Dickens wrote in the wake of British government changes to the benefits system known as the Poor Laws, changes that required, among other things, benefits applicants to work on treadmills. Dickens asks, in effect, for people to recognise the plight of those whom the Industrial Revolution has displaced and driven into poverty, and the obligation of society to provide for them humanely. Failure to do so, the writer implies through the personification of Ignorance and Want as ghastly children, will result in an unnamed "Doom" for those who, like Scrooge, believe their wealth and status qualifies them to sit in judgement over the poor rather than to assist them.
Christian themes are woven throughout the book, and the entire novel may be classified as an allegory of the Christian concept of redemption. Dickens' statement that Jacob Marley "had no bowels" is a reference to the "bowels of compassion" mentioned in I John, the reason for his eternal damnation. The themes of "sinfulness to regret to repentance to salvation" are also featured throughout the novel.
As the title identifies the work as a "Christmas carol", the book's chapters are called "staves" (i.e. stanzas of a song). A carol is mentioned within the narrative as part of the exposition of Scrooge's character,
- "...at the first sound of 'God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!', Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost."
Restad (1995) suggested that Scrooge's redemption underscores "the conservative, individualistic and patriarchal aspects" of Dickens' "Carol philosophy" of charity (a more fortunate individual willingly looking after a less fortunate one). Personal moral conscience and individual action led in effect to a form of noblesse oblige, which was expected of those individuals of means.