A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol Theme of Guilt and Blame
Although A Christmas Carol focuses on generosity and compassion when it comes to being connected to others, the novella argues for another, equally important motivator for good behavior—feeling guilty when doing bad deeds. A large part of what makes Scrooge such a monster is that he appears to feel no remorse for his cruel indifference and no sense of responsibility for the welfare of others. As he remembers and works through his many bad deeds through the visions brought by the Christmas Ghosts, Scrooge gradually regains his ability to feel shame about what he has done, which means he can police his own behavior in the future.
Questions About Guilt and Blame
- Why don't we see more of the things Scrooge should feel guilty about in the visions of the past? The main things that seem to prick his conscience are the way he treated his Christmas Eve visitors—but surely he has done much worse than that, right? Why don't we learn more about the couple who are about to go bankrupt because he is such a harsh creditor, for example?
- Are there any other characters that feel guilty for any reason in the text? How does their guilt compare with Scrooge's?
- What other feelings are triggered by the sensations of guilt? Does Scrooge feel embarrassment at his bad behavior? Remorse? Shame? Inspiration? Why or why not?
- Why don't Fred and Bob Cratchit blame Scrooge for being such a, well, scrooge? Would it make the text too complicated if they had a lot of hard feelings towards him?
Chew on This
The unrealistic ease with which Scrooge accepts blame for his past actions has more to do with the fact no one holds a grudge about his behavior than with any actual sense of remorse.
Scrooge's recovery of the ability to feel guilt totally misfires, because it teaches readers that however ungenerous and mean-spirited they might be, as long as they are aware of it, there is always plenty of time to change and be forgiven. Phew.