A Christmas Carol and Timeless Lessons
For starters, Scrooge is confronted by his old partner Marley. After establishing that Scrooge’s sole purpose in life is to get as rich as possible, Marley’s ghost informs Scrooge that he’s destined for eternal misery if he doesn’t change his outlook on life ASAFP… to which Scrooge dismisses as a figment of his imagination (I would argue his conscience telling him he needs to change, but I digress). As the story progresses, we learn that Scrooge has associated many negative memories with Christmas until he became so hard against Christmas that he now denigrates it and considers it a waste of time. I think Dickens makes clear this isn’t because Scrooge is inherently bad, but that his circumstances in life have led him to grow harder each year until he becomes who we are introduced to at the beginning of the story.
The ghost of Christmas past shows Scrooge his happier times when he used to view the world through a young man’s eyes; when he was the most joyous. While being shown these images, Scrooge remembers them fondly for the most part but we also learn of certain aspects of life that harden his heart and teach him the hard realities of life. The main lesson from the ghost of Christmas past though, is that while this life does have hardship and strife, it is the way of the world and we shouldn’t lose sight that we still have much to be thankful for.
When the ghost of Christmas present arrives, we learn of Bob Cratchet and his son, Tiny Tim. The point of this part of the story is to teach us that there are many people in this life right now who need help and that we should do our utmost to help them out of genuine concern for our fellow man. The illness of Tiny Tim weighs especially heavy on Scrooge and he learns of Tim’s fate through the ghost (“crutch without an owner”). We should take away from this that as people who have had the good fortune to receive God’s blessings in life, we need to remember the ones who haven’t and take our own initiative to help those in need—as Christ did for us by sacrificing himself for us.
Christmas future shows how Scrooge is remembered as a man and he discovers his reputation is left wanting. We finally see the outcome of our short lives and long rest and discover that money is not important. Scrooge may die rich, but he never enjoyed the money to begin with, never shared his wealth with those in need, and never built good relationships with even his family (nephew). So he dies a naked man despite dressing himself for a funeral before-hand. This is symbolic of not being able to take anything with you, and in fact, we will face god as naked men and women with all our faults to answer for.
The three ghosts may change Scrooge’s attitude in the end, but Dickens was really showing us ourselves in this story, and Scrooge’s transformation is really Dickens’ wish for all of us that we learn to help others as Jesus did and not let ourselves get so hard in life that we neglect those we can help. After all, Jesus didn’t neglect us!