How does Charles Dickens show the importance of family in a Christmas carol? 

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litgeek2015 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme of family is a significant one in "A Christmas Carol," and the author's overall message is that in order to live a happy life you must take care of and embrace your family. You must have a happy home-life. 

Toward the beginning of the story Scrooge's adult nephew, Fred, invites him over for Christmas dinner and Scrooge does everything but shove him out the door.

“I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?”

“Good afternoon,” said Scrooge.

“I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party. But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!”

“Good afternoon!” said Scrooge. (Stave One)


It is obvious they are not close, but it is also obvious that this is Scrooge's fault and not Fred's. Scrooge could be a part of Fred's family and have a closer relationship with him if he were to only reciprocate some interest and care. 

The first spirit takes Scrooge back in time to a boarding school Scrooge was attending. The particular memory shows him having to stay, alone, over the Christmas holiday at school because his father does not want him to return home. This tells us that his father does not really value time with his family either and maybe this is where Scrooge later learned to treat Fred the way he does. In this same scene, however, his sister arrives to collect him and bring him home. She convinced their father to let Scrooge return for good. It is clear in this scene how much he loves Fan and how close they are, but we also learn that she ends up dying young and Fred is her only child. So, this is all very sad because Scrooge was only close to one family member, his sister, and after she died he didn't end up making any other close bonds with family. In this way Dickens is trying to explain how lonely and miserable Scrooge is as a result of having no close family ties.

The Cratchits are VERY close. They are a large family, but they are a loving family. They struggle together but also find the joy in everything they can. Although they have every reason to be much more miserable that Scrooge, they are joyful and grateful for what they have, including one another. This is the most pronounced in Tiny Tim, whom they love and adore and who love and adores all of them. In the Cratchits, Dickens provides the ideal family. This is a family everyone would ant to have and eventually Scrooge becomes a sort of adopted family member. He is able to become happy by joining this happy family.

In the end Scrooge also makes amends with Fred and becomes closer to him as well. So, Dickens allows Scrooge to become an active and positive member of two families by the end of the story, Fred's and the Cratchits, emphasizing the message that family is what makes one happy.

Read the study guide:
A Christmas Carol

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