Study Guide

A Christmas Carol Philosophical Viewpoints: Rationality

By Charles Dickens

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Philosophical Viewpoints: Rationality

In A Christmas Carol, rationality and logic are pretty much big road blocks on Scrooge's way toward being a successful and fulfilled human being. Whatever Scrooge's emotional or psychological faults may actually be, they are outwardly shown by the way he dismisses the poor and the sentimental with the cold and heartless logic that Dickens attributed to the supporters of the New Poor Law and the newfangled science of economics. One of the main ways that we recognize that Scrooge has been cured is his sudden willingness to put himself in the hands of the Christmas Ghosts, and to give himself over to the supernatural irrationality and emotion they represent.

Questions About Philosophical Viewpoints: Rationality

  1. Why is Scrooge's brand of clear-eyed rationality shown to be so very terrible? If he kept that part of himself while also tapping into his emotions, would that have been a cure? Why or why not?
  2. Who is the most irrational character? Who is the most rational? How do you know?
  3. Scrooge provides his own rational explanation of the ghosts he sees—that they are nightmares fueled by indigestion. Does it diminish the story if this is actually the case—that he transforms because of a bunch of bad dreams and repressed memories and guilt bubbling up as opposed to an actual supernatural sleepwalk? Why or why not?

Chew on This

The poignant moments when he is trying his best to make sense of the wacky supernatural stuff going on while still trying to cling to his rationality are the places where we identify strongest with Scrooge.

No matter how much Dickens rails against rationalism, A Christmas Carol is totally a rationalist story; it throws the religious aspects of Christmas out the window and pushes for a more secular holiday based on kindness and generosity.

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