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Ebeneezer Scrooge: Character Analysis (animated & updated)

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Dickens uses the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge
to criticise the divide between those who have money, and those who do not. We follow the change in the character, and
we learn as a reader that we can change too. Dickens’s use of repetition positions Scrooge
as a lonely character at the start of the novella when he summarises his role in relation
to Marley: ‘Scrooge was the sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his
sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner’. The repetition of the adjective ‘sole’
emphasises the solitary nature of the lives led by both men. Dickens also uses the simile ‘Hard and sharp
as flint’ to describe Scrooge. The adjective ‘Hard’ suggests that he
lacks warmth, empathy and compassion while the adjective ‘sharp’ suggests pain, implying
that Scrooge has no mercy towards others. The comparison with ‘flint’ is interesting,
however. Flint is used to create fire. Dickens might be implying that there is the
potential for a spark of warmth within Scrooge, who might yet change. Scrooge is described with the simile as ‘solitary
as an oyster’. At first glance, we have the impression that
Scrooge, like an oyster, has a tough, hard exterior and is closed to others. The simile is effective because it emphasises
how he has chosen to isolate himself. It also suggests that there may be more to
be discovered where Scrooge is concerned. Just as, when forced open, an oyster may contain
a pearl, so Dickens suggests there may be something worthwhile to be found within Scrooge. This imagery foreshadows the future positive
change in Scrooge’s character. Yet Dickens also uses humour in relation to
Scrooge’s character. I go through this in more detail in my top
set analysis video. For example, Scrooge tells Marley’s ghost:
‘You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment
of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about
you, whatever you are!’. Dickens deliberately uses word play with the
pun on ‘grave’ and ‘gravy’ to make Scrooge’s character less two-dimensional. This makes the reader more likely to engage
with Scrooge and celebrate his transformation at the end of the novella- if we just think
he’s an out and out idiot, we won’t realise that the message he learns in the novella
is also relevant for us as readers. The reader begins to feel empathy for Scrooge
when he returns to an almost childlike state in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas
Past. When visiting Scrooge’s old school, the
Ghost describes Scrooge as a ‘solitary child, neglected by his friends’. The adjective ‘solitary’ reminds us of
the ‘solitary as an oyster’, simile except that the child Scrooge was literally alone,
and this was not his choice. The juxtaposition of ‘neglected’ with
‘friends’ develops the reader’s empathy towards Scrooge at this point in the novella. When Scrooge ‘sobbed’ in response to the
Ghost noting the young Scrooge’s neglect, the reader understands that empathy and compassion
have the power to elicit an emotional response from Scrooge. This signifies the start of his transformation. (He is similarly moved when reminded of his
sister, Fan, his former employer, Fezziwig, and his former fiancée, Belle.) It is apparent that Scrooge is starting to
realise that relationships, not money, bring happiness. By encouraging the reader to feel sorry for
Scrooge, Dickens is inviting us to develop an interest in his transformation and to celebrate
with him at the end of the novella. When the Ghost of Christmas Present appears,
Dickens reminds us that Scrooge’s attitude is changing: ‘I went forth last night on
compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let
me profit by it.’ He is prepared for the lessons that await
him. Interestingly, we still have imagery to do
with money. The verb ‘profit’ links to financial transactions,
so we are reminded that his transformation is ongoing – he is not yet completely transformed. Dickens signals an important moment in Scrooge’s
character arc when he shows empathy towards Tiny Tim. The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge
to the Cratchit household, and Scrooge implores the Ghost to tell him of the boy’s future:
‘tell me if Tiny Tim will live’. Dickens’s use of the imperative signifies
that Scrooge genuinely seems to care about the little boy’s fate. This contrasts with his earlier comments about
the poor and, how if they die, this will ‘decrease the surplus population’. His attitude is certainly changing, and we
now see his hard, rational attitude to the poor and needy being replaced with a genuine
interest in their welfare. The climax of the novella is when Scrooge
reads his own name on a gravestone and realises that he is the person about whom everyone
has been talking. Dickens employs statements (declarative sentences)
when Scrooge vows to ‘honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and
the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within
me. I will not shut out the lessons that they
teach.’ Dickens’s use of statements emphasises the
significance of this moment and adds a tone of solemnity. In the final section of the novella, Dickens
employs more similes to describe the change in Scrooge: ‘I am as light as a feather,
I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy’. These heighten the contrast with the ‘oyster’
and ‘flint’ similes from earlier in the text. The simile ‘as light as a feather’ leads
the reader to infer that he has cast off the chains of his earlier way of life (chains
that are currently weighing Marley down). Feathers also connote freedom and flight,
implying that he is closer to Heaven than he was previously. This links to the ‘angel’ simile, contrasting
with the early description of Scrooge as a ‘sinner’. Angels connote goodness, signifying that Scrooge
has become a better person. We see that Scrooge is indeed a changed man;
his spiritual journey is complete and we, the readers, are left with the understanding
that people can change. Society is a better place if we all look out
for one another. Well I hope you found this video useful. Everything I go through in this video series
can be found in the second edition of Mr Bruff’s Guide to A Christmas Carol. The links are in the description – you can
pick up a copy. Please do subscribe, and like the video.

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