Christmas Carol Themes


The Christmas Spirit (1/3)

Christmas Brings out the best in people:

  • Christmas is presented as a time when people "open their shut-up hearts freely".
  • The Cratchits' Christmas celebration demonstrates their love for each other and their happiness at being together. For example, Bob is disappointed when his wife tells him that Martha isn't coming for Christmas Day, and he's relieved when she appears from her hiding place. It's very important to Bob that the whole family is together for Christmas.  
  • Fred fully embraces the spirit of Christmas. He refers to Christmas as a "kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time" that brings out the best in people, and he hopes that Scrooge will embrace Christmas too.

The Christmas Spirit involves generosity and kindness:

  • The charity collectors refer to Christmas as a time when "Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices" They're trying to provide some festive "Christian cheer" at a time when poverty is made most obvious by the excesses enjoyed by the wealthy.
  • Similarly, Fred believes that Christmas should encourage people "to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave".
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The Christmas Spirit (2/3)

The Christmas spirit involves generosity and kindess:

  • Fezziwig also demonstrates generosity and kindness of spirit. He has the power to render his apprentices "happy or unhappy", to make their work "light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil", and chooses to behave in a way that can only bring happiness. He throws a wonderful Christmas party for his employees and exhibits a contagious joy throughout
  • By contrast, Scrooge sees Christmas purely in monetary terms. He questions how Fred can be merry at Christmas when he is "poor enough".

The Christmas Spirit has both a religious and a secular side:

  • The values that Fred associates with Christmas (kindness, forgiveness and charity) are exactly the kinds of "Christian cheer" that Dickens associated with Christianity.
  • There's plenty of evidence of a non-religious celebration of Christmas. As Fred says, Christmas is "a good time", even "apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origins”.
  • A good example of the more secular celebration of Christmas is the childish excitement that surrounds it- particularly at Fred's house, where the family roar with laughter amidst music and games, and at Fezziwig's party. 
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The Christmas Spirit (3/3)

The Christmas Spirit is powerful enough to transform Scrooge:

  • At first, Scrooge's reaction to Christmas is "Humbug", and he thinks anyone who celebrates Christmas is an "idiot”.
  • Scrooge's attitude is ridiculed at Fred's party, and he's the only source of that anger during the Cratchits' celebrations - he's referred to as the "Ogre of the family" and his name casts "a dark shadow" on the party.
  • By the end of the story, Scrooge wishes everyone he "merry Christmas", he makes a large donation to charity, he buys a huge turkey for the Cratchits, and he even attends his nephew's Christmas party.
  • Scrooge promises to "honour Christmas" in his heart and to "try to keep it all the year”.

Dickens uses this novel to suggest that the spirit of Christmas is important all year round:

  • The Ghost of Christmas Past carries winter holly, but wears a dress "trimmed with summer flowers”. Suggesting that the spirit's lessons should be observed all year round.
  • Ignorance and Want are a reminder that these problems will still exist once Christmas is over, and that people should remember those less fortunate than themselves at all times.
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Redemption (1/3)

Scrooge’s redemption is the main focus of the text:

  • For Scrooge to achieve redemption he needs to give up his mean and miserly ways, and make up the bad things he's done.
  • It seems impossible that Scrooge will change. In Chapter One, he's negatively portrayed as a misanthropist whose dislike of other people is "It's enough for a man to understand shown by his attitude to charity his own business, and not to interfere with other people's".
  • By the time Scrooge is visited by the last ghost, his attitude has softened, and he wants to change his ways, but he's concerned that he's "past all hope".
  • Dickens is arguing that even the very worst people in society can find redemption.

There are hints that Scrooge will be redeemed:

  • The visions Scrooge sees with the Ghost of Christmas Past show the reader that Scrooge wasn't always so mean-spirited. 
  • The visions give the reader an insight into Scrooge's close relationship with Fan and the sad ending engagement to Belle. These relationships show that Scrooge is capable of showing love and kindness, and suggest that he can show them again. 
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Redemption (2/3)

There are hints that Scrooge will be redeemed:

  • Another hint the change in Scrooge's father, which foreshadows Scrooge's own redemption. Dickens suggests that Scrooge's father was a harsh man who abandoned his son at boarding-school over the Christmas holidays. However, when Fan comes to collect Scrooge, she tells him how their father "is so much kinder than he used to be". 
  • Marley - who's portrayed as being very similar to Scrooge claims that he's responsible for "procuring" the "chance and hope" that will help Scrooge to save himself (the visits from the three spirits). 

Scrooge’s changes behaviour leads to his redemption:

  • Scrooge is redeemed because he changes his behaviour towards other people.
  • This is consistent with Dickens's views on religion - he thought that Christianity should be about practical kindness and willingness to help other people.
  • By the end of the story, Scrooge is "glowing with his good intentions". It's this kindness and generosity that allows him to change his fate and "sponge away" his name from his neglected gravestone.
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Redemption (3/3)

Scrooge isn’t forced to change:

  • The spirits that initiate Scrooge's redemption are sent to help him. They don't force him to change or tell him what to do they merely show him visions.
  • Scrooge is able to redeem himself because he chooses to learn from what these spirits have shown him-he's determined not to "shut out the lessons that they teach. 
  • These lessons lead Scrooge to the realisation that "the time before him was his own, to make amends in-he can use the rest of his life to make up for his previous behaviour.

...he’s transformed by learning the value of empathy:

  • At the start of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is used to "warning all human sympathy to keep its distance". However, the spirits' visions teach him how to empathise with other people:
  • He feels pity for his lonely, boyhood self and regrets his treatment of the carol singer Chapter One.
  • He learns from the example of his nephew, Fred, who frequently displays empathy - Fred pities his uncle "whether he likes it or not", and he's "heartily sorry" for the death of Tiny Tim.
  • “an interest he had never felt before” when he asks if Tiny Tim will live.
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Poverty and Social Responsibility (1/3)

At first, Scrooge only cares about himself and money:

  • Scrooge is apathetic about the plight of the poor. He believes that his taxes pay for the prisons and workhouses, so he doesn't feel he needs to donate anything to charity. "decrease the surplus population". 
  • Scrooge's views lead him to exploit people like Bob Cratchit. He makes Bob work for low pay and in freezing conditions. 
  • Belle explains that Scrooge lives in fear of poverty. He has become engrossed by "the master-passion, Gain" in the hope of being beyond the "sordid reproach" of poverty. Scrooge even remarks of the world, "there is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty".

Dickens exposes the unfair treatment of the poor:

  • The chained phantoms could be seen as a criticism by Dickens of the government's treatment of the poor, e.g. the 1834 Poor Law. The chains these ghosts wear are the same as Marley's- they're the result of an uncaring attitude towards the poor.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present also reveals Ignorance and Want - "horrible monsters”. The spirit suggests that these hidden problems are a product of society's neglect of the poor. 
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Poverty and Social Responsibility (2/3)

The wealthy must take responsibility for the poor:

  • The Ghost of Christmas Past gives a clear warning - he says that ignorance will lead to the "Doom" of society. Dickens is pointing out that to avoid this, society must address the lack of education received by the poor.
  • The fate of Tiny Tim makes a clear link between poverty and death -it's only Scrooge's intervention that saves him. The wealthy have a responsibility to help the poor.
  • Dickens message can also be found in the words of Marley when he explains to Scrooge that he must take responsibility for those around him - his true "business" is the "common welfare" of mankind. It's this lesson-of "charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence".

The Cratchits show what living in poverty can be like:

  • Their clothes are threadbare, but they make an effort - Belinda and Mrs Cratchit are "brave in ribbons" and Peter feels gallantly attired" in his handed-down "shirt collar".
  • The Cratchits' Christmas dinner has to be "Eked out" and their Christmas pudding is "small" for such a large family.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present hints that "if these shadows remain unaltered"- if the Cratchits continue to live in poverty-then Tiny Tim will die.  
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Poverty and Social Responsibility (3/3)

There are also glimpses of the seedier side of poverty:

  • Joe's shop - where Scrooge's stolen possessions are sold - is in a filthy part of the city where the streets are "foul and narrow" and the alleys "like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of smell, and dirt".
  • Three thieves gather there to sell the property they've stolen from Scrooge's corpse. They're not embarrassed or remorseful. and they laugh as they go through the stolen goods.

Dickens goes beyond simple definitions of rich and poor:

  • Dickens shows that while people can be rich financially, they can also be rich in other ways, such as enjoyment, love and companionship.
  • The Cratchits are poor but they appreciate what they have. 
  • Fred emphasises the value of emotional richness when he says that although Christmas never put "a scrap of gold or silver" in his pocket, it's made him richer in spirit and "done me good".
  • Fezziwig is a successful businessman, but he’s also rich emotionally. He uses some of his wealth to bring happiness and joy to himself and those around him.
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Family (1/3)

Dickens highlights the importance of family:

  • Family is shown to be a source of comfort, strength and joy throughout the text. - this can be found in the visions shown to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Present - children "running out into the snow" to greet "sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts the "cheerful company" of a miner's family, and a companionable group of sailors, each one comforting himself with thoughts of "those he cared for".
  • The Cratchit family are symbolic of a perfect family They're very close, and they enjoy affectionately teasing and talking with each other. They're also supportive and loyal- they unite in their grief over Tiny Tim's death.

Family life is shown to be full of happiness:

  • Dickens links the theme of family with the idea of happiness. Fred's family are shown having fun together. His laughter is "irresistibly contagious". His wife "laughed as heartily as he" and their friends "roared out, lustily".
  • Scrooge is also shown a vision of Belle's boisterous and playful family. Belle and her daughter laugh "heartily" at the turmoil caused by the younger children, and Dickens says the family is full of “joy, and gratitude, and ecstasy”.
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Family (2/3)

At first Scrooge doesn’t see the point in family:

  • In contrast to the other main characters in the text, Scrooge doesn't see the virtue in family life. Every year he dismisses Fred's invitation to dine with his family in favour of solitude.
  • When Fred tells Scrooge that he married because he fell in love, Scrooge laughs at him and says that love is the "one thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas".
  • Scrooge can only think about the financial burden that family brings. He wonders how Bob Cratchit can feel "merry" at Christmas when he has to support his whole family with -"my clerk, with fifteen shillings a-week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas." Similarly, his reaction to the Ghost of Christmas Present's eighteen hundred brothers is to mutter that it's "a tremendous family to provide for".

Scrooge is isolated and alone...:

  • Scrooge was "a solitary child, neglected by his friends". He weeps when he's shown a vision of himself "alone again" in the "long, bare, melancholy" schoolroom. 
  • This scene foreshadows Scrooge's solitary life later on, after his failure to create a family with Belle. His episode with Belle appears to be a turning point for Scrooge.
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Family (3/3)

Scrooge is isolated and alone...:

  • In Chapter Four, Scrooge sees the result of his rejection of family and the isolation this brings him. After Scrooge's death, one of the thieves says that if the "wicked old screw" had been more "natural" in life, he might have had someone to look after him in death. Scrooge's selfishness means he has no-one to take care of him after he dies.

...but there’s still time for Scrooge to become part of a family:

  • When Scrooge was a child, he was rescued from his isolation when his father changed and became kinder. When Fan collects Scrooge, she says that the family home is "like Heaven”.
  • Without a family of his own, Scrooge can't be saved from loneliness in the "haggard winter of his life". He regrets that he missed his chance to have family with Belle and will now never have a child to call him father.
  • However, at the end, Scrooge becomes a part of two families. He becomes a "second father" to Tiny Tim and endeavours to help the struggling Cratchits. He also embraces his relationship with Fred, and visits him on Christmas day.
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this is amazing thank you.

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