How does Dickens present family in A Christmas Carol?

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bree1228 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, Dickens strives to present family as one of the most sacred aspects of life.  Dickens uses many characters throughout the story in order to show the importance of family.

In the beginning of the story, Scrooge's nephew, Fred, invites his uncle to celebrate Christmas with the family.  In typical Scrooge form, he declines the invitation, not understanding what he is actually missing.  In almost the same scene, Bob Cratchit asks for Christmas off in order to be with his very needy family.  Scrooge relents because he does not understand the value placed on family relationships.  As the book progresses, all three ghosts, Past, Present, and Future, show Ebenezer Scrooge at different points in his life.  This, of course, is designed to devastate Scrooge, and help him to repent and become a kinder, more generous human being. 

The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge's long lost fiancé, back when Scrooge had the opportunity to make a loving family of his own, but to no avail,  Scrooge chooses greed and ambition over the woman he loved.  He witnesses holiday frivolity and family happiness of years gone by.  This is to show how much Scrooge has lost through time. 

The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge what is happening in the current time.  Fred's Christmas party is in full swing with all the family, except for Scrooge, which Fred comments on.  Dickens also shows happy bunches of families hunting for trees, and then they visit the home of Bob Cratchit, where the whole family is happy and celebrating together.  The Cratchit family is very important in showing the value of family, since Tiny Tim is very ill, yet everyone looks bright and cheerful, making the best of an unfortunate situation. 

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge his very own grave, with no one to mourn his passing.  He also shows the Cratchit family devastated over the loss of poor Tiny Tim, who has died as a result of his illness.  Scrooge must witness a family in despair, and realize that he has no one that really cares for him in response to his own miserly and cruel ways.

All three ghosts endeavor to show the importance of family connections, and how powerful they can be.  Scrooge is left a better man the following morning, and revels in the fact that he can still make the right choices.   

Read the study guide:
A Christmas Carol

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