Character Analysis in A Christmas Carol
Character Analysis Examples in A Christmas Carol:
Stave One 19
"Couldn't I take ’em all at once, and have it over, Jacob?..." See in text (Stave One)
In another example of Scrooge's perceiving things as business transactions, this question represents his desire to try and get a bargain with Marley's Ghost. Scrooge values money, and how much he earns is connected to how much time he spends working. Here, if he can get all the "work" done more efficiently, then he saves his time for himself. This reinforces his greedy, self-serving nature and shows that he has yet to start changing for the better.
"You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years..." See in text (Stave One)
Scrooge, ever the pragmatist, questions why the Ghost hasn't already travelled to all the places it should have, given the span of seven years and its ability to travel "on the wings of the wind." While this could be a sign of Scrooge being facetious again, it is also indicative of how his mind works: deals and bargains have terms and conditions, so he believes the Ghost should have already completed what was owed. Scrooge needs to learn that there is more in life than transactions and debt.
"Is its pattern strange to you?..." See in text (Stave One)
Since we know that Scrooge and Marley shared most of the same traits, the emphasis on the word "you" demonstrates that the Ghost knows that Scrooge will in fact recognize the pattern of the chain. Scrooge's trembling affirms that he is becoming aware of the similarities between himself and the Ghost.
"Mercy!” he said. “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?..." See in text (Stave One)
Up until now, Scrooge has tried to rationalize his encounter with Marley's ghost as something nonsensical and due to a tired mind or indigestion. Since he lacks imagination and belief in anything, Scrooge insists on rational, practical explanations for anything. However, in this moment, he finally fears Marley's ghost for what it is and begins to cower before it.
"(Scrooge had a cold in his head)..." See in text (Stave One)
When Dickens notes that “Scrooge had a cold in his head,” he suggests that Scrooge may also be eating gruel to help remedy a cold, as it was believed to help cure the sick. Either way, Scrooge’s meal choice indicates that he values low cost and practicality above all.
"The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business..." See in text (Stave One)
In his death and purgatory, Marley has gained perspective on what he should have concerned himself with in life. Marley’s values were not all that different from Scrooge’s, with money being his sole purpose and all other concerns like “mercy, forbearance, and benevolence” being none of his “business.” Marley warns Scrooge to learn that “the common welfare” should be everyone’s business, before it's too late.
"He was going to say “to a shade,” but substituted this, as more appropriate..." See in text (Stave One)
The term “shade” has a double meaning that Dickens is playing on here. On the one hand, a “shade” can mean “a small amount of difference”—typically in reference to a difference in color. However, the term can also mean “ghost” or “spirit.” Marley encompasses both meanings because he is not only a ghost, but he is also being particular about something that makes little difference.
"Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels..." See in text (Stave One)
The term “bowels” during this time was used to refer to “bowels of compassion” or “bowels of mercy.” The phrase comes from the past belief that different emotional capacities came from certain organs of the body. When Scrooge states that people often said that “Marley had no bowels,” he may be trying to defend his own actions. In other words, Scrooge is admittedly not compassionate, but Marley is not perfect either.
"in a more facetious temper than was usual with him..." See in text (Stave One)
By a "facetious" temper, Dickens means that Scrooge is (slightly) more pleasant, joking, or humorous than is usual for him. Having told the two gentlemen to leave and not given them any money, Scrooge's mood improves, further illustrating how much he prefers to hoard his money and not help others.
"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course..." See in text (Stave One)
Dickens does two things in this passage. First, he further characterizes Scrooge as an unsympathetic miser. Second, he has Scrooge represent the ignorant and uncharitable attitude of the wealthy and aristocratic classes of the time, whom Dickens himself despised. Since value was often equated with financial status, Scrooge, and others like him, failed to see value in those who needed financial assistance.
"what reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough...." See in text (Stave One)
Scrooge's nephew turns his uncle's logic on it's own head: why would Scrooge not be happy when he has so much wealth? While it's possible that Scrooge's nephew does place value on being wealthy, his upbeat attitude in spite of his poverty suggests that he believes many things are worth being merry about besides just money.
"what reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough...." See in text (Stave One)
Another example that reveals Scrooge's character, this statement shows that Scrooge thinks his nephew foolish to be merry when he does not have a lot of money. This belief reinforces how much value Scrooge places on physical wealth, and it serves as another example of how greed affects all aspects of Scrooge's life.
"But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room..." See in text (Stave One)
Dickens has established that Scrooge is like the winter weather—cold and abrasive. This line provides us a further glimpse into his character. He is so greedy that he does not make coals available to him employee, likely because he does not want to spend extra money heating the rooms.
"warning all human sympathy to keep its distance..." See in text (Stave One)
This introduction to Scrooge not only demonstrates how extremely miserly and isolated he is, but it also shows that he prefers to keep it that way. Readers might wonder how such a person could possibly change. By depicting Scrooge this way initially, Dickens creates anticipation and sets the scene for Scrooge's miraculous transition.
"Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster..." See in text (Stave One)
These two similes define Scrooge in three ways: First, he is portrayed as inflexible through the comparison to flint (a hard gray rock). Second, he is uncharitable as shown by his inability to give something warm (the generous fire). Finally, he is not only isolated from others, but he also keeps to himself in his own world, contained within his own shell.
"Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge!..." See in text (Stave One)
Dickens uses this expression to directly establish Scrooge as someone who jealously guards and hoards money. The "grindstone" refers to someone who creates grain from seeds, and so a "tight-fisted hand" means that someone who makes grain (or anything for a profit) does their best to hold on to as much of their grain as possible.
"Scrooge was his sole executor..." See in text (Stave One)
Dickens repeats the word "sole" here for a very particular purpose. Not only has he established that Marley is dead, but he also wants readers to understand that Scrooge was the only person in Marley's life.
"solemnised it with an undoubted bargain..." See in text (Stave One)
That is, Scrooge helped the funeral ceremony occur with very few expenses. The narrator is providing us insight into Scrooge's character by saying that even though Scrooge was Marley's sole friend and mourner, Scrooge was in a decent mood because he saved money on Marley's funeral.
"’Change..." See in text (Stave One)
The apostrophe at the start of this word indicates that part of it has been omitted. The full word is "exchange," or a place where merchants meet to transact business through buying and selling goods, stocks, etc. Since Scrooge's name is "good upon the 'Change," this means he is a skilled, and likely shrewd, trader.
Stave Two 17
"There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!..." See in text (Stave Two)
Young Scrooge points out one of the great ironies of the world: poverty is terrible, but people who pursue wealth are condemned. While there may be wisdom in pointing this out, young Scrooge is also using it as an excuse for his behavior—an excuse that he'll use through life as he eventually becomes more miserly. Note also Scrooge's hypocrisy: young Scrooge states how terrible poverty is, and yet he has refused to give to charity and those in need.
"No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer!..." See in text (Stave Two)
With these first words, Fezziwig reveals more about his character to us. Since he tells his employees to stop working on Christmas Eve, this puts him in contrast with Scrooge, who had his clerk work that day instead. This is an example of indirect characterization, in which we can infer character traits from what it said and shown rather than being told directly by the narrator.
"“No,” said Scrooge, “No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now! That's all.”..." See in text (Stave Two)
With Scrooge now remembering how well he was treated by Mr. Fezziwig, he starts to understand that the way that he has been treating his clerk is not very fair. Furthermore, Scrooge now starts to realize that it would not be all that difficult to treat his employees with the respect that Mr. Fezziwig gave him in his youth.
"Father is so much kinder than he used to be..." See in text (Stave Two)
Fan's statement here suggests that Scrooge's father was unkind for much of Scrooge's childhood. This likely explains why Scrooge was sent to a boarding school and provides further evidence for why Scrooge's memories of Christmastime are not all happy ones.
"He only knew that it was quite correct; that everything had happened so; that there he was, alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the jolly holidays..." See in text (Stave Two)
We've learned that Scrooge spent the Christmas holiday alone at a rundown school with only books for company. Such an experience likely suggests why he has painful associations with Christmas, and it also provides insight into why having money is so important for him.
"The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune...." See in text (Stave Two)
Scrooge remembers his employer very fondly due to the seemingly “insignificant” acts of kindness he shows his employees. Mr. Fezziwig shows how much he cares for his employees, not by paying them large sums of money or giving extravagant gifts, but by being decent and considerate—he shows them respect. Scrooge is beginning to learn that this is ultimately more valuable than money.
"During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self...." See in text (Stave Two)
Scrooge is entirely surrounded by a moment in his past that is bright and joyous. Reliving a past Christmas Eve in which he participated and delighted in catapults him back into “his former self,” and we can see that having Christmas spirit is indeed a possibility for Scrooge, even in the present.
"the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter's night...." See in text (Stave Two)
Note the significant contrast between the way that Fezziwig keeps his office and the way that Scrooge does. Fezziwig makes certain that the office is comfortable, warm, and bright for his employees. Scrooge keeps the office icy, cold, and dark, refusing to pay for what he considers “comforts” rather than necessities. Dickens uses Fezziwig to symbolize how an ethical and compassionate boss should behave.
"Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly, “Yes.”..." See in text (Stave Two)
Note that Fan is the only person in Scrooge’s past that we have seen that has shown him any compassion and care. Revisiting the memory of his sister and being reminded of her death is certainly painful and prompts Scrooge to reflect on the way that he treats her son. Dickens thus leaves the reader to reflect on why Scrooge treats the boy the way he does.
"Then with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, “Poor boy!” and cried again...." See in text (Stave Two)
Dickens humanizes Scrooge further by emphasizing the deeply lonely childhood that he had while at school. Rather than defending Scrooge’s current attitudes and actions towards those around him, Scrooge’s despair for the lonely child helps explain what might have led him to become the man that he is: misanthropic and reclusive.
"And he sobbed..." See in text (Stave Two)
The strongest emotion we have seen of Scrooge thus far is brought on by a realization that he is the lone child “neglected by his friends.” Notice how Dickens has begun to transform Scrooge into a more sympathetic character as he is humanized by these memories. Here, we arrive at what seems to be a deeply emotional memory for Scrooge. Though we are unsure as to whether this moment is the very source of his hatred for Christmas or not.
"Out upon merry Christmas!..." See in text (Stave Two)
“Out upon!” is a command that was commonly used in the past to mean something close to “away with!” or “shame upon!” While Scrooge admits that he is momentarily experiencing the cheer and elation that he felt for Christmas as a child, he invalidates these feelings immediately. There seems to be something painful about these memories for Scrooge.
"Why was he filled with gladness when he heard them give each other merry Christmas, as they parted at cross-roads and by-ways for their several homes!..." See in text (Stave Two)
Just as the memories of youth came back to Scrooge when he first revisited his childhood home, the memories of a time in which Christmas meant joy to him resurface. While Scrooge heavily criticizes and resents Christmas now, it did at one time bring him happiness, and he cannot escape these memories.
"And what is that upon your cheek?..." See in text (Stave Two)
The sights and smells of Scrooge’s childhood home reconnect him with all of the thoughts and emotions of his past that he has so far been successful in forgetting. Scrooge has been disconnected from these feelings for a “long, long” time, which seems to make their appearance here all the more powerful for him. Scrooge’s emotional capacity is apparent here, even if only in the shedding of one small tear.
"Perhaps Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could have asked him, but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap, and begged him to be covered...." See in text (Stave Two)
The narrator suggests that even Scrooge is perplexed that his first instinct, after hearing the purpose of the ghost’s visit, is to ask it to put its cap on so as to extinguish the light. For reasons which are unknown at this point in the novel, Scrooge resists reliving his past and we are led to wonder why, creating a sense of mystery and tension.
"the more he endeavoured not to think, the more he thought..." See in text (Stave Two)
Despite his best efforts, Scrooge is unable to convince himself that Marley’s visit was a dream. This contrasts with Scrooge’s continuously adamant dismissal of every unexplainable occurrence as “humbug” in the first stave. While Scrooge has been characterized as being fairly impervious to emotion and difficult to shake, we see here that Scrooge has certainly been affected by Marley’s visit.
"The quarter was so long..." See in text (Stave Two)
The passage of time has become irregular and unpredictable for Scrooge. Dickens manipulates time here to illustrate the intensity of Scrooge’s anxieties and fears about the ghosts. Scrooge anxiously awaits the first spirit’s arrival partially due to fear, but also due to the fact that he now has a limited amount of time to change his fate.
Stave Three 7
"“Here's a new game,” said Scrooge. “One half-hour, Spirit, only one!”..." See in text (Stave Three)
Dickens uses irony here: Scrooge wanted to get through the night as quickly as possible up to this point, but now he begs the Ghost of Christmas Present to stay longer. Though watching these games from the sidelines, Scrooge seems to share in their joy and excitement. This is reminiscent of his childhood, when he was always escaping into fictional worlds. Thus, Dickens creates a kind of bittersweet moment: the reader can see that Scrooge is capable of participating in Christmas cheer, but he is still isolated. We are led to wonder if he will seek to participate in festivities in the real world once he returns to it.
"“I am sorry for him; I couldn't be angry with him if I tried...." See in text (Stave Three)
Despite how badly Scrooge treats his nephew, Fred does not hold it against him—he feels sorry for him. Fred is more aware of how and to what extent Scrooge suffers from his avarice more than Scrooge himself is. Dickens characterizes Fred’s deep kindness and caring for his uncle in this way. Fred will continue to invite Scrooge to Christmas and to offer him his friendship, no matter how many times Scrooge refuses.
"It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to recognise it as his own nephew's, and to find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side,..." See in text (Stave Three)
Ironically, by focusing solely on acquiring money to live a happy life free of poverty, Scrooge ends up denying himself any happiness at all. The Ghost of Christmas Present helps Scrooge see this by showing him how people of different backgrounds celebrate Christmas. Scrooge does not need to live an extravagant life in order to enjoy the holidays. He simply needs to appreciate those around him and treat others with kindness.
"“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”..." See in text (Stave Three)
Scrooge has become more compassionate and understanding for those who are at a disadvantage, a change that is partially prompted by seeing the love that the Cratchit’s have for the “good as gold” Tiny Tim. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge that Tiny Tim has a very large heart, and Scrooge’s pained reaction to Tiny Tim’s predicted death illustrates how much Scrooge has developed in character.
"and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass; two tumblers and a custard-cup without a handle...." See in text (Stave Three)
Dickens subtly informs the reader of the extent of the Cratchit’s poverty by emphasizing the fact that the “family display of glass” consists of only “two tumblers and a custard-cup without a handle.” Note that in the next line though, Dickens makes it clear that this family is grateful and happy despite their poverty. The Cratchit’s may not have the money (thanks to Mr. Scrooge) for an elaborate feast in beautiful glassware, but they are celebrating together nonetheless.
"He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been..." See in text (Stave Three)
The term “dogged” means “stubborn” or “grimly resolved.” Scrooge himself notes that he is not the stubborn person that he once was. The fact that Scrooge “enter[s] timidly” shows that he has been humbled by his meetings with the ghosts and the threat of what will come if he does not change his ways.
"For he wished to challenge the Spirit on the moment of its appearance, and did not wish to be taken by surprise and made nervous...." See in text (Stave Three)
The Ghost of Christmas Past’s visit frightened Scrooge. He had not accepted that his situation was real, continually questioning whether he was dreaming or not. Now, Scrooge has accepted this as reality and is no longer a passive participant in his own reclamation, but an active one.
Stave Four 8
"waning..." See in text (Stave Four)
In this context, “waning” means “decreasing.” Scrooge’s time to change his fate seems to be dwindling rapidly, and his hurried speech reflects his anxiety about this. While Scrooge may be eager to learn his lesson, he wants to escape his fate above all else, which is ultimately, a selfish reason to change.
"Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?..." See in text (Stave Four)
Scrooge desperately wants the ghost to tell him that this future can be changed. Consider that Scrooge has continually sought himself, in vain, throughout this stave. The fact that Scrooge is so invested in this dead man’s future is very telling, and leads the reader to question whether or not Scrooge is finally starting to wonder if he might be the dead man might be.
"how green a place it is..." See in text (Stave Four)
The “place” that Bob Cratchit refers to here is the graveyard in which Tiny Tim was buried. Compare the image of a lush, “green” graveyard that friends and family promise to visit to the image of the “dark empty house” that the other dead man lies alone in. The difference in the tone of these descriptions emphasizes how much Tiny Tim positively influenced those around him, and that he will be missed and loved after his death unlike the old miser.
"Let me see some tenderness connected with a death..." See in text (Stave Four)
The ghost shows Scrooge that the only people that have been emotionally affected by this man’s death are actually happy about it. Scrooge becomes upset at this as he begins to internalize the lesson. Many of us want to be remembered fondly after our deaths, but this future resembles the kind that Scrooge is heading towards if he does not change his ways.
"It's a judgment on him...." See in text (Stave Four)
Mrs. Dilber steals her deceased employer’s belongings, and she uses the fact that he hoarded his wealth in isolation to justify this thievery. While her employer may have been a selfish person, Mrs. Dilber’s stealing cannot be justified. The goods could have been donated upon his death, but she uses them for her own personal profit. She is not much more ethical than the deceased man that she judges.
"thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried out in this...." See in text (Stave Four)
Scrooge is not alarmed that he does not see himself at the Exchange because he assumes that his “new-born resolutions” have paid off in the future. Scrooge hopes that his efforts to change will be successful, which helps indicate his sincerity in telling the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that he would take these lessons to heart.
"strictly in a business point of view..." See in text (Stave Four)
Dickens continually reminds the reader that even though Scrooge had a lonely childhood, he chooses not to cultivate friendships in adulthood. While we are led to sympathize with Scrooge for his past, we are also prompted to recognize Scrooge’s own agency in the matter—he only seeks relationships that will result in monetary reward, which is not a noble reason to initiate a friendship.
"I fear you more than any Spectre I have seen...." See in text (Stave Four)
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come greatly differs from the previous two ghosts. It is very frightening and does not resemble a human like the other ghosts did. Although Scrooge admits that he fears this ghost more than the others, he still resolves to learn from the ghost with “a thankful heart” to “live to be a better man.” Scrooge’s determination to overcome his fear indicates how much he has grown in becoming more gracious and selfless.
Stave Five 12
"Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”..." See in text (Stave Five)
Recall that Scrooge’s office was very cold because he refused to buy an adequate amount of coal, even during the chilly winter months. Dickens uses the warm fire to show the reader how much Scrooge has improved. Now, Scrooge values the well-being and comfort of his employees above his own riches.
"Total Abstinence Principle..." See in text (Stave Five)
The term “intercourse” in this context means “communication,” and the term “abstinence” means to refrain from doing something. Thus, by “Total Abstinence Principle,” Dickens means that Scrooge no longer had any interactions with spirits after that one evening. This is Dickens way of letting the reader know that Scrooge’s transformation has been permanent and successful. Scrooge will treat people with compassion and generosity, so that he will never require another visit from the ghosts again.
" as near as he could feign it...." See in text (Stave Five)
The fact that Scrooge must “feign” his old temperament is extremely telling. This playful trick emphasizes how much Scrooge has developed and how genuinely he has taken these lessons to heart. Scrooge’s joy runs so deeply now, that he must pretend to be the old and miserable penny-pincher that he used to be. In this way, Dickens indicates that Scrooge's change is genuine and lasting.
"or he wouldn't have done it, on any account...." See in text (Stave Five)
Scrooge worries about startling Fred’s wife, something that he never would have concerned himself with prior to his transformation. In this way, Dickens subtly shows the reader how selfless Scrooge has become. Scrooge is finally taking other people’s feelings into consideration.
"“Don't say anything, please,” retorted Scrooge. “Come and see me. Will you come and see me?”..." See in text (Stave Five)
The fact that Scrooge now wants to cultivate a friendship with this man illustrates that he has started to view his friendships much differently than before. Friendship now has inherent value in it for Scrooge, and he no longer builds relationships solely for business or profit.
"I haven't missed it...." See in text (Stave Five)
Scrooge loved Christmas as a younger man, and it seems that his Christmas spirit has finally returned. However, if we think about Scrooge's comments about redemption in the beginning of the stave, his excitement that another Christmas has not passed him by indicates an excitement to give to others, rather than enjoy Christmas for himself. While Scrooge's reclamation does not depend on Christmas Day, he can "redeem" himself by giving those around him a merry Christmas, something that he has failed to do for years.
"“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “It's a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!”..." See in text (Stave Five)
During his adulthood, money became the only source of happiness for Scrooge, and it was a shallow happiness. The fact that Scrooge delights in talking to this boy illustrates how much he has changed. He is finding joy in the little things and certainly not seeking solitude in the way that he previously was.
"He shan't know who sends it..." See in text (Stave Five)
Note that Scrooge does not want Bob Cratchit to know that he sent him the turkey. Not only does he want to do something kind for Bob Cratchit and his family, but he desires no reward for this goodness. Scrooge is simply satisfied and delighted in the knowledge that he has helped the Cratchits to have a merrier Christmas.
"it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!..." See in text (Stave Five)
Throughout the entire final stave, Scrooge can be found full of laughter and "chuckling." His revelations have brought him a lightheartedness that we have not seen from him since his youth, and they help show the reader what joy can be found in caring for others.
"“They are not torn down,” cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, “they are not torn down, rings and all...." See in text (Stave Five)
Recall that the thief in the fourth stave tore down Scrooge's bed curtains after his death. Scrooge's overwhelming relief that the curtains have not been torn down indicates just how terrified he was that this future was unavoidable—that his efforts would be futile. Not only does Dickens emphasize Scrooge's emotional state at this moment of revelation, but he also reminds us that working for positive change is never futile—that no one is beyond reclamation.
"“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!”..." See in text (Stave Five)
When Scrooge states that he “will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future,” he vows to take the lessons that he has learned from the spirits into his everyday life. While we might have worried that Scrooge would have gotten through the frightening evening only to revert back to his old miserly ways, this helps indicate that his change has been permanent—or at least that he is willing to continually strive to make it so.
"Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!..." See in text (Stave Five)
Note that Scrooge is no longer only excited at the prospect of changing his future for his own personal gain, but rather for what he can do with the time for others. This is an important change in his attitude from even the previous stave, when he was still largely concerned with his time for selfish reasons.