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A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

Compassion and Forgiveness Theme

In A Christmas Carol, compassion is the main ingredient in the kindness and generosity cake that Dickens seems to crave. Scrooge gets a load of the contrast between those people who are willing to feel pity towards him (his ex-fiancée, his nephew, his clerk) and those who coldly dismiss him as he does them (fellow business people, his servants, the pawn shop owner). Then he reaches deep inside himself and finds a whole bunch of empathy that's he's been repressing, and—alakazam—he's flooded with nothing but good vibes toward those around him. After that, he transforms into a dude who can put himself into the shoes of others, and even forgive them for their misdeeds. In other words, he's now one of the people who are emotionally best equipped to live life.

Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

  1. Why does Cratchit feel pity for Scrooge? Why does Fred? Is it for the same reason, or do their different points of view affect their perceptions of him?
  2. Who has the most to forgive in the novel? Who has the least? Does anyone hold a grudge?
  3. Forgiveness and compassion are pretty important aspects of Christian belief. What would be different if the novella couched its discussion of them in a religious context? Why don't we hear more about the value Christianity puts on these qualities, and instead experience them in the mostly secular sphere?
  4. What if Scrooge didn't come around in the end?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Bonus! The person Scrooge learns to feel the most compassion for during his ghostly adventures is himself.

The only way to make the novella work is to have a totally unrealistic representation of how willing to forgive everyone is for a lifetime of Scrooge's misdeeds. Can you tell Shmoop can hold a grudge?

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