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In the time Dickens wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’ life was tough. Poverty was common and for most people food was scarce. Many people were forced to move to the already overpopulated, crowded cities and due to the lack of housing many of these people were living in horrible conditions on the streets. Dickens tried to point out some of the social issues of the time through his literature in the hope that something could be done to make conditions for the poorer people better. One issue Dickens points out is how money could change people’s lives dramatically.
In ‘A Christmas Carol’ Scrooge represents a ‘rich snob’. He is stubborn, selfish and self-centred. He appears to be ignorant to all the poverty around him and doesn’t acknowledge the impact it has on people’s lives. Scrooge is the type of person many of us would purposely avoid meeting, talking to or even catching eye contact with. ‘It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance’ (Page 35). It seems Scrooge makes a conscious effort to be seen as a loner and perhaps even enjoys it.
The Cratchits represent the other side of the story and many of the poor families living at the time, they are poor and have so many hardships they have to cope with ‘they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker’s. But they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time (Page 84)’. This shows how, even though they didn’t have very many things going for them, they were happy with what they had been blessed with.
In stave 3 Scrooge is taken by the ghost of Christmas present to see the Cratchits Christmas dinner. The dinner is not very big at all, as they all know, but Mrs Cratchit refuses to believe that they had eaten it all and everyone had enough to fill their starving stomachs. ‘Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! (Page 81)’ we are seeing her mothering instincts here as she tries to persuade herself, and anyone else listening to her that she has managed feed her family adequately and she’s not stinting them despite the situation.
Tiny Tim is a cripple, and represents the Cratchits unending struggle to cope with life. This doesn’t upset the family though, because they treat him in the same way they treat each other. Before Scrooge met the family he was callous and uncaring, so when he asks the ghost if Tiny Tim will survive, the ghost quotes Scrooges words ‘If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population’ Scrooge then realises how horrid he had been in the past about cripples and other less fortunate people than himself so he was overcome with penitence and grief, feelings he hadn’t felt for a long time.
The Cratchit family are certainly not as rich as Scrooge but they are so much happier. They believe family and friends are so much more important than work and money. Mrs Cratchit doesn’t worry about not having very much food, she worries more about her family and if anyone is late on Christmas day. ‘ What has ever got your precious father then, said Mrs Cratchit’ Page 79.
This shows how loving Mrs Cratchit and the rest of the family are to each other, and they would rather have a smaller portion of food than some of the family missing out and having more food to themselves. Scrooge has a very different view on life to the Cratchits, he believes he doesn’t needs friends, family and happiness because he is rich, has a successful job and works hard. ‘What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough. (Page 36)’ Scrooge believed this until he met the Cratchit family.