Study Guide

A Christmas Carol The Home

By Charles Dickens

The Home

Stave 1

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker's-book, went home to bed. He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again. It was old enough now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but Scrooge, the other rooms being all let out as offices. (1.80)

Every other person we see eats their dinner at home. Every one, except Scrooge that is. But hey, who would want to eat in a place that's barely more than a series of "chambers" and "rooms." It hardly sounds like a home at all. Also, check out that really great image of a "young house" getting lost in a place where "it had no business to be" and then growing old. Um, does that sound familiar? Like a certain Ebenezer S. that we might have recently met?

Stave 2

They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their gates decayed. […] There was an earthy savour in the air, a chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too much to eat.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be. (2.53-54)

It's interesting that none of the places where we see Scrooge is actually a home. They are all either temporary housing or in some other way they lack just about all the qualities that make a house a home—safety, comfort, and love. Is this why he doesn't have a problem spying on other people with the ghosts? Because he has never really experienced the safe, cozy feeling of a real home?

Stave 3

A light shone from the window of a hut, and swiftly they advanced towards it. Passing through the wall of mud and stone, they found a cheerful company assembled round a glowing fire. An old, old man and woman, with their children and their children's children, and another generation beyond that, all decked out gaily in their holiday attire. The old man, in a voice that seldom rose above the howling of the wind upon the barren waste, was singing them a Christmas song—it had been a very old song when he was a boy—and from time to time they all joined in the chorus. So surely as they raised their voices, the old man got quite blithe and loud; and so surely as they stopped, his vigour sank again. (3.91)

Here's yet another image of a home rather than just a dwelling place being carved out from unlikely circumstances. Rather than being dismayed by the "bleak moor", this "old man and woman" have raised four generations of a family. Also, check out how the well-oiled machine thing works here, too: the old man sings with "vigor" as long as the others join in also, but his voice gets quiet when they stop. Either they all function as one or they don't function at all.

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course—and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah! (3.59)

The Cratchit home is a well-oiled machine where everyone knows his or her place and function, even if it all seems a little chaotic to outside eyes. For example, the kids that put out chairs and then shut themselves up in order not to ask for a piece of goose out of turn—clearly that's something that's happened before and been frowned on, so they are now all set to self-police.

Stave 5

As he stood there, waiting his arrival, the knocker caught his eye.

"I shall love it, as long as I live!" cried Scrooge, patting it with his hand. "I scarcely ever looked at it before. What an honest expression it has in its face! It's a wonderful knocker!" (5.30-31)

Is this the beginning of Scrooge investing his house with the emotional qualities of a home? We certainly hope so.

Fred

"Why bless my soul!" cried Fred, "who's that?"

"It's I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?"

Let him in! It is a mercy he didn't shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. (5.57-59)

Scrooge ends up with several homes instead of none: Fred's, Bob Cratchit's, and his own. He really is fully ensconced in humanity once again. Huzzah.