A Christmas Carol is a didactic text in which Dickens presents family as incredibly important. Dickens’ own father was put in prison when he was a child, which had a profound effect on him. Scrooge’s personality at the start of the allegorical novella juxtaposes other characters as he rejects the possibility of having a family and gives prime importance to money and wealth. Throughout the novella, we also see the joy in the Cratchit family despite their poverty and Fred’s kindness shown towards his family and Scrooge. Family was comforting in the Victorian society as the Welfare State was not in existence meaning families had to look after their elderly relations or they would end up in workhouses.
In the extract given, Scrooge finds himself in a “bright, gleaming room” that he recognized as Fred’s. The adjectives “bright” and “gleaming” connote positivity, joy and the energetic festivities that Christmas brings along with it. This is a juxtaposition to Scrooge’s office and house that have “a very small fire” because “darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it!”. The verb “liked” indicates Scrooge’s satisfaction at his financial gain and that Scrooge’s greed has reached an obscene level that he is happy to jeopardize his basic comfort and needs in order to profit from it. Dickens has perhaps used the character of Fred to suggest that Scrooge’s “wealth is of no use to him”. This suggests that his greed drives him away from spending quality time with members of family during such a joyous time of the year. Dickens describes this ignorance and lack of morals as “cheap” implying his disgust at the protagonist’s attitude towards life and family and Dickens hopes to encourage readers to adopt more philanthropic ways during the 1940s by showing how the Ghosts’ arrival brings a positive change in Scrooge. In the extract, Dickens also presents how Scrooge is losing his own family and those who genuinely through the use of Fred because he is “sorry for him”. The remorseful and regretful tone that Fred uses symbolizes the loving and caring nature of a family which Scrooge will lose the opportunity to experience if he doesn’t commence to prioritize family over his wealth.
In Stave 3, family is seen as paramount to the happiness of the Cratchit family. Bob is crushed with disappointment when he thinks Martha is not coming for Christmas dinner suggesting love, tenderness and a family bond towards his child. The adjective in “sudden declension in his high spirits” shows how disappointed he is. Alternatively, it may also suggest how important all members of the family are. Furthermore, Tiny Tim and his siblings are extremely caring towards each other when the younger one “spirits him off” so he can “hear the pudding sing” which seems like a simple pleasure, but shows that the little things in life matter and that siblings kindness is important, especially as Tiny Tim is the “cripple” and represents Christian goodwill and charity. Perhaps, Dickens was showing the effects of poverty through the presentation of the symbolic Tiny Tim who encourages the people in church to see him as Christmas is about Jesus and he “made beggars walk and blind men see” showing that although Tiny Tim is crippled, he is the heart of the family and represents the way people should be towards each other. Christianity is a recurring theme in the novella and Dicken’s may have been highlighting the juxtaposition in the teachings of the bible and the actions of the wealthy in Victorian London and how Christian values were often bent to suit the opinions and thoughts of the wealthy. Dickens appears to be criticising through the charitable and kind and loving Cratchits the way family is rejected by Scrooge, due to his greed, while those with the least are celebrating Christianity and Christian values. It is ironic that Scrooge cares money and wealth more than he cares family and humanity. Moreover, the love and happiness reflected in the Cratchit household is the way they all join together and share in the chores “in high procession” is used by Dickens to reflect the joyful atmosphere that is created in the small household when the “goose” is brought in for carving. The enthusiasm with which the goose is met is contagious and all the Cratchit household join in the celebration of the goose, “one murmur of delight” describes vividly the whole family gasping in joy at the sight of the food they have for Christmas dinner, despite the clear evidence of poverty that exists in the household. Mrs Cratchit is “brave in ribbons” which metaphorically describes the way she has made do and mended her dress to make it appear more festive as a piece of ribbon would have been a relatively cheap way of dressing up, while a new dress would have been an unquestionable expense and out of reach for the family. Although, poor she shows pride in her appearance and wants to look her best for the festivities and not disappoint her loving husband. Family here is shown as important as they all collectively share in the hardship and even though they are poor they don’t complain or grumble, they just focus on making the best of their situation. Symbolically, the Cratchit family are the antithesis of Scrooge and his cruel hearted rejection of his own family.
Earlier in the novella, when the Ghost of the Past took him to the boarding school, we see a glimpse of humanity and caring towards family when “Little Fan” arrives to “take him home”. He exclaims that she is “quite a woman” showing his admiration, love and affection for her and his sadness at the reminder that she “died a young woman” which implies that perhaps, like many women at the time, childbirth was too much for her and she died. Dickens doesn’t explicitly state that childbirth was the cause of her death but there is the implication that Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, is a painful reminder of his loving sister to Scrooge and this could be why Scrooge continues to harden his heart against Fred. Alternatively, his hardened nature and his inability to love could be a mechanism that he has used over the years as he became more and more isolated and less interested in sharing experiences with other people which could perhaps be influenced by his childhood. Scrooge’s behaviour, therefore could indicate fear and an unwillingness to open himself up to loss again, as in Stave 2 it is incredibly evident that Scrooge does have a heart and is capable of love and Fan, his sister, has experienced this love and attention from Scrooge. Scrooge’s nephew Fred is also an excellent example of how family should stick together through all the pain and heartache life can throw at people. Fred arrives at the “counting-house” on a bleak, dark and foggy Christmas Eve in stave one with the pathetic fallacy reflecting the inner sadness and stingy nature of Scrooge. Fred is cheerful and welcoming towards his grumpy uncle, who rejects the offer of Christmas dinner and in Stave 3 we see Scrooge become the joke during a game of “Guess Who”. Scrooge watches amused and seems to ironically miss the fact that he is being compared to an animal of some sort “Uncle Sccccrooooooooogggeee” is used in the game, too much hilarity as an example that no-one can guess initially. Scrooge watches on with the Ghost of the Present wistfully and plays along with the games, even though he can’t be seen or heard by Fred and the other guests. Although, they are being slightly unkind and poking fun at Scrooge there is some clear evidence of affection for him, due to the fact that he is family. In this Stave family is again seen to be normal, caring and loving and everyone is together, looking out for each other and enjoying each other’s company. Moreover, “the Ghost was greatly pleased to find him in this mood and looked upon him with such favour that he begged like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed. The past participle “pleased” suggests that Scrooge is really “as solitary as an oyster” because just like an oyster reveals a pearl hidden inside its tough exterior. Similarly, Scrooge also has the willpower to reveal something truly as magnificent and that’s why the Ghost is “pleased” because he can see the warmth that Scrooge is hiding inside of him. Alternatively, the verb “begged” implies that Scrooge has had a rough childhood and that’s the reason why he is behaving like a child in order to fulfil what he didn’t have the opportunity to experience when he himself was a child.
Dickens towards the end of the novella introduces us to the idea that Scrooge has changed and has reflected on how family is important and why he should join in and become a part of the family, both the Cratchit family and his own nephew Scrooge. At the end of the novella Tiny Tim utters the phrase that is synonymous with his good nature “God bless us everyone!” which summarises the change that overcame Scrooge. Tim lived because Scrooge changed and became a better man. Scrooge vowed after seeing the Ghost of the Future, the death of Tiny Tim and the death of himself that he would “live in the past, the present and the future” showing that he understood the importance of being a better person. His first act of kindness after this proclamation is to send a “Turkey to the Cratchit family” which was a huge gesture and showed that he valued their family and really did not want to see Tiny Tim die, he asks the Ghost of the Future “Will Tiny Tim live?” and this rhetorical question reveals that he already knows the answer to this. Without Scrooge’s epiphany and change Tim will die, so Scrooge shows that he recognises how pivotal to happiness Tiny Tim is by sending the food to them. Due to the way family is presented throughout the novella it is obvious that Scrooge begins to understand that family keeps people together and makes them more humane. In the end Scrooge goes to Fred’s house and is invited in. He also becomes “like a second father” to Tiny Tim and shows that he understands the importance of being a better person and the role that having a family plays in this. Turkey was an extremely expensive meat and the fact it was the “largest” shows that Scrooge really had changed and starting to show love and care for members of family.