Money Messages in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”
Are you more like Fezziwig or Fred when it comes to money management?
Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is one of the most timeless novels in history, and for good reason — its message of people being able to change for the better gives hope that even the most hard-hearted can change their ways.
While most people associate “A Christmas Carol” with the Christmas season, it is also a book about money and how to manage it. Notice how each of these characters use money.
Scrooge’s mentor as a money lender was the jolly Mr. Fezziwig. Fezziwig ran a profitable business. He had to charge enough to cover expenses, but he was known for his generosity to employees and others. He obviously knew that if you want to stay in business in the long run, you need to provide a product or service that people will pay for and employ good people happy to work there who will get the job done.
Scrooge’s business partner was greedy, selfish, and uncaring in life and it rubbed off on Scrooge. In life he obsessed over money and took advantage of others to increase his wealth. People like to say, “Don’t be a Scrooge,” but Scrooge reformed his ways. Maybe it would be more correct to say, “Don’t be a Marley.”
Scrooge’s clerk was ever loyal and hardworking despite being grossly underpaid. By one estimate Scrooge was paying him the equivalent of about $400 a month in modern wages. One obvious lesson here is find a job that pays you what you are worth. Bob should have joined LinkedIn.
Bob Cratchit’s crippled son served to remind Victorian readers that sometimes parents did not have the resources to provide needed care to their children. Even in our day, during a season of giving, charity can have life changing impact.
Scrooge’s nephew Fred was the family member who knew Scrooge the best. Despite Scrooge’s miserly and cruel nature, Fred never gave up on him and always reached out to stay connected. He was willing to spend money on him by inviting him to dinner, despite Scrooge’s disagreeable nature. Many of us may also have family members who don’t handle money well. It may be tempting to stay away from them, but Fred shows that being a good example and having patience can help lead to good results.
At the start of the book Scrooge was like Marley, but by the end he became more like Fezziwig. Dickens recognized that it is common human behavior to hoard wealth and created the character to warn readers to resist their miserly tendencies.
When you work hard for your money it can be tempting to hold onto it by all means. The amount you make can be considered a measure of your success, and some people may reach for higher income by taking advantage of others. This narrow thinking may bring results in the short term, but as Marley and Scrooge showed, it carries with it a dubious quality of life.
The reformed Scrooge no longer saw wealth as a goal in itself, but as a way to do good in the world. At the conclusion of his story, Dickens says Scrooge “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.” Maybe the saying “You’re a Scrooge” should be used as a compliment!