In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Present if Tiny Tim will live, and the ghost replies, “If he be like to die, he had better do it and decrease the surplus population.” Explain why this quote is significant.  

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In Stave One, two gentlemen collecting Christmas donations for the poor and unfortunate inhabitants of London visit Scrooge at his business and proceed to ask him for a generous donation. Scrooge replies by asking the gentlemen if there are no prisons or Union workhouses open and refuses to give a donation. When the men reply that they are still functioning but many people in need would rather die than to stay there, Scrooge responds by saying,

If they would rather die...they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

Later on, the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to Bob Cratchit's home, where he sees Tiny Tim, who is crippled and in poor health. Scrooge is moved by the sight of Tiny Tim and empathizes with the child's difficult situation. He desperately wishes to see Tiny Tim survive and begins to worry about his well-being. When Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Present if Tiny Tim will live, the ghost responds using Scrooge's earlier remarks to emphasize Ebenezer's callousness by saying, "What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." Upon hearing the ghost's response, Scrooge feels ashamed of himself and is overcome with "penitence and grief."

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The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Ebenezer Scrooge the Cratchit family on Christmas Day.  Among them is Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit's young son, who is crippled.  He is also weak and in poor health.  Scrooge sees this and he asks the spirit if Tiny Tim is going to die.  The spirit replies with the same words that Scrooge said to the men asking him for donations for the poor in the beginning of the story.  Scrooge realizes the coldness of his earlier words.  Before Scrooge is visited by the spirits, he is uncaring and uncharitable.  He thinks that if someone living in poverty would rather die than go to a work house then they should do so.  Seeing the poverty of his employee and his family and their Christmastime joy, Scrooge experiences a change of heart.

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