A Christmas Carol: Novel Summary: Stave 5
Stave Five: "The End of It" Scrooge is in his own bed-whose curtains are still intact (a reference to their presence in the charwoman's plunder; see Stave Four)-and is overjoyed to find that he has time to repent of his former ways. For the first time in a long time, Scrooge even laughs. "Really," the narrator remarks, "for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh . . . ."
Wondering what day it is, Scrooge opens his window. Outside, churches are pealing their bells. Scrooge asks a young boy on the street below what the day is; the boy, puzzled, replies that it is Christmas Day. Scrooge expresses astonishment that his three supernatural visits were accomplished all in one night. He tells the boy to go to the Poulterer's store and buy the large prize turkey. He plans to send it, anonymously, to Bob Cratchit. Scrooge promises the child "half-a-crown" in payment if he can accomplish the task in under five minutes. Excited, the boy races away to perform the errand.
Scrooge dresses in his best clothes (though one might wonder how fine the clothes of a life-long miser can be!) and shaves-no small feat for, as the narrator notes in a delightful aside, "shaving requires attention, even when you don't dance while you are at it"-before going out into the city. He encounters one of the charitable workers (from Stave One), wishes him a merry Christmas, and pledges a generous amount of money for his good work. The only repayment Scrooge requires of the astonished charity worker is a promise of future visits.
Scrooge visits a church next, and though the narrator does not say whether or not Scrooge attends services, it is clear that what Scrooge does throughout the morning constitutes acceptable worship in Dickens' mind. The reformed miser befriends children and beggars along his walk. As a Unitarian concerned with the potential of religion to be a positive force for social change, Dickens would no doubt have seen such actions as an illustration of biblical texts such as 1 John 3:18 ("My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth," KJV) and James 1:27 ("Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world," KJV). By showing Scrooge engaged in such interactions with poor and vulnerable members of society, Dickens is confirming that his protagonist's change of heart runs deeper than new words. It yields new deeds.
Although it takes Scrooge some time to muster the courage to do so, he eventually joins his nephew for Christmas dinner. Noting the startled reaction of Fred's wife to his arrival, Scrooge introduces himself: "It's I. Your uncle Scrooge." Hearn suggests that Scrooge deliberately echoes her cry of "Your Uncle Scro-o-o-o-oge!" in Stave Three (p. 156). And true to his own stated intention in that earlier passage, Fred welcomes his uncle in with heartfelt generosity. No longer must Scrooge only wish he could join in the Christmas merrymaking; he can join it in truth, just as he is rejoining the human race, engaging life with his fellow travelers toward death (see Fred's comment to Scrooge regarding the nature of the Christmas season in Stave One.)
The following day-December 26 which is, as Hearn notes, Boxing Day, when servants could expect special treatment from their masters (p. 157)-Scrooge arrives early at his counting house and, when Bob Cratchit reports for work, acts as though he is very angry with his clerk for arriving late. Eventually, however, Scrooge reveals that he is going to raise Bob's salary. Bob is shocked, and even wonders if his employer has gone crazy; the narrator tells us that Bob thought of "calling the people in the court for help and a strait- waistcoat." In this way, Scrooge's comments about the "madness" of Christmas in Stave One find ironic fulfillment: that too much talk of a merry Christmas, especially from the poor, would cause him to "retire to Bedlam," the famous mental institution. Scrooge promises to discuss all the details of assisting him and his family over a hot bowl of Christmas punch.
In a closing statement, the narrator reveals that Scrooge "was better than his word." The comment reminds readers of the first paragraph of the book, in which we learn that Scrooge's name "was good upon the 'Change [that is, the London Exchange] for anything he chose to put his hand to." Whether as a stingy miser or as a reformed man of generous spirit, then, Scrooge's word can be trusted. Readers have no reason to doubt that he will follow through on his resolutions to live a better life. Indeed, Scrooge even becomes a second father to Tiny Tim-who, the narrator emphatically points out, "did NOT die." (According to Hearn, Dickens had omitted this important detail in the original manuscript and added it prior to the novel's publication [p. 159]). A pun on ghostly spirits and alcoholic spirits informs readers that Scrooge "had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle." As teetotalers abstain from all alcohol, so did Scrooge abstain from further ghostly emissaries. For their mission had been accomplished: Scrooge keeps Christmas, and he keeps it well. "May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!"
With those words, this Christmas "fairy tale" (see comments on Stave One) comes to what Hearn calls its "happily ever after" ending (p. lviii). Yet Dickens' fairy tale is not one to be forgotten when put down; rather, he intends his readers to make real in their own lives, not just at Christmas, but throughout the whole year.