English Literature: A Christmas Carol - Theme of Redemption


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 for the bad things he's done. The question of whether or not Scrooge will achieve redemption is a significat source of dramatic tension throughout ACC.
  • At first, it seems impossible that Scrooge will change. In Stave One, he's negatively potrayed as a misanthropist whose dislike of other people is shown by his attitude to charity - "it's enough for a man to understand 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". Despite this, Scrooge keeps his promise to change for the better and starts to set things right in the final stave.
  • Dickens is arguing that even the very worst people in society can find redemption. To do this, they must make the choice to start changing their ways - Marley admints that his chains were forged of his own "free will" because he chose not to chage his miserly ways when he was alive.
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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 of his engagement to Belle. This relationships show that Scrooge is capable of showing love and kindness, and suggest he can show them again. They also prove that things like love and companionship were once more important to Scrooge than money, and they might become so again.
  • Another hint is 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."
  • Finally, 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). The fact that Marley is now prepared to help another person makes it seem more likely that Scrooge will be able to change.
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Scrooge's changed behaviour leads to his redemptio

  • Scrooge's redemption doesn't rely on a religious conversion or him going to church and praying more frequently. Instead, he's redeemed because he changes his behaviour towards other people.
  • This is consistent with Dicken's view 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 good intentions". It's this kindness and generosity that allows him to change his fate and "sponge away" his name from his negleted gravestone. It's as if he's reborn and he has a second chance to do things better - he even says "I'm quite a baby". 
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Scrooge is not 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. It's Scrooge himself who must take the meaning from these visions and use that to change.
  • 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. The fact that Scrooge's transformation is done of his own free will makes his redemption seem more powerful.
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Scrooge is transformed by learning the value of em

  • At the start of ACC, 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 in Stave One.
  • He remembers the fun that he had at Fezziwig's party and empathises with his own clerk, Bob.
  • He learns from the example of his nephew, Fred, who frequently displays empathy - Fred pities his uncle "whether he likes it or not" and is "heartily sorry" for the death of Tiny Tim.
  • He is terrified and disgusted by other people's indifference towards him in his own death - as shown to him by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
  • Perhaps the most important example or empathy occurs when Scrooge witnesses the love between the Cratchits and feels "an interest he never felt before" when he asks if Tiny Tim will live. Scrooge's empathy for Tiny Tim is key to his redemption and saves Tim's life.
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