30/30 'A Christmas Carol' essay GCSE

Published on 23 March 2024 at 16:14

Question: How does Dickens use the supernatural to evoke change.


In ‘A Christmas Carol’, Dickens uses four main ghosts as supernatural forces to guide Scrooge to change for the better.


In the extract, it shows the ghost of Jacob Marley’s interaction with Scrooge and his warning. His visit is very important in Scrooge’s transformation because it makes him less resistant to change and more fearful of the consequences because he knows of them now. Jacob Marley was Scrooge’s old business partner which would make them familiar, despite their lack of closeness which is shown in the extract where Scrooge wants him to ‘Speak comfort to me’. Despite the narrator’s insistence otherwise it does seem that Scrooge did care in some capacity for Marley; this is shown by him remembering exactly the seven year anniversary of Marley’s death, making it a significant date for him even after all those years. This makes Marley’s role in helping Scrooge to change by making him see himself in Marley which is shown by him ‘in expectation finding himself surrounded by […] iron cable’ and therefore see his own consequences of suffering as more of a reality if he does not change. Furthermore, Marley’s appearance makes Scrooge show more empathy for his suffering along with his fear because they are familiar which is in contrast to Scrooge’s apathetic and cold attitude towards others such as the charity collectors and ‘surplus population’. Marley’s appearance makes Scrooge ‘tremble’ because of his potential fate that he can empathise with a lot more because Marley is ‘a good man of business’ just like him which breaks through Scrooge’s ‘hard and sharp’ exterior quickly.




The second ghost which Dickens uses to help Scrooges attitude and behaviour is the ghost of Christmas past. The ghost of Christmas past serves as a reminder of long forgotten and harsh memories of his past, bringing up to the surface all the regrets and pain that Scrooge had brought down covered by his mask of indifference. The main symbol of Scrooge’s regret is Belle which is so painful to Scrooge that he forces an ‘extinguisher cap’ on the ghost’s head. The light emanating from the ghost’s head can be interpreted as a symbol of truth and purity, shedding light on the real reasons why Scrooge is so bitter and isolated himself, making him more pitiful and receptive to change by being more emotional and also serving to remind Scrooge of the ‘long, long forgotten’ ‘thoughts and hopes and joys’ that he had through reminders of his employment, little sister and comfort in literature. Overall, the ghost of Christmas past helps change Scrooge’s behaviour and attitude by showing him who he used to be and reminding him that the turning point of his life for the worst was when he only worshipped a ‘golden idol’ which makes him want to stop despite his miserly habits being a source of security because of his previous poverty.




The next major ghost that helps change Scrooge is the ghost of Christmas present. The ghost of Christmas present is the embodiment of comfort and holiday cheer being a ‘jolly giant’. He shows Scrooge the importance of philanthropy and how fulfilling it is through his flame whilst also making Scrooge visit many, many places celebrating Christmas, most notably the Cratchits’, Fred’s and the miners in the lighthouse. Through being shown the Cratchits, Scrooge is reminded of the poverty that he directly causes to Bob and his family, his guilt made even more severe by the joyous yet ‘withered’ Tiny Tim. Furthermore, he is shown how Bob is grateful to him despite this which intensifies Scrooge’s guilt and makes him admiring of the family destroying his previous beliefs that were common in Victorian Britain that the poor were lazy and at cause for their own suffering. Finally, the Cratchits also show him the importance of people, in particular family, along with Fred. The Cratchits are seen as one cohesive and loving unit that shows pride in one another despite their financial suffering and Fred is shown to be a family to Scrooge where he can feel joyful in participating in his celebrations; but Fred also dismantles Scrooge’s beliefs by framing them as absurd, ‘comical’, and pitiful. The miners are shown to be important in helping change Scrooge as they show the importance and universal enjoyment of holiday cheer. Scrooge is shown that being unhappy is a choice and his self-inflicted isolation is only pitiful because even in the most remote places comfort is found yet until this point Scrooge only repelled it. The ghost of Christmas present helps Scrooge by showing what he could have right then if he changes and dismantles his belief that self-inflicted isolation and avoidance are what make him suffer the least and therefore what makes him the happiest, shown by the ghost of Christmas past and Belle, and instead shows Scrooge that embracing community and family are what will cause him to be happier, changing his bitter and cold attitude.



Another key way in which the ghost of Christmas present dismantles Scrooge’s beliefs therefore catalysing change in his attitude and behaviour is through the display of Ignorance and Want. Dickens uses Ignorance and Want to provide a social commentary against the practices and ideas that Scrooge allegorically represents such as capitalism and misanthropy. The ‘children’ are there to show Scrooge his own failings as a person with financial power through being sickly children. Children are seen as the most innocent and sympathetic group within society, especially to Dickens; so by showing them suffering as a result of their namesake and the systems of poverty that Scrooge perpetuates through obsession with gain the will to change is made much more extreme to Scrooge and his presumably rich readers. This makes Scrooge see the consequences of his own ignorance and want and makes him guilty for it, helping change his attitude and behaviour to be kind- especially since the messenger of this revelation is presented as the epitome of comfort and joy.



In conclusion, Dickens uses the ghosts to help Scrooge change his attitudes and behaviour by making him fearful through Marley as a parallel, then vulnerable through harsh reminders of his past, and then making him actively want to change through the selfish desire to erase his own iron chain forged in cruelty and be happy along with the altruistic desire to help those whose deprivation he is complicit in.

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