The Corrupting nature of Money In Great Expectatio

ns and A Christmas CarolLiterature often deals with the human drive for wealth and material success. The love of money often exercises a harmful power over individuals, causing a conflict both within themselves and with others. Although the characters in A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations assess the value of people only in terms of their financial contributions to society, they learn that self respect and dignity can be derived from means other than the possession of money and prestige. Through Scrooge and Pip, Dickens shows how the love of money does not lead to happiness but rather defiles the soul, depriving it of morality and grace.

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge shows that his passion in life is money, and money alone. Scrooge is not well liked, in fact the people in the town regard Scrooge as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.” He was so disliked that
“nobody ever stopped him in the street to say . . . My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?’ No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him the time, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place.” (P 12)
His preoccupation with money robs him of any meaningful relationships, friends or acquaintances. Furthermore, even on Christmas Eve Scrooge has no visitors but his nephew, Fred, who wishes him a sincere Merry Christmas’. In response to the festive greeting Scrooge demonstrates that he believes no one can be happy without money. He asks “What reason do you have to be merry? You’re poor enough” (P 13). When Fred is leaving, he wishes Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit, Merry Christmas’ and Bob returns the expression of merriment. Scrooge observes “My clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about Christmas. I’ll retire to Bedlam” (P 15). Scrooge genuinely believes that without money, felicity is impossible. After Fred and Bob leave the shop, Scrooge is approached by Christians, who ask him for a donation so that they can raise money for the poor during the holiday season. He says,
” I cannot afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the prisons, the Union workhouses, the Treadmill, and the Poor Law.”
“Many people can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.” (P 17)
Scrooge’s stinginess, lack of sensitivity, ethics, and morals is evident. He thinks of everything in terms of money, and bases his entire being on the preservation of his money.
Because Scrooge has no friends or family since his sole preoccupation is his drive for wealth, he spends Christmas Eve alone, and is visited by four ghosts.The first is Marley, his dead business partner. He has come to warn Scrooge that if he doesn’t change his ways, he will be forced to roam around earth, carrying a heavy chain, symbolic of the burden of sins. The next are the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. They each help Scrooge to realize his folly.
When Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost, the spectre tells him how he has ruined his life because he is in love with money. Marley says that Scrooge does not know that “any Christian spirit working kindly in a little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. . .No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused!” (P 26)
Scrooge is very disturbed by this idea and its application to himself. With wealth prevalent in his mind, he comments that although Marley suffered from this vice, he was a good businessman. Marley responds:
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare . . . charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade money were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business . . . Why did I walk through the crowds of fellow beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?” (P 26)
In this example, Marley shows the need for God, and God’s grace. Scrooge has lost sanctifying grace as a result of his sins. He also has no moments of actual grace until he realizes the error in his ways. He has not been inspired to do good and avoid evil.
The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge the error he made in loving money more than people. When Scrooge was a young man, his fiancee senses his worship of money. Consequently, she releases him from their engagement, telling him that “his master passion, Gain, engrosses him . . . if he were free, can she believe that he would choose a dowerless girl – he who . . . weighs everything by Gain . . .” (P 42). The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to see his clerk, Bob Cratchit, celebrating Christmas with his family, and his nephew, Fred, also celebrating Christmas with his family. When Scrooge visits his clerk’s home with the Ghost, he sees the unhappiness he has caused the Cratchit family by being so stingy. “The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party, which was not dispelled for full five minutes” (P 56). Later, when Scrooge is visiting his nephew’s home with the Ghost of Christmas Present, he sees what everyone really thinks of him, shown through his own nephew’s comments. Fred pities him, for “who suffers by his ill whims? Himself always! . . . His offences carry their own punishment” (P 61). The visits from the Ghosts show Scrooge that his drive for material success has ruined him emotionally and spiritually. It is impossible to live a happy life with only a passion for material success.

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At the end of the novel, Scrooge changes his horrible ways, and learns to live life to the fullest. He donates to charities, helps support Tiny Tim so that he will not die, and generally makes his life and the lives of those whom he affects better and more pleasant. Scrooge has realized that the possession of money does not directly lead to happiness, and thus he adjusts his attitude to find happiness in his relationships.

In Great Expectations, Pip, through his aspirations of greatness, falls from grace. He cannot avoid temptation and, like Scrooge, loses the inspiration to do good and avoid evil. Pip becomes so caught up in achieving material success, so he might be acceptable to Estella, that he loses sight of what is really important. After meeting Miss Havisham and Estella, Pip no longer is satisfied with his life. He wants to be a gentleman and, like Scrooge, develops a passion for money which governs his life. Pip “is more ashamed of home than ever . . . he had liked the blacksmith trade once, but once was not now” (P 98). Pip wishes “Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then he should have been so too” (P 98). Pip recognizes his inadequacy in comparison with Estella. Estella is rich, and thus considered a lady in society, whereas Pip is poor and common. After meeting Estella, Pip is suddenly aware that money has made Estella and Miss Havisham ladies, and he wishes to be a part of their material world, which now seems idealistic to him. Pip is “humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, and sorry after his meeting with Miss Havisham and Estella” (P 57) because he does not possess money as they do. Pip, therefore, does not belong in their world, a fact which he has just learned, changing the naive, boyish outlook on society he had before becoming acquainted with Miss Havisham and Estella.

Pip, because of his shame, becomes an ingrate. He owes much of his upbringing to Joe’s benevolence, but he is ungrateful because he now sees Joe’s ignorance and simplicity. Pip “wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of his society” (P 101). When Jaggers offers Joe money in exchange for his apprentice Joe refuses. Jaggers “glanced at Joe as if he considered him a fool for his disinterestedness”(P 129). Joe, however, refuses the offer of money because he does not accept the substitution of money for people and feelings; no amount of money can compensate for the loss of Pip. After Pip tells Joe and Biddy of his newly found fortune, they speak of him on the veranda of the forge. Pip is saddened by their endearing tones and, in a foreshadowing tone, comments, “It is very sorrowful and strange that this first night of his bright fortunes should be the lonliest he had ever known” (P 136). This comment shows that although Pip has gotten money and prestige, he will be unhappy.

Pip shows how the drive for money ruins himself both emotionally and physically. Pip has lost his sense of morality, and his sole purpose has become the pursuit of material wealth.

One day, Joe visits him, and Pip dreads the visit. He comments, “If I could have kept him away by paying money, I certainly would have paid money” (p 203). Pip believes that money can solve any problem, especially those derived from his own selfishness. Pip cares only for his own reputation and is glad that only Herbert will meet Joe. Joe recognizes that Pip is ashamed of him and his lack of fortune. To make Pip feel better Joe says: “You won’t find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge dress, with my hammer in my hand” (P 209). Joe is saying that if Pip only accepted Joe for what he is, instead of being mortified, then Pip would develop respect for Joe, and not be ashamed of the honest, hard working, blacksmith.
Pip leaves London to visit Estella at Satis House. While he is at home, he stays at an inn, too conceited to stay at the forge. After his visit to Satis House, Pip decides to walk part way to London. On his way, he meets Trabb’s (the funeral director) boy. The boy makes a spectacle, walking around Pip, waving and shouting “Don’t know yah, pon my soul, don’t know yah!” (P 229) Trabb’s boy shows how Pip is viewed by the townspeople. Although he has become a gentleman, he has neglected his friends, and is unworthy of their respect. Upon Pip’s return to London, he remembers that he did not visit Joe and Biddy. For this omission he sends “a penitential codfish and a barrel of oysters to Joe” (P 230) in an attempt to compensate his guilt for not having visited. Pip uses his money to relieve himself of embarrassing obligations, like that to Joe. This shows Pip really is a snob, only concerned with material wealth, for he gives up his loyal friends for the chance to be a gentleman and obtain “portable property.”
Through Pip’s lavish expenditures he loses his fortune. When he has no money, he looks back on his life and he realizes that he gave up his loyal friends and his happiness for wealth, from which he derived no pleasure. To make amends, Pip goes to work for Herbert, eventually paying off his debts and advancing to the position of a partner. He grows from a boy of shallow dreams based on money, to a man of depth and character.

The love of money causes both Scrooge and Pip to fall from grace, corrupted by their overwhelming drives for financial success. Although they both really are searching only for respect, they find that wealth does not put them on the right path. Through the conflicts they face because of their love of money, they learn that respect develops, not from the possession of money, but from morality, compassion, and loyalty.


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