Explore the ways a central character is affected by external influences in the texts you have studied
In both texts I have studied, Macbeth and A Christmas Carol, both central characters are affected by a number of external influences, which in turn, leads them into drastic characteristic changes. What is meant by this, is that the plot and story of each texts, would not have unravelled if it wasnt for these significant and controlling influences which caused, and put pressure and emotion, on these Characters. In my essay I will exploring the ways these influences affected them.
Starting off with Macbeth, just before he makes the final decision about whether he should go ahead with the murder, he states all the reasons for and all the reasons against performing the dreadful act. Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself The for reason are obviously outweighed by the against, which therefore leads the audience to believe he has come to his senses, and has decided not to go ahead with it! Even when Lady Macbeth enters the room, Macbeth does not hesitate into saying, We will proceed no further in this business.
Lady Macbeth is a very masculine and ruthless woman, and will not let anyone get in the way of her! For instance, I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn As you have done to this. This implies that Lady Macbeth has a wicked mind, and a cold heart. To even speak about doing such a thing to her own baby, shows she is exceedingly heartless and so ambitious, as she would do something so horrendous just to get what she wants. As well unlike most women who dote on and are besotted by their babies, she has been stripped of these maternal instincts, which creates the impression she is the man figure in her and Macbeths relationship. Furthermore, she is persuasive and manipulative and wont stop till she has things her way. And live a coward in thine own esteem? This shows us Lady Macbeth is sneaky and using a rhetorical question to get under Macbeths skin and to belittle him. By asking him this, she is basically saying to him do you want to live a coward? which hints that if he doesnt kill Duncan, Lady Macbeth in her eyes, will always see him as a coward. The word coward would seriously hinder and hold back all his hesitant feelings, as being the fierce and noble warrior he is, could at no costs be classed anywhere near the realms of a coward. Furthermore, Lady Macbeth says Macbeth is too full of the milk of human kindness which suggests she feels human kindness is distasteful stuff that no self respecting man has any use for. It shows she fears her milky husband lacks the courage to grab the Scottish crown in the most palpable way.
Lady Macbeth could be compared with the three evil witches at the beginning of the play, because they too have a certain impact on Macbeth which put the idea of becoming king into his head and tempts him to achieve this. All hail Macbeth that shalt be King hereafter! These exact words are the catalyst and the chain reaction to the events that occur later. Macbeth at this point, believes he will actually become king and therefore feels him with a surge of ambition to achieve this. Without the witches, none of the rest of the play wouldve occurred.
Lady Macbeth has an enormous control and management over Macbeth. For instance she likes to order him about and speaks down to him. Like the poor cat Ithadage? Go carry them and smear The sleepy servants with Blood. This shows that Lady Macbeth is very manipulative and nasty. The fact that Macbeth has already just killed not only his king, but his friend to, and is suffering from major shock and disbelief, is enough. But then she tries to order him back in so he has to see and get the fall impact of what hes done, as if his feelings are nothing to her. As well, she is putting him down and describing him like a cat, so he feels shame and dishonour. Although all of this, we know she is an extremely strong character and not a stereotypical one, seeing as most wifes of men of Macbeths status, are there to support, show love and dote on their husbands, whereas she has taken things a step further. Her attitude towards him is You will do this, because I want you to! This leads the audience to believe Macbeth is in fact anxious and overwhelmed by his wife, due to her rapid bullying and her ruthless ambition, which then concludes you to the judgment that although Macbeth considered killing Duncan before he had even spoken to Lady Macbeth about it, she is in fact the persuasion that brought these thoughts to life and transported him into sin. This could also be associated with the events of the Adam and Eve story and how the woman convinced and tempted the man to do something which both parties new were wrong.
Lady Macbeth also contributed to Macbeths downfall throughout the rest of the play, as when we first met her, early on, she is represented as the strong one while Macbeth struggles with his guilty conscience. But we soon realise later on, she was only repressing her emotions and when her conscience finally catches up with her, she cant cope with it and goes totally mad with guilt. For instance, she says, What, will these hands neer be clean? and keeps washing her hands in the hope that she can wash away her feelings of guilt just as easily as it was to wash away the blood after Duncans murder. In the end remorse drives her so crazy, that she ends up killing herself. The consequence of this would have been agonizing on Macbeth. Hed already killed his best friend Banquo, a King he had admired deeply, and also ordered Macduffs innocent wife and children to be murdered. Everyone who had meant anything to him were already dead, apart from the woman hed loved, his dear wife, who was his lifeline. When he heard the news, he kind off overlooked it and didnt show a great deal of emotion, however knowing she had gone and killed herself due to the guilt and stress he had put upon her, when he shouldve been the one caring and looking after her, deep down, maybe not physically, but defiantly mentally killed him. Her death makes Macbeth world-weary and cynical, as if he has given up all hope. One of the last things he says before he is going to be killed in battle with Macduff is Yet I will try the last which means he is saying Ill fight to the end. This creates the impression that, although Macbeth new very well this was it and he was in fact going to be killed, he didnt even bother running away, hiding or doing anything that could have possibly stalled him more time. He accepted that he had nothing left to live for and that fate is fate.
Now moving on to Scrooge, we already know that he is a very independent and alone individual. We first see him properly socialise when his nephew, Fred, walks into his shop. As he enters he cries in a cheerful voice, A Merry Christmas, uncle! God save you. Fred is like chalk and cheese when compared with Scrooge. He is portrayed as such an optimistic person, with a smile on his face and a joyful word to say about everything. What right have you got to be dismal? Dont be cross, uncle, Dont be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us to-morrow Ill keep my Christmas humour to the last. What Dickens has done is introduced Fred as a stark contrast to Scrooges insensitive, merciless and heartless nature. Fred is such a gracious and pleasant human being, and so when put in conversation with the likes of Scrooge, they just have no compatibility at all about them. Scrooge is bad-mannered and abrupt when speaking to Fred, questioning his beliefs and rudely shouting humbug when he doesnt agree with things, but unlike most folk, Fred is patient and persistent with him, never losing hope! It is a good technique to introduce characters like this into the novel, as we get to see Scrooge from a different angle, that we have not seen before, social interaction.
As a reader you instantly associate Freds character with all that Christmas symbolises. Christmas is a time for peace, being merry, spending time with your loved ones and forgiveness. All these qualities and characteristics are almost identical with everything Fred is and everything Fred believes in. He also even claims possession of the festive season, when referring to Christmas as my Christmas which again creates the impression, he is in fact Christmas and everything the word Christmas stands for. Dickens has also used the Christmas setting to exemplify the theme of the novel. For instance, Christians see Christmas as a new beginning through the birth of Christ and is an exceptionally important time of year. Similarly Freds character encourages Scrooge to change and remains resolute when faced with Scrooges negativity.
At the beginning of the novel, the society around scrooge totally avoid and isolate him at all costs. Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, My dear Scrooge how are you? This shows us that Scrooge really had no friends or acquaintances. By using the word ever creates emphasis on the nobody as if nobody EVER stopped. As well, no children asked him what it was oclock, no man or woman ever once in all his life enquired the way to such and such a place, of scrooge. The reality that even people who needed help and information still new not to hassle him, suggests that it was well known around London, not to even imagine disturbing Scrooge. It demonstrates how everyone was generally terrified of being in his presence and gave them a feeling of vulnerability and fear that even being around this nasty person, could cause then to be the next victim of his hate. Because Scrooge was doubtlessly so used to this, it didnt bother him one bit. But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked. This creates the impression that Scrooge had suffered with this secluded atmosphere for so long now, it was past bothering and affecting him. No-body deep down would really enjoy a life like this, no matter how strong and mentally powerful they were. As humans, having other humans around us, is a massive part of our survival on this planet and social interaction is what people live for. Therefore, Scrooge stating that he likes the fact that everyone avoids him suggests to a reader, that deep down he is hiding his true emotion and would really like to change, but find it hard to do so as things have got to such a depressive stage, that he just cant get out of anymore. It also implies there is a much bigger picture to this absurd mood, and makes you feel a little sympathetic for Scrooge, as there is always a reason behind someone turning to such a low.
When Scrooge is faced with the issue and problem of the poor, he responds with negligence and displays a distinct lack of care. The innocent Charity workers are extremely considerate and caring and even when faced with Scrooges rudeness, do not retaliate back. Many cant go there; and many would rather die. If they would rather die, said Scrooge, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Again Scrooge is not really moved by what the charity workers are saying, and still will not give in to his selfish beliefs about his money and how he feels about helping other people. What he does say though is that its, not my business... its enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other peoples which shows clearly his constant pursuit of wealth, total lack of care for others, and bitter selfishness. This quote is also referred back on when Marley comes to visit Scrooge. Scrooge praises Marley on his talents as a business man when he was alive, which causes Marley to get exceedingly angry making him rant about how the common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. This wouldve affected Scrooge, as the exact words he had said earlier wouldve grabbed his attention from what Marley just said and caused him to reflect back on them, which hopefully would have made him realise inside, that what he alleged earlier was sinful and heartless. As well in this scene, Scrooge asks Jacob to Speak comfort to me. This is the first showing of Scrooges inhibited, real emotions, and can be seen as a catalyst, opening his mind to change. He also starts Pondering on what the ghost had said actually thinking about another persons words for once.
The ghost of Christmas Past is the first Spirit that Marley sends to try to reconcile Scrooge. This Spirit attempts to change Scrooge by showing him nostalgic times in his past. Also, events that have shattered or hurt Scrooge in the past are brought up and dealt with, much as a psychiatrist would do today. Scrooge suddenly realises how vulnerable and helpless he is he when he clasped its robe in supplication ; supplication is a prayer for help, which shows he is actually scared for himself and looking to religion as a way of comfort. As well the ghost gazed upon him mildly which is a sharp contrast to the usual way Scrooge is looked at and shows that the spirit is not judging Scrooge and understands his pitiful situation.
The first place the ghost took him to was back to his childhood. Here Scrooge looks over his former self as a young boy and starts to feel pity. He even says, There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that all. Going back to this scene when the boy was singing Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror. Scrooge is now feeling guilt and upset about how he treated this young boy, and is realising how cruel, malicious and mean it was to do such a thing. Scrooges curtain of repression is beginning to fall down.
After this ordeal Scrooge is whisked away to see his old employer, Fezziwig, with whom he had obviously shared some happy memories with. At this point, we see Scrooge show proper affection for the first time in the novel: Bless his heart! which creates the impression Scrooge had a really strong liking to this character and a deep respect. He [Fezziwig] has the power to render us happy or unhappy Fezziwig is not the sort of person Scrooge would have been associated with at the start of the novel, but he is reminded of how he once appreciated Fezziwig. Since Fezziwig is the elder Scrooges opposite in many ways- kindness, generosity, affection for his employees, relationship with family, and apparent happiness- Scrooge is therefore confronted with the fact that his own choices in life have diverged greatly from someone he, to a great extent, admires. As well Fezziwig shows a generous and Jolly attitude when it comes to his employees. For instance he says, Yo ho, my boys... no more work tonight... Christmas Ebenezer This is a completely opposite relationship to the one Scrooge has with his Clerk and Scrooge realises and sees this. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now! He is suddenly understanding that as a manager, business is not just about money and having power over the ones that work for you, its about enjoying and having fun to. The fact that he wants to speak to him just now suggests an abrupt surge of guilt as just overcome him and filled him with compassion and the urge to reconcile.
The next scene shown by the apparition is deeply painful and heartbreaking for Scrooge. He sees himself let go his first and only love, Belle. Belle is a lovely young woman, and unlike Scrooge, believes there is more to life than money. Another idol has displaced me... a golden one This suggests Belle feels Scrooge doesnt love her the way he used to. Idol has displaced me implies Scrooge has idolised money and his business before her which has taken over him. She tells him You are changed. When it was made, you were another man, which shows she fell in love with the old Scrooge not the new one and cannot keep on being part of his life when it isnt the life she wants to be a part of. Belle is dissimilar to Lady Macbeth at this point, as she is a much weaker and less involved character. Lady Macbeth put so much effort and energy into persuading Macbeth to kill Duncan which then, over a period of time, was arguably the reason for his drastic change. Whereas, Belle, has in a way given up on Scrooge, and really cannot find it in her to stick around to try to transform him back. Another dissimilarity is that Belle speaks very softly and pleasantly, she said, softly unprofitable dream promised happiness, while on the other hand Lady Macbeth is a much more aggressive and masculine, plucked my nipple durst do it What beast. The way each woman speaks, fits almost perfectly with the way each text represents them. Although, a dissimilarity that Belle didnt peruse in changing Scrooge, we could almost count it as a match, as the consequence of Scrooge when watching this sequence back, is a major, and possibly the most, effective on him. His reaction to revisiting this event is weakening and upsetting. Spirit... show me no more... Why do you delight to torture me? This enables us to feel sympathy for Scrooge, since we have now got an understanding of why Scrooge has become a shrivelled sinner, however, the reader might also judge Scrooge as it was his own greed that turned him towards the love of money, and was his choice to pursue that way of life. He seems to regret what the past holds, and cannot bear re-visiting it, as he is so tortured by the state of how his life couldve been. He wrestled with the spirit to extinguish the light, a metaphor for his unhappy memories, as if he is ashamed of them and cannot take the misery they bring.
Bringing back these memories accomplishes what Scrooge has been attempting to avoid throughout the novel up to this point, he has finally come to terms with his past and understands that he needs to change for the better. I think this visitation has had a positive effect on Scrooges character as he is beginning to think about other people, and has developed empathy and regret. These events have unlocked his cold heart, and he is beginning to feel, and care once again.