A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
Third Person (Limited Omniscient)
There's something a little bit screwy with the narrative voice of this novella.
No, really. Usually, when you have a third person limited omniscient narrator, readers are dealing with a voice that lets them really get into the head of the protagonist. Only hearing the thoughts of this one character, and at the same time getting the kind of background info that only a third-person narrator can supply—well, that's just the kind of unbeatable combination that makes readers deeply and strongly identify with and understand the protagonist.
Here, however, we have a third person narrator who is definitely limited to only Scrooge's thoughts, but who absolutely just hates the guy.
So instead of a sympathetic portrait, we get vicious mockery and a strange distance between the narrator and the dude he is describing:
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Scrooge, how are you?" […]
But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance. (1.7-10)
The narrator can't get enough insults in describing this guy! We are definitely in his head—for example, we learn that he doesn't care… wait, he even likes it that no one has anything nice to say to him. But instead of giving us the inside dope about why Scrooge got that way, the narrator just points fingers, laughs, and shakes his head disapprovingly. Think about it—we only find out how Scrooge got this way because we see his childhood during the Ghost of Christmas Past section.
What's that about? Well, it's a surefire way that we both detest Scrooge to begin with, and root for him in the end. Sure, he's a mean old curmudgeon at the start, but by the end, we kind of like the guy, because we've gotten to know him so well.