USING THE EXTRACT and other parts of the novel, discuss how Dickens develops the idea that a focus on money can cause you to choose wrong paths.
The extract begins by describing Belle in a mourning dress, a sign she is upset. She is upset because she knows she has lost Scrooge to his Idol, money, or ‘Gain.’ Dickens uses the character of Belle to emphasise the silliness of Scrooge’s decision to choose money over love, as we can see she is a genuine person, with a gentle nature: “‘You fear the world too much,’ she answered gently.” The reference to her tears ‘sparkling’ as she speaks to Scrooge adds to the sense of an angelic figure, and the lack of complaint in her acceptance of Scrooge’s direction towards money and his unrequited love helps the audience to sympathise with her, and take her side.
Her wisdom is proved correct when we first meet Scrooge, as a ‘covetous, scraping, clutching, grasping, old sinner’, a man who is miserable, and whom dogs even try to avoid. The onomatopoeic sounds produce an uncomfortable restrictive feeling, and help to develop Scrooge’s character and the audience’s dislike of him. Scrooge’s fixation on money is highlighted early in Stave 1 when he argues with the charity collectors, suggesting to them that he has no need to be generous to them as he pays taxes for institutions, and that surely the poor are merely ‘surplus population’, a theory espoused by Thomas Malthus, and indicative of many of those in a position of privilege in Victorian England.
Scrooge’s philosophy results in him being very isolated. Dickens emphasises his isolation by contrasting him with the irrepressible Fred, and he uses pathetic fallacy to link Scrooge to gloom and coldness when he encounters Marley’s face on the door knocker. Marley’s ghost warns him of his future doom if he doesn’t reverse the process of forging a chain ‘link by link, yard by yard.’ The isocolon helps to reinforce the repetition and the dullness of the process, and the continuous dismissive reactions by Scrooge to the ghosts is Dickens way of telling the audience that it takes time to change if a man is so far down the wrong path.
Dickens uses 3 short sentences in the extract: ‘In words. No. Never’ to emphasise Belle’s conviction in her decision to remove Scrooge from her life, a decision that Scrooge regrets significantly when the ghost of Christmas past shows to Scrooge Belle with her new family. He exclaims ‘Remove me!’ The imperative is linked to his desire to extinguish the ghost’s light, but he can’t: as it ‘streams in an unbroken flood’, symbolising the fact that he can’t remove the past, or the lesson learnt from it.
Dickens uses the characters of Ignorance and Want, ‘ragged’, ‘wolfish’ children whose faces look like ‘devils lurked’ rather than ‘angels’, to suggest that society has been corrupted by greed. The word lurked has evil sinister connotations, and the use of children to represent the corruption has extra impact on the reader as they are disturbed that the vulnerable future generation is affected so badly by the greed that Scrooge has decided to idolise. The contrast between the lively and generous characters like the Cratchits, who have little money, but are happy, and the irrepressible and generous Fezziwig, with others like the Dibleys, criminals who also seek to exploit those around them for personal gain, also highlights the central theme that a focus on money can be a wrong path to take. Scrooge’s transformation at the end, punctuated with joy and generosity, makes the allegory an indelible one.