A Christmas Carol

by: Charles Dickens

Generosity

1

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 struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

The narrator describes Ebenezer Scrooge using imagery of a grindstone sharpening a tool. In his single-minded focus on acquiring wealth, Scrooge represents the opposite of generous in every way imaginable. In his business dealings, he constantly tries to squeeze money out of people, grasps and scrapes for more benefits for himself, and covets what he does not yet have. In his personal life, he has a completely self-contained and solitary lifestyle—he neither needs nor wants companionship or any other type of relationship with other people.

2

He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in… things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up; what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it costs a fortune.

Scrooge describes his former boss, Mr. Fezziwig, after the Ghost of Christmas Past takes him back to a Christmas party the Fezziwigs threw for their employees. The event reminds Scrooge how much he loved working for Fezziwig. He describes what made Mr. Fezziwig an excellent boss and insists that money wasn’t the source of his employees’ fulfillment. Mr. Fezziwig showed generosity of manner in exercising his authority over his employees with kindness. Scrooge begins to realize that he has not followed Fezziwig’s example now that he assumes the role of boss.

3

He may rail at Christmas til he dies, but he can’t help thinking better of it—I defy him—if he finds me going there, in good temper, year after year, and saying, “Uncle Scrooge, how are you?” If it only puts him in the vein to leave his poor clerk fifty pounds, that’s something….

Scrooge’s nephew Fred insists that his observance of the Christmas holiday will always include attempting to help his uncle develop some Christmas spirit. Fred aspires to change his uncle for the better. Fred would count it success if Scrooge were to give away some of his money—not to Fred himself, but to Scrooge’s employee Bob Cratchit. Fred knows that Bob and his family would greatly benefit from some financial help. He wants Scrooge to become generous both for the Cratchits’ sake and for Scrooge’s own. Fred already understands how people should treat one another, the lesson the Ghosts have been sent to teach Scrooge.

4

“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s,” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He shan’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim….”

Upon waking from his night with the Ghosts, Scrooge asks a boy in the street to buy the prize turkey from a local shop. Having seen, via the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Cratchits’ small goose, he plans to send them the turkey instead. This first act embodies generosity: Scrooge makes a financial sacrifice, one that will benefit people in need. Scrooge does not want recognition for this act, and best of all, he starts to realize that generosity functions as its own reward. Knowing that the Cratchits will be happy makes Scrooge happy.