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The Ceremony of Innocence: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Elliot L. Gilbert
PMLA
Vol. 90, No. 1 (Jan., 1975), pp. 22-31
DOI: 10.2307/461345
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/461345
Page Count: 10
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The Ceremony of Innocence: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
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Abstract

Sophisticated readers of A Christmas Carol, moved though they may be by the dramatic reformation of Scrooge, are frequently inclined to question the psychological validity of the old man's change of heart. Far from being a sign of the story's inadequacy, however, this divided reaction is the key to its effectiveness. Dickens' chief target in A Christmas Carol is Scrooge's nineteenth-century rationalism, and the reader's skepticism about the old man's moral and spiritual recovery is an exact analogue of that rationalism. What the reader's delight, in the face of his skepticism, suggests, therefore, is that there is a level of the story on which Scrooge's regeneration is entirely authentic; that if A Christmas Carol is less than convincing as a psychological case history of an elderly neurotic temporarily reformed by Christmas sentimentality, it is certainly a success as the metaphysical study of a human being's rediscovery of his own innocence.

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