A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol Theme of Memory and the Past
One of the most magical elements of A Christmas Carol is that memories are totally accessible. Scrooge doesn't have to remember them—he lives them, which means his memories aren't tainted by, well, other memories and lessons learned (or unlearned). With the right guide, Scrooge is able to examine and draw conclusions from specifically those memories that are most relevant to the problems he faces in real time. Convenient! At the same time, these same memories are used to humanize and explain the otherwise monstrous and almost inhuman Scrooge—to make readers sympathize with him rather writing him off as an irredeemable jerk.
Questions About Memory and the Past
- Do Scrooge's memories actually explain the man he has turned into? We see him being isolated and then in turn isolating himself, but why would this have turned him bitter and vicious, rather than, say, hermit-like and shy? Does the novella suggest that we are missing the full picture?
- Why don't we find out more details about Scrooge's father and what exactly his sister means when she says that he is nicer now and Ebenezer can come home? What kinds of potential backstories can we imagine? Does it matter which of them is the real one?
- Why is Scrooge so eager to cap off the Ghost of Christmas Past? How is his exposure to his memories making him feel? How do you know?
Chew on This
Reliving his memories is what causes Scrooge to finally connect with his senses of smell, touch, taste, and hearing—rather than shutting them out and distrusting them like he does when faced with the ghost of Marley.
Instead of simply explaining Scrooge, his memories attempt to excuse him, as if to say, hey, he had a bad childhood, so cut the man some slack.