[In the following excerpt, Thomas provides a Freudian interpretation of A Christmas Carol.] A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol The fundamental claim Freud would make about the origin of dreams is that they are expressions by the dreamer of a wish. The wish may be repressed and hence not immediately recognizable as a wish, and its expression may be disguised for a number of important reasons. But the dream is nevertheless an expression of the dreamer's desires. One of Freud's achievements was to establish the dream as a disguised wish and then to shift the center of the discussion about the significance of dreaming from the question of its origins to the tactics of its representation and decoding. The Interpretation of Dreams set out to repeat and undo the distortions and disguises of the dream work in the course of the dream analysis, and thereby to expose the wish at the root of the dream's "expression." Wordsworth's Arab dream expresses the poet's desire to speak in a transcendent voice from beyond himself, and it portrays the dream as a form of prophetic utterance or supernatural possession. The dream of Alice in Wonderland reveals a desire for personal mastery and takes the form of a myth of entrance from the childhood world of fantansy into the adult, secular world of political power. A Christmas Carol (1843) is the nineteenth-century myth that expresses the dream in terms of economic power. Dickens's subtitle aptly identifies the tale as A Ghost Story of Christmas; it takes the language of ghostly possession and transforms it into one of material possession.‘ Lurking persistently behind the "spectral hand" of the spiritual visitors is the invisible hand of Adam Smith. The manifest plot relates a "conversion," an "exchange" of Scrooge's moral personality from the miser to the philanthropist. But the term conversion has both religious and economic connotations, and Scrooge's dream works the exchange between them. The wishes that are fulfilled in dreams, Freud claims, "are invariably the ego's wishes, and if a dream seems to have been provoked by an altruistic interest, we are only being deceived by appearances" (267). Despite appearances to the contrary, the latent "conversion" resulting from Scrooge's dream is more in the service of mammon than of God, and its effects suggest Dickens's participation in a bourgeois ideology that unconsciously conflates conversion and profit. The worst fate one of the voices from Scrooge's dream can wish him is that he will awaken to see the path he has chosen as nothing but an "unprofitable dream" (81). But Scrooge will be sure to make his Christmas dream turn a profit for him. Rather than do that by telling his dream after he awakens, as Alice did, Scrooge does it by suppressing the dream-by keeping its unprofitable aspects secret, by ensuring that the "writing" that appears in the dream will be "erased" (108). Alice's dream allows her to enter the adult world and retain some authority and power by mastering the game of language. Scrooge's dream enables him to enhance his place in the economic world and tighten his hold over those in his "service" by understanding that "power lies in words and looks" (78). In his dream, he discovers that words can have as much power when they are strategically withheld as they can when they are spoken. It is important, therefore, for Scrooge's dream and his response to it to "look" like and be decribed in the "words" of moral reform. It must not appear to be motivated by self-interest if it is to be profitable for him. A Christmas Carol is presented more in the tradition of an allegorical dream vision than as a genuine dream. In contrast to the confusion of Alice's dreams, Scrooge's is tightly structured by the visitation of three apparently supernatural figures, each bearing a clear moral message and each appearing in correct temporal sequence. Their explicit intention is to confront Scrooge with the error of his ways and to urge him to turn from those ways. These are the ghosts that represent and connect his past, present, and future. They show him that the "plot" of his life story will end in an unmourned grave if he persists along his current path. Despite the apparent narrative orderliness of this vision, however, other features of it resemble the dream's confusing "work." as Freud described it. First, Scrooge's is a dream of regression. The persistence of his "forgotten self’ in the form of repressed childhood memories and desires is at the heart of the dream material, appearing and disappearing in literal and symbolic forms in all parts of the dream, not just in the dream of Christmas past.3 Second, Scrooge's dream repeatedly dramatizes acts of repression, denial, and distortion. It could be accurately described as a dream about censorship, as well as one that practices it. Finally, the central wish of the dream is to extend the dreamer's power and life, a wish that is successfully disguised from beginning to end. According to Freud, the "true significance" of a dream is always overdetermined, and it is always disguised. If the dreamer achieves an instant and complete certainty or clarity about the significance of a dream, a failure-or refusal-to see its complexity is usually present. Scrooge's absolute certainty about the purpose of his dream and its implications for him must be read as an act of repression on his part, repeating his final act in the dream itself, when he expresses his desire to "sponge away the writing on this stone"-to erase, that is, the text he has been confronted with in his dream, to obfuscate the "true" wish expressed in the dream (126). Each section of the dream concludes with an act of repression. Scrooge ends the first stage in a state of "resistance," wrestling with the ghost, trying to end its haunting of him by pressing the "extinguisher cap" that covered the ghost's head (83-84). Scrooge "pressed it down with all his force" in his attempt to shut out the fragments of images from his past which the ghost cast around him (84). "No more!" Scrooge insists. "No more! I don't wish to see it. Show me no more!" (81). The second visitation also concludes with an act of suppression. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows to Scrooge the two child figures Ignorance and Want and then urges him to "beware them both." "Deny it," he says of the boy, Ignorance, instructing Scrooge to ignore the inscription of Doom on the child's head and to let the "writing be erased" (108). Scrooge seems to take the instructions literally, as is dramatized in the last scene of the final vision, which presents yet another portrait of denial. There Scrooge claims, "I am not the man I was." imploring the ghost to allow him to "erase" the inscription on the stone that spells out his own death (126). Scrooge "escapes" the implications in each part of his dream by denial, erasure, or revision: "Assure me that I may yet change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life," he says to the final ghost. Scrooge resists his dream and desires to change its content throughout, declaring even after he awakes that "the Spirits of all Three shall strive within me" (126). Their haunting, in other words, is not complete. The conflict within Scrooge is not resolved. It has only been repressed and postponed into the indefinite future, inviting our suspicion of the simplistic moral interpretation Scrooge imposes upon his dream.‘ Even the narrative sequence of the dream may be read as a deceptive product of secondary revision. The sense of time in Scrooge's dream stands in direct contrast to Alice's in Wonderland, where past. present, and future cannot be distinguished and where narratives can never be controlled or completed. But in fact, the stages of Scrooge's dream are not purely of the "past" or "present" either, even though they are announced as such. Scrooge is present either figuratively or literally as both child and adult in every part of the dream. This ambiguity is reflected in the appearance of the specters themselves. The first ghost appears "like a child: yet not so much like a child as like an old man" (68). As the second ghost grows old and begins to vanish before Scrooge's eyes, he is replaced by two young children who appear from beneath his cloak, once again suggesting the persistence of the child within the man. The age of the final ghost, like all his features, is "concealed": but the continual effort of that spirit is to direct Scrooge's attention toward two other absences: the one caused by the death of the child Tiny Tim and the one caused by the death of Scrooge himself as an old man (110). These conflations of child and old man throughout the dream are effectively acknowledged by Scrooge when he awakens and expresses the regressive desire of the dream: "I'm quite a baby." he says. "I don't care. I'd rather be a baby" (128). Scrooge's dream dramatizes a desire to repossess his childhood world again, much as Alice's figured her desire to control the adult world. The apparent narrative orderliness and the clarity of the dreamer's progressive moral viewpoint are not the only deceptions in this dream. Early on the tale announces itself as a critique of the ethos of the cash nexus. But the language of that critique within the scenes of the dream itself reveals it to be more of an endorsement. On the day preceding his dream, Scrooge rebukes the man collecting for the poor by quoting Malthusian sentiments on the fortunate demise of the "surplus population" (51). That rebuke is ironically repeated to Scrooge in the dream by the second ghostly visitor, but this admonition is softened when the ghost proceeds to lecture Scrooge that he had been wrong to say such things only because he misunderstood them: "Forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is" (97). The ghost goes on to urge Scrooge to think more seriously about what is of value and what is worthless in the sight of heaven. But these words may be read merely as a corrective rather than a repudiation. The "cant" is "wicked" only if it is wrongly applied. The principle of value remains intact. Scrooge simply needs to view the economics of time from a longer range and to understand that the "value" of a person is a more complicated computation than he has allowed. Ultimately. the principles celebrated in the dream and applied to the value of individuals are those of the marketplace, as is most clearly dramatized in Scrooge's memory of his old employer Fezziwig. In that scene, Scrooge admires and envies the great dividends of "power" over his employees that a modest investment of capital manages to yield the employer: "He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune" (78). Scrooge sees before him the tremendous power an employer can have over an employee by simply bestowing the right "words and looks" at the right time. "In things so slight," Scrooge sees, "power lies." This kind of power must lie and deceive to achieve its purposes. It must make "service" that is "burdensome" look "light"; it must make "toil" appear like "pleasure." And by these slight and insignificant strategies of representation, the canny employer can shape the modest desires of his employees and save himself a "fortune" at the same time. This may well be the point Scrooge refers to when he tells his second ghostly visitor what he learned from the previous ghost: "I learnt a lesson which is working now. Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it" (87). The specter proceeds to conduct Scrooge to the marketplace at Christmastime, where the lessons of profit are best learned. The vision there described offers a stunning rhetorical performance in tribute to the deceptive spectacle of the marketplace and the power of misrepresentation exercised there. The objects for sale are displayed in such a way that they are "urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags" (90). The workings of the market itself are presented as fraudulent and dangerous incarnations of human desire: "The scales descending on the counter made a merry sound. . . the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks. . .. the candied fruits [were] so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious" (90). The customers’ feelings of faintness are then transformed into a euphoric state of distration in the exhilarating atmosphere of extravagance and spending: "The customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, clashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes in the best humour possible" (91). Here the marketplace is not condemned but celebrated as a place where confusion and deception mask the customers’ "mistakes" in a flourish of entertaining good humor, where the thrills of exchange and activity hide the subtle "juggling tricks" of commerce. Behind the specious fiction that there is a privilege in simply participating in the market economy, there lurks a desire. At this point in the dream, the marketplace seems to act as the central metaphor for Scrooge's unconscious desire. He is the miser who wishes to be a consumer, who is tempted by the fruits of the marketplace. And in the end, A Christmas Carol is more fundamentally an account of the dream as a scene of wishfulfillment than it is an account of moral reform.5 The desire behind the dream is made quite clear in the last scenes of it. Scrooge is most deeply moved not by the prefiguration of his death but by his portrayal as an object of exchange which he does not own. The ghost of the future shows him his clothes, his possessions, and his personal "effects" being sold by his employees to the man in the rag and bone shop. Scrooge literally becomes no more than a series of things for sale. When he hears his charwoman say that the proper end for a man like him is "to profit us when he was dead," Scrooge recoils in horror (117). This is the expression of the "true significance" of the dream for Scrooge: the self is a thing to be owned, if not by oneself, then by someone else. To be owned by others is to die, to cease to be a self. This is what horrifies Scrooge-seeing himself as a commodity possessed and profited from by others than himself. The ghost that accompanies Scrooge at the end of the dream is different from the other two in one important way: it is absolutely silent. At the outset of this part of the dream Scrooge resolved "to treasure up every word he heard" (113). But the words in this part of the dream are his; he takes over the power of describing and interpreting these scenes to himself rather than let the ghostly visitor have control over those actions. That power becomes a "treasure" for Scrooge to own and bury in secrecy after he awakes. As the third spirit silently glides through the city, past the deathbed, and into the graveyard, it attempts to present Scrooge with the figures of his own death. But Scrooge will not acknowledge that these things could have any relation to him. He describes the events in other terms, as if they concerned someone else. He refuses to lift the sheet that covers his own lifeless face and see it for what it is. By resisting the directives of the ghost and reinterpreting them for himself, Scrooge makes the dream his own, but only superficially so, since he doesn't "own up" to its "true" significance. He rejects what he sees as another's portrayal of him rather than a self-portrayal. When he is finally confronted with a representation he cannot reinterpret-the inscription of his own name on the tombstone-he demands to erase the name.‘ The dream ends when this last silent specter "dwindle[s] down into a bedpost," provoking in Scrooge a sense of elation over his possession of himself: "Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in" (126-27). At heart, Scrooge is the miser still, objectifying his self-amendment in terms of these things he possesses. The immediate effect of the dream on him is his listing of this "happy" inventory of the things that are "his own," by which he is able to possess time itself. The dream, moreover, will be his most coveted possession, since it has expressed to him the possibility of owning his time by controlling how it is represented. But if the dream is his possession, it is not something he has owned as Alice owned her dream. This story ends with the assurance that Scrooge has learned an important lesson: he now "knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge" (134). The language of possession applies no longer to Scrooge's occupation alone but to the economy of his psyche as well. And whether we read Scrooge as reformed or simply reorganized, the important point is that his mind is shown to work like a business. The dream and the "knowledge" of it have become "possessions" that he "keeps" as "his own," with the intention of more effectively mastering others rather than himself. The acts of kindness with which Scrooge "keeps" Christmas (the gift of the goose, the new coal scuttle for Cratchit, and the shared glass of punch) are little more than window dressing, a small price for Scrooge to pay to ensure his mastery over the people in his life.7 The publishing history of A Christmas Carol lends an interesting footnote to the suspicion with which I have read its moral. The book was an instant success at the bookstands and elicited a response from the public not unlike the impassioned enthusiasm described in the book's marketplace scenes. The sales reversed Dickens's very bad showing with Martin Chuzzlewit, and provided an economic turning point for his career. A Christmas Carol would surely become a classic means by which to "keep" Christmas in England, and it would provide Dickens with a sizable profit as well.8 But ironically, his profit would have been much greater had Dickens been able to retain sole possession of his own words. The astounding success of the book led to its widespread piracy by publishers who owned no copyrights and who paid the author no royalties for sales. Dickens's response was rather Scrooge-like. He launched a protracted and expensive lawsuit, which he won but which ended up costing him more money in legal fees than he was able to recover in damages. Nevertheless, he was victorious in the principle of the thing: there is a power in the possession of one's own words, and a profit in them as well.9 The form of Scrooge's dream in A Christmas Carol might be seen as expressing another of its most profound wishes: the desire for a plot, for a life story that has an ordered sense of past, present, and future, a story that connects the old man with his forgotten childhood self. In this his dream is an inversion of Alice's. It does retrospectively what hers does prospectively. But the form of this dream, like that of Alice's, also shows Scrooge's desire to take over its narrating power, to tell it himself, to erase, revise, and rewrite the story of his own life. Scrooge's increasing involvement as the voice within his dream is the fulfillment of that wish; it is the sponging away of the text of the dream as something visited on him and the replacement of it with another self-authored text after he awakens. We can read Dickens's own excursions into autobiographical writing as a repetition of Scrooge's action. Dickens began writing an autobiography in the late 1840s, but broke off the project, explaining to John Forster that he was so tormented by dreams of his past that he could not continue to write down the "deep remembrances" of those experiences. Dickens would only resume the project in the form of David Copperfield." There, he could revise his tormented dreams, mix fact and fiction, and present himself as "the hero of my own life," only to rewrite that story once more in Great Expectations. Together with the dreams in The Prelude, the Alice books, and The Interpretation of Dreams, A Christmas Carol connects the phenomenon of dreaming with the desire for self-possession and self-control, which are achieved by strategies of speaking or being silent, writing or suppressing writing, representing or refusing to represent the "true significance" of the dream. These are the very issues that more elaborately inform the function of dreams in the gothic, autobiographical, and detective novels with which I am concerned in the following chapters. Like any dreams, their images are overdetermined and could be associated with many different kinds of repressed materials from the dreamers’ waking lives. But I attend specifically to the problems of representation as they are manifested in the dreams themselves and in the dreamers’ responses to them. The gothic novel has a fundamental interest in these matters since uncanny dream experience is often so central to it. Gothic fiction consistently raises the possibility that the dream originates from some supernatural possession of the dreamer by an alien, uncontrollable force. This possibility, however, invariably becomes entangled with some psychological repression on the part of the dreamer, a repression that disables him or her and is expressed in the dream. Each of the three gothic texts in the next chapter takes the form of a different kind of first-person discourse in which the dreamer attempts to come to terms with the disturbing power of the dream either by taking control over it and recognizing its psychological origins or by denying responsibility for the dream and ascribing it to demonic origin. Like Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, these novels are acts of interpretation intended to replace an alien discourse with a discourse of control. Like Wordsworth's Arab dream, the dreams in these texts reveal the seductive power of a supernatural voice. Like Alice's, they express a desire to master the forces that drive us. And like Scrooge's, they result in either the loss or gain of authority over the words in which the self is kept and expressed. Notes 1. According to Humphry House, "the language of [Dickens's] religion is all in human metaphors, its charity is confined to the existing scheme of social life and takes its tone from common heartiness. Scrooge does not see the Eternal behind the Temporal, a new heaven and a new earth: he merely sees the old earth from a slightly different angle" (The Dickens World , p. 53). I have used the Penguin edition of A Christmas Carol in The Christmas Books, vol. 1 (1971), cited in the text. 2. For the limitations of Dickens's representation of moral conversion, see Barbara Hardy. "The Change of Heart in Dickens’ Novels," Victorian Studies, 5 (September 1961): 49-67. 3. In Dickens: The Dreamer's Stance, Stoehr sees in much of Dickens's fiction a confusion analogous to Scrooge's between belief in what is and desire for what could be (pp. 261-70). 4. Citing Scrooge's punning attempt to dismiss his visitation by Marley's ghost as a dream with "more of gravy than of grave" about it, Garrett Stewart identifies Scrooge as one of a series of "escape artists" in Dickens's fiction, figures whose imaginations are "tactical," "narrowly functional," and serve to deflect or fend off reality rather than face up to it (Dickens and the Trials of Imagination , pp. 146-48). 5. In what remains one of the best analyses of Dickens's politics and economics, House suggests such a reading when he claims that "the rather clown-like exaggerations of Dickens's satire of statisticians and economists are partly to be explained by the underlying doubt whether they might not be right after all" (p. 71). House also points out how the patronization of the poor was in the interests of the middle-class and how in Dickens's work "the beneficent characters have their full return in watching the happiness they distribute, and in the enjoyment of gratitude and power" (p. 111). He cites the cases of Fezziwig and Scrooge as examples of the "phoney" quality of the "good employer in action": "We must, I think, conclude that all these attempts to show the working of the Christmas spirit in the relations between master and man are either cheats or failures-at least that they are so on the employers’ side" (pp. 64-67). 6. This climactic phase of Scrooge's dream and his subsequent awakening correspond to what Albert Hutter calls Dickens's "lifelong fascination with morgues, and tombs, and burial sites" and with resurrection (p. 12). Hutter sees in Dickens's novels a way of managing the terror of death, a way of "resurrect[ing] the corpse [of the past] into a living narrative, a history" (p. 19). See "The Novelist as Resurrectionist," Dickens Studies Annual 12 (1984): 1-40. 7. In his famous essay "Dickens: The Two Scrooges," Edmund Wilson points out Dickens's introduction of a new kind of character in Martin Chuzzlewit, the novel immediately preceding A Christmas Carol: the character who does evil while pretending to do good (in The Wound and the Bow: Seven Studies in Literature , p. 27). The first symptom of Dickens's benevolence, House claims, is "generosity, in money, and in kindness that costs nothing" (p. 46). 8. Edgar Johnson's presentation of these events in his biography of Dickens emphasizes the irony here and reads almost as parody. Johnson ends one paragraph with the following sentence: "A Christmas Carol is a serio-comic parable of social redemption, and Scrooge's conversion is the conversion for which Dickens hopes among mankind." He begins the next paragraph with this: "The earnings of the Carol, he expected, would help make up for the disappointing returns from Martin Chuzzlewit." See Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph (1986), p. 257. 9. See J. A. Sutherland, "Dickens as Publisher," in Sutherland, Victorian Novelists and Publishers (1976). Sutherland cites Dickens's experience with the Carol as the turning point in the novelist's relationship with publishers (p. 167n). 10. John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens, ed. J. W. T. Ley (1928), p. 26.