Scrooge s Mirrors

I mentioned some chapters back that Marley was Scrooge's mirror. By that, I meant not only that Marley was Scrooge's partner; more importantly, he shared the materialistic values which are Scrooge's central characteristic. ("You were always a good man of business, Jacob," says Scrooge in an attempt to placate the ghost, rousing an irate howl from the spectre.) This qualifies, I think, as a legitimate and significant similarity between the two.

Therefore, we can assume Marley's warning is valid: what's happened to him, dying unrepentant in his businesslike, uncharitable attitudes, will also happen to Scrooge if he dies without a change of heart. Marley is, in some meaningful sense, what Scrooge represents seen from a different angle, in slightly different circumstances, inasmuch as Marley is now dead and Scrooge isn't—yet.

Accepting the resemblances, we accept the implications. The visible (if ghostly) chain Marley bears does, indeed, correspond with the even heavier, longer chain Scrooge has forged for himself, even though neither we nor Scrooge can see it. What Marley is, Scrooge may become—will become, if things continue unchanged.

Finally, their attitude (their chief point of similarity) sets them apart from the story's other major characters, who are typically models of good-heartedness, cheer, and selfless concern for others. Scrooge and Marley are more like one another than either is like anybody else in the story.

Those are my rule-of-thumb criteria for an effective mirror character. There must be one or more points of plain connection or resemblance; what happens to one must have an effect on or implication for the other; and their similarity must be a unique one, not shared by other characters in the story.

That's why I call Marley Scrooge's mirror.

But there are other mirrors than Marley. Scrooge, we are shown, had a deprived, loveless childhood and felt set apart from others. His life was stunted; he became an emotional cripple. What was true of Scrooge inwardly is true of Tiny Tim in physical fact. Tim's childhood is deprived by poverty (unlike Scrooge, who apparently was born into middle-class circumstances); Tim's materially poor but emotionally rich. So Tim echoes Scrooge's combination of poverty and wealth, but with reversed meanings. Tim has a crippled leg, and is thus set apart from other children—a different cause from Scrooge's isolation, but a comparable result. Tim's condition is deteriorating, and he is likely to die. Scrooge's emotional isolation is also hardening, he also is likely to die, as the story proceeds to demonstrate.

Those implicit connections are important if Scrooge is to be-lievably identify with Tim and take Tim's life and death to heart as having implications for himself.

The visions of Tim's much-mourned death and of Scrooge's miserable end, his only attendant filching his bed-curtains and even his shroud, unmourned even by his daily associates, constitute the plainest possible case of two scenes deliberately set up to contrast with one another. They show the difference, in this case, that being a lovable and beloved person can make, as compared to being "a good man of business."

Tiny Tim, in his way, is also Scrooge's mirror—a contrasting one.

The whole story is full of echoes, showing many examples of harsh business callousness contrasted with gentle fellow-feeling—situation after situation, with a consistent emotional dynamic which increases in power as the story progresses.

That's what can happen when a writer is really in control of his fiction and its patterns.

0 0

Post a comment