoe and hot punch is one with his belief in immediate sensual, earthly rewards of spiritual conversion and brotherly love. Dickens continually reshapes Christian terms into a humanist mythology.”

    And here, perhaps Edgar Johnson goes too far (forgetting “[i]f in Dickens faith runs silent, it runs deep,” [Vogel]):

    “[i]t should not be imagined that Christmas has for Dickens more than the very smallest connection with Christian dogma or theology. For Dickens Christmas is primarily a human not supernatural feast, with a glowing emphasis on goose and gravy, plum pudding and punch…”

    It is our opinion that Dickens was deeply invested in his Christian manner of thinking, but that the story does not preclude conversion to a broader branch of humanity than Christianity. Clearly the critics disagreed on Dickens’s faith and its place in his texts– perhaps because of Dickens’s nuanced views of his day’s religion, preferring a personal religion, combined with his silence on his views in public. Therefore there is room, as always, to argue either way or another. On picking out selected quotations from these authors we felt we got a nice sense of dialogue going. However, they seem to converge as to the direction of Scrooge’s conversion.

    Our learned sources all label Scrooge’s conversion in non-religious terms, if spiritual. Joseph Gold writes, “Indeed, by writing a fairy tale or ghost tale, Dickens deliberately avoids dealing with the question of psychological or spiritual growth.” Pointing this out, it may be safely inferred that Gold means that by avoiding spiritual growth, he is setting the story in an arena either smaller, or larger, than religion itself. He continues, “[a]s Johnson points out… ‘Scrooge’s conversion is more than the transformation of a single human being. It is a plea for society itself to undergo a change of heart.” Quickly– Johnson conveys a similar point: “[t]here have been readers who object to Scrooge’s conversion as too sudden.. to be psychologically convincing. But this is to mistake a semi-serious fantasy for a piece of prosaic realism.”

    As the original group to pose the research question, we obviously had plenty of research to spare on the role of religion and conversion in A Christmas Carol. All in all, back to what we say– and we say that Scrooge’s journey of conversion is too broad to be confined to Christianity alone. When he encounters the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, he receives no instructions or words from this seemingly spiritual visitant; Scrooge, in a very human sort of way, is forced to figure things out himself, from his own heart, to the hearts of others. It was the immediate pleasures of society and charity that convert Scrooge, not the threat of wandering-in-chains that Jacob Marley shows him, or indeed threats of of a more explicit Hell. Gold writes,

    “[c]onverted from what to what? A Christmas Carol gives the answer more precisely and more simply than anywhere else in Dickens–converted from closedness to openness, from frigidity to warmth, from isolation to brotherhood, from death to life.”

    We hold simply that while Dickens uses slight Christian allusions in A Christmas Carol, they do not necessarily lead to a Christian conversion for Scrooge or anyone who wishes to be moral.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Campbell

      Group 6 Response to a Response:

      Group five makes a point very similar to our own that, although Dickens uses Christian values and morals throughout this fantastical tale, Dickens is not necessarily saying that Christianity is the only way to be a virtuous and moral person. Some perhaps may argue that Scrooge’s change of heart is an allusion to him becoming a Christian, however, it seems the textual evidence within “A Christmas Carol” points to a much wider perspective than being a mere Christian conversion story.

      A big aspect of the story that should be further examined is the idea of ghosts and the supernatural. Spirits are a huge part of Dickens’ story as is seen by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come, and the spirit of Jacob Marley. However, ghosts, at least the benevolent kind that are portrayed in the story, are not a Christian construction. In fact, most Christians interpret the Bible as containing only angels and demons—no ghosts. A Biblical apologetic writer from answersingenesis.org states that:

      “No evidence has produced a single fact that should sway a Christian into believing that the spirits of deceased people can loiter on earth. In light of the Bible, the only conclusion is that ghost sightings are either the figments of overactive imaginations, or else they are demons” (https://answersingenesis.org/angels-and-demons/do-you-believe-in-ghosts/).

      The Bible references possessions and spirits, but these are explained as being evil demons or the workings of the human mind. However, Scrooge’s serious and severe demeanor seems to suggest that the apparitions he witnesses may be more than simple mental imaginings. It is also quite obvious that Dickens does not portray these ghosts as being evil, malicious fiends who are trying to corrupt or hurt Ebenezer Scrooge. On the contrary, these supernatural beings are helping Scrooge to transform into a more moral human being. In these ways, Dickens’ use of “good” ghosts is antithetical to the Christian belief of the supernatural. It also seems “A Christmas Carol” does not serve as a mere evangelical pamphlet which purpose is to convert its readers to the “right” religion of Christianity. Instead, it is a novel that shows that, although Christianity contains commendable virtues and morals, that religion is not the only way of achieving morality.

      Reply
  4. Kevin O'Connor

    Group 2 Response- Kevin O’Connor

    Grossman says there is an absent Jew presented in Scrooge’s Character that suggests he is converted from Judaism to Christianity by the novel’s conclusion. This assumption places Christianity as the sole foundation for any moral structures, excluding other foundations for moral principles. We concede that Dickens frames the novel under a Christian sentiment, but the way Dickens presents Scrooge’s transformation (or conversion) as a result of the three spirits’ warnings suggests that a personal–not solely spiritual–morality can be derived from consequentialism, an understanding that consequences of one’s actions are the basis for any moral discernment.
    The evidence that Dickens slips Christian symbols into his novel comes in the form of three spirits, which symbolize the three parts of the Christian God. These spirits do approach Scrooge attempting to transform his outlook on Christmas and life in general and do use scare tactics that could be seen as a fire and brimstone sort of conversion to catalyse this transformation. But an important difference between the Christian conversionism is that none of the spirits use the threat of eternal damnation or a wrathful God to change Scrooge. Instead we see instances of the final spirit pandering to Scrooges humanity in the following dialogue:

    “Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”
    “I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”
    “No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”
    “If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
    Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

    The final spirit presents Tiny Tim’s death as an indirect result of Scrooge’s inaction, referencing Scrooge’s opinions on the “surplus population”, which allows Scrooge to reassess the morality of his behavior as a consequence of Tiny Tim’s death.
    Scrooge feels bad for the way he treated others. He’s not scared by hell or eternal damnation (if he was he would behave differently from the start), he’s scared by his reputation and interpersonal identity. Morality comes from reflection; he is not a born-again Christian, he is a reformed man who wants to be good to other people because he sees the real-life (not spiritual) consequences of his actions and inactions. Tiny Tim dies because of him and he wants to change in response to this.

    Reply
    1. Profile photo of Lizzie MessanaLizzie Messana

      Group 2 provides an interesting idea in the assertion that Scrooge’s development is related to consequentialism. You highlighted the value Scrooge places in reputation, and Professor Schacht brought up Adam Smith’s idea of the “internalized spectator,” whom we need to have in order to see if we acting decently and correctly. We agree with this notion and would like to develop it by providing further evidence in the text. Scrooge truly starts to understand the depravity of his mentality when the Ghost of Christmas Future shows him his own death, “alone by himself” (Dickens 91). The narrator conveys Scrooge’s feelings towards this realization when he says, “Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror” (93). In addition, the narrator also evokes Scrooge’s comprehension of his reputation when Scrooge acknowledges that his body is “plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept, uncared for” (94). Scrooge calls this premonition “a fearful place” (95) and begs the Spirit to show him someone who truly cares about his him: “If there is any person in the town, who feels emotion caused by this man’s death,” said Scrooge quite agonised, “show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you!” (95), which the Spirit is unable to do. At this moment, Scrooge truly comprehends that his selfish, greedy, and immoral views toward the poor have isolated him from society and have caused others to hate him, rendering him unloved. Scrooge’s true reason for reforming himself is highlighted by his focus on the austerity and emotionlessness of his epitaph. He is striving to change society’s perception of him, which is represented by the words (or lack thereof) on his gravestone: “Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!” (103). From there, he proclaims that he will change his ways and live “an altered life” (103). Thus, I think we can substantially argue that Scrooge’s conversion is consequential to the Ghosts’ premonitions.

      Reply
  5. Profile photo of Jenna CecchiniJenna Cecchini

    Group 1

    As Group 5 mentioned, Grossman seems to propose that Dickens is equating morality with Christianity. However, we feel that this is not necessarily the case. Although this story is about a Christian holiday, that Dickens is indicating that Christianity is the solution to immoral behavior is unlikely. Rather than evangelizing, Dickens is using the principles of Christianity as a vehicle for moral reform.

    Because Dickens was writing and publishing during his lifetime, we can assume that he was not only aware of the fact that he had an audience, but also that he had to respond to it. Dickens knew that most English people were some type of Christian, so he frames the message of A Christmas Carol within a Christian holiday: Christmas. By appealing to them in such a way, he is reaching the most people he can with language that he knows they will understand. He may even be using Scrooge as a character that some readers can relate to. There are no perfect people, but certainly there are some who would understand where Scrooge is coming from when he tells his nephew, “Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine!” (16). And if they align themselves more with Scrooge’s cheerful nephew, then they might even be able to point out some Scrooges in their own lives.

    In addition to appealing to the masses with mention of their religion (and perhaps their community), Dickens also brings contemporary politics and economics to the table. Dickens’ other works–Oliver Twist in particular–make frequent reference to the horrors of workhouses and the effects of the poor laws on victorian society. While not the focus of this particular story, Dickens makes a point to remind his audience about the culture that they are living in. It is most explicit when two gentleman asking for donations are met with a brusque reply from Scrooge, who says that if those who are poor and living in workhouses would rather die, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population” (24). Furthermore, the workhouses are the product of a Christian society, which Dickens is trying to reform; so he certainly isn’t advocating for the side of Christianity that would allow such atrocity.

    Later on, in a conversation about business with the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge makes a point to say that the law does not do its best to accommodate the poor. Prominent, powerful, self-proclaimed Evangelicals sought to close businesses on Sunday, so that the poor would be less inclined to indulge in distraction (93, footnotes). The Spirit gives a rebuttal, saying that there are people, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name; who are strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived” (93). In other words, claiming to be a Christian or aligning oneself with the Christian faith does not mean very much of anything. There are gentiles and non-gentiles who are good, and those who are bad. Dickens is calling attention to the idea that identifying as a Christian does not count as an exemption from moral behavior, nor does it guarantee that all so-called Christian actions are moral ones.

    Overall, we believe Dickens’ main goal in this story is reforming social behavior and stigmatized society; thus, the use of Christianity in A Christmas Carol is merely in relation to the topic at hand, as well as an attempt to redefine the holiday as a more charitable one. It is unlikely that Dickens was making an attempt to write a conversion story, as Christ himself has little to do with Scrooge’s decision to turn his life around. Though certainly nudged by his ghostly visitors, doing good is something that Scrooge must choose for himself.

    Reply
    1. Profile photo of Michael AdamsMichael Adams

      Group 1 focuses on the idea that Dickens uses non-denominational characters from across the moral spectrum to prove that Christianity does not have a monopoly on moral righteousness.
      We agree with the idea that it is not a conversion narrative, but disagree with the assertion that Dickens uses Christian morals to get his point across.
      The catalyst to Scrooge’s moral change is the visitation by the ghosts. The only connection that the ghosts have to Christian ideology is their claim that the represent Christmas. Their words and visions do not mirror Christian teachings in any way: the punishment shown for Scrooge’s wicked ways is not a Christian Hell, but rather a pagan Limbo. They do not claim that changing his ways will make his the kingdom of Heaven, instead simply saying that people might like him more if he weren’t such a jerk all the time.
      That the ideals the ghosts propone line up with the Christian ideal of charity is, in terms of the narrative, basically no more than a coincidence. The spirits do not have any connection to the church or to Christianity outside of the time of year that they represent, and even that is shaky as Christmas is an adaptation of the Roman celebration of Saturnalia.

      -Group 2

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  6. Kelsey

    Group 6

    Jonathon Grossman argues that A Christmas Carol is a conversion story that subtly expresses anti-Semitic and negative views about those who aren’t of Christian faith, saying that the reason for Scrooge’s revelation is because he had been “saved” in the Christian sense. However, our group has come to the conclusion that while there is no doubt that Dickens is advocating Christian morality in his novels like A Christmas Carol, he is not limiting morality exclusively to Christianity. The majority of the novel is Scrooge being visited by three ghosts that show him Christmas past, present and Christmas yet to come. Yet, the idea of ghosts actually opposes the ideals of Christianity. In the bible there are strictly demons and angels, there is no possibility of ghosts or being visited by one. And, while one could argue that the Christmas ghosts are angles or demons therefore confining the story to Christianity, the ghost of Jacob Marley and what he tells and shows Scrooge completely negates this argument. In Hebrews 9:27, it reads that “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”. There is no in-between or limbo that Marley and the other chained ghosts are described as being stuck in, there is heaven and hell, and that is it. This is one among several reasons why we believe that this story is not restricted to the idea that morality is confined to Christians.

    Another point we came across that negates Grossmans argument are the scenes when Scrooge visits the lavish Christmas parties of Mr. Fezziwig’s and his nephew Fred. Both of which were filled with many happy, celebrating, guests where “there were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer” with children playing games like “Blindman’s Buff” and “How, When, and Where”. The biggest point of showing Scrooge events like Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball and Fred’s Christmas gathering is to explain what Christmas is truly about. Not the feasting, drinking, and dancing, but whom you are doing it with, the family and friends that you are spending time with, is what make it so enjoyable. And Scrooge begins to recognize and experience this when “he begged like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed”, and when he listens to Fred and his guests toast to his health he “had imperceptibly become so gay and light of heart, that he would have pledged the unconscious company in return, and thanked them in an inaudible speech, if the Ghost had given him time”. For the first time in a long time, Scrooge experiences joy and compassion. He begins to understand what it is like again to spend time with loved ones and spend money on pleasurable things like food and beer and clothing. This moves us into our last point.

    While we know very little of Scrooges childhood, we get a quick glimpse of him as a little boy. As the Ghost of Christmas Past takes us back in time, we see young Scrooge first as “a solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still” and on a later Christmas “alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the jolly holiday”. With Dickens giving us a look into Scrooge’s past, we can begin to understand how he became what we know him as. With the contrasting scenes of Scrooges experiencing heartache and hardship of his past, meeting the children Ignorance and Want, and seeing his own uncared for grave, with the joy he feels with experiencing the Christmas parties, seeing his sister and niece, we can easily understand his change of heart. There is no mention of church, religious texts, or Christ himself. There are morals within Christianity and out of it that come from this story that are universal. After all the visions, Scrooge says he is going to live in the “the past present and future” and not forgetting the hardships he has faced, or the compassion he has received. By living in this water way in time, Scrooge commits wholeheartedly to this change of heart he experiences, not because he has been “saved”, but because he has been awakened by empathy and love that he had lacked for many years.

    Reply
    1. Kristen Druse

      Group 5

      Although it is true that Dickens includes some non-Christian components in his novel, he still seems to conclude that Christian morality is the best source or guide of good in the world. The idea of a ghostly presence doesn’t actually exclude traditional Christianity from the novel because spirits are present in the Bible, specifically in the Old Testament. Group 6’s final point about how at the conclusion of the novel it is indicated that by doing good, Scrooge will be living in the “past, present, and future” really connects to a traditional Christian idea of the timelessness of Heaven. Although Christianity may not be the exclusive path to good in Dickens’ eyes, it certainly seems as though he’s leading is readers to believe that it is the most efficient guarantee of doing good.

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