Irony In 'A Christmas Carol' By Charles Dickens
There are several examples of irony that develop the theme of ‘money cannot buy happiness’ in A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens. In this novella, Ebenezer Scrooge is a perfect example of this theme. He is initially a bitter man although he has as much money as anyone could need, he doesn’t share it with anyone. He doesn’t even let himself enjoy the spoils of his wealth; he just finds pleasure out of hoarding it. Not only does he not have anyone to share his money with, he has no meaningful relationships at all. Only after he meets the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley, and is haunted by three spirits, is he changed for the better. The spirits of Christmas take Scrooge to observe his past, Present and Future, seeing him as people view him. Scrooge changes his attitude throughout the events that happen in the book and realizes that his money could make him happy only if he is able to use it to bless the lives of others.
The first example is how Scrooge changes his attitude by expressing sympathy towards Bob Cratchit. At the beginning of the story, Scrooge is incapable of caring about anyone but himself. He once cared for Marley, his old partner and only friend who died seven years prior. He thought that giving his employees days off, especially on Christmas, is “not convenient…and not fair” (7). Scrooge dislikes giving days off because in his mind, the less his workers work, the less money he makes. Scrooge would never consent to losing money because he believes that having money makes people superior. Through The Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge learns about Bob Cratchit’s financial state and despite Bob being poor, he realizes how truly happy he and his family are. This makes Scrooge reflect on his wealth and how unhappy he is. He realizes that money can’t buy happiness because poor people, like Bob, can still be happy with what they have while wealthy individuals like him can remain miserable. He works on being kinder after seeing the hardships of Bob’s family. He arrives early the day after Christmas to make sure that he could catch Bob and tell him he will raise his salary.“I am not going to stand for this sort of thing any longer. And therefore—and therefore I am about to raise your salary.”(35) Scrooge finally sees that being nice to people makes him happy. An obvious bit of irony is Scrooge’s encounter with The Ghost of Christmas Future. Scrooge dedicated his whole life to his business and making money and yet his business associates cared little about him and would only turn up at his funeral if free food was available. Yet in the encounter with The Ghost of Christmas Present, Bob Cratchit whom Scrooge had little time for would not let a harsh word be said about Scrooge and even made his family toast him. Another bit of irony is the contrast between the wealth of Scrooge which bought him no comfort only loneliness and misery. Whilst equally ironic, the happiness warmth and love of the Cratchit’s despite their extreme poverty.
The second example is how Scrooge changes his attitude again by being grateful and loving towards Fred. As Scrooge did not care for anyone, he did not care about family. Although often time’s people would reach out to him, he’d never return the affection. Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, is always kind towards Scrooge and includes him in family gatherings, particularly his annual Christmas tea party. Scrooge hates Christmas and its festivities telling Fred “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine” (4). Scrooge feels better when he is left alone. He doesn’t want anyone’s help or support. The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Scrooge how after his death, he is not remembered and how his belongings are scavenged by rag pickers. Scrooge realizes that if he continues to shut out those who care for him, they will eventually give up and forget him. He decides to reach back and build a relationship with Fred. “I have come to dinner. Will you let me in?” (34). Scrooge is gladly let in by Fred and his family. It was a “wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, and wonderful happiness” (34). Scrooge finally understands happiness and is glad to have opened up. Scrooge’s life changes around and he isn’t the same bitter man that he was at the beginning of the book. For once in a long time, Scrooge is happy. An exceptional bit of irony is the suffering of Tiny Tim who was not only extremely poor but also crippled yet was extremely happy and full of love and gratitude, thanking God for being a cripple so others could look at him and be grateful. This irony really brings out the character of Tiny Tim and probably what makes him the most believed character in A Christmas Carol.
The third example is how Scrooge changes his attitude furthermore by sharing his money. Scrooge started off as a cheap and stingy man. The Ghost of Christmas Past reminds him that his fiancée, Belle, ended their engagement because she felt that he cared more for his money than he did her. He was also not interested in charity. Scrooge wanted the poverty in need to go to the workhouses. “I [only] help support the prisons and the workhouses—they cost enough—and those who are badly off must go there” (7). Those who asked Scrooge for donations would get a simple reply of Scrooge “wish[ing] to be left alone” (7). Money is all Scrooge values. After all the spirits of Christmas visit Scrooge, he realizes how sad and lonely his life really is. He realizes all that he has missed because of his stinginess. He finally appreciates that happiness is worth more than money. So, when he needs help shopping, Scrooge spots a little boy, and says, “Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a schilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half a crown” (33). Scrooge accepts the concept of charity and helping those in need. Hoarding his money made him become the miser that he was. He decides to turn his life around by making other people happy and by doing so, making himself content as well. In conclusion, Scrooge ironically changes his feeling towards other people and becomes more affectionate toward others throughout A Christmas Carol. He started off as a bitter, mean, cheap man with no friends and slowly progresses to being happy, nice, and generous. A lesson learned from this can be that anyone can change to become a better person. Everyone has a second chance to redeem him/her and become a better person.
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