Study Guide

A Christmas Carol Family

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Stave 1

He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever. (1.172)

Dickens's own original version of hell—being able to see but not being able to help family members. That would really only work on the emotionally healthy, though, no?

Ebenezer Scrooge

"Good afternoon," said Scrooge.

"I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?"

"Good afternoon," said Scrooge. (1.36-37)

It's never really all that well explained why Fred wants to have anything to do with Scrooge, right? But then again the very lack of explanation—the idea that "well, he's family"—is pretty powerful in its own right.

Stave 2

They were in another scene and place; a room, not very large or handsome, but full of comfort. Near to the winter fire sat a beautiful young girl, so like that last that Scrooge believed it was the same, until he saw her, now a comely matron, sitting opposite her daughter. The noise in this room was perfectly tumultuous, […] but no one seemed to care; on the contrary, the mother and daughter laughed heartily, and enjoyed it very much; and the latter, soon beginning to mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young brigands most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to be one of them! Though I never could have been so rude, no, no! […] And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to have questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest licence of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value. (2.136)

Um, whoa, back off there, narrator. What's with this weird moment when the narrator wants to get in there and get some all of a sudden? The family is clearly awesome, but the strange "man I wish I could make out with that girl" is a little off-putting, isn't it?

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother's particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. (2.93)

Check out how not all of these people are actually biologically related, but the text really merges them into one big happy family. The repetition of the words "In came" unites all these crazy characters as a loving unit—at least for this night.

"You are quite a woman, little Fan!" exclaimed the boy.

She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loth to go, accompanied her. […]

"Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered," said the Ghost. "But she had a large heart! […] She died a woman," said the Ghost, "and had, as I think, children. […] Your nephew!"

Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly, "Yes." (2.71-79)

It seems to finally sink in here that Fred is Scrooge's last tether to the world of his childhood, which clearly was in some ways miserable, but was also the last place to feature love—his love for his sister.

Stave 3

[…] young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.


[...] in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame! (3.41,50)

Um, awkward. The reader is put in a strange position of having to simultaneously feeling sorry for the poverty of the Cratchits, and at the same time feeling inferior to their good cheer and unflagging happiness. Is this confusing or problematic? Or can these feelings co-exist with reasonable ease?

Stave 4

Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for this is thy dominion! But of the loved, revered, and honoured head, thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. […]

No voice pronounced these words in Scrooge's ears, and yet he heard them when he looked upon the bed. He thought, if this man could be raised up now, what would be his foremost thoughts? Avarice, hard-dealing, griping cares? They have brought him to a rich end, truly!

He lay, in the dark empty house, with not a man, a woman, or a child, to say that he was kind to me in this or that, and for the memory of one kind word I will be kind to him. (4.81-83)

Is this fear of not being remembered in death the strongest fear in the novella? Is this because Scrooge has left nothing in the world that would allow his memory to live on at least in some way? No children, no memorable deeds, no friends—bupkis. If he disappears, all that would be left would be his firm, which would simply pass on to another businessperson.

Stave 5

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. (5.70)

Again, we get the word repetition, here with the adjective "good", which firmly cements Scrooge's new standing as a super awesome dude all around. It's nice that Tiny Tim has gotten over thinking of him as an ogre, no?

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