illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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How does Dickens present family in A Christmas Carol?

Dickens presents family in a A Christmas Carol through a number of different perspectives. For example, Scrooge has a negative perception of family because he had an isolated childhood. However, after seeing how much the Cratchits care for each other and how kind his nephew, Fred, is, Scrooge is encouraged to change his perspective on family.

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In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens presents a number of perspectives on family, from the love that the Cratchits show one another, to the distance between Scrooge and Fred. The Ghost of Christmas Past reminds Scrooge of the importance of family when he takes Scrooge back to his life...

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as an isolated young child. Scrooge was away at boarding school, alone, until his younger sister Fan comes to retrieve him and sheds light on Scrooge's early familial experience. When she comes to bring him home, she says

Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven! He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you.

Here we learn that even though family can be tender, as is the case with the Cratchits, it can also be toxic, as it was between Scrooge and his father. However, Fan and Scrooge had a wonderful relationship, and this instance helps him remember that. The ghost then informs the reader, and reminds Scrooge, of the end of Scrooge's relationship with Fan and the importance of Fred:

“Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered,” said the Ghost. “But she had a large heart!”“So she had,” cried Scrooge. “You’re right. I will not gainsay it, Spirit. God forbid!”“She died a woman,” said the Ghost, “and had, as I think, children.”“One child,” Scrooge returned.“True,” said the Ghost. “Your nephew!”Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly, “Yes.”

These moments help to remind Scrooge of what he once had and how he could reclaim part of it via Fred, but Dickens doesn't limit family to those related by blood. At the very end of the story, once Scrooge has vowed to change his ways, the narrator reveals:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Here Dickens shows a very different perspective; he shows that family can be created. While many only consider "family" those they are related to, both Dickens and Scrooge understand that family can be more than blood. Family can be built with those around you. In fact, a family bond built, such as that between Scrooge and Tim, is far more valuable than the relationship that Scrooge had with his own father.

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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.   

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In this novel, family is portrayed as one of the most important elements of one's happiness. Fred, Scrooge's nephew, continues to invite him, year after year, to his Christmas celebration; why do this if not because family makes Fred happy? He certainly doesn't do it because his invitations are well-received!

Further, Scrooge is very upset when he is shown his former fiancee, Belle's, happy family. She is surrounded by children and is the beloved wife of a man who cares deeply for her; Scrooge realizes that he put his love of money ahead of his love for Belle, just as she said. His money has not made him happy, in the end, but Belle obviously looks very happy with her family.

When the Ghost of Christmas Present shows the Cratchit family to Scrooge, Scrooge eventually comes to the realization that Bob may be poor in wealth, but he and his family are rich in other, more important ways. They are happy because they are together, and it is only the prospect of one of them being unable to come to Christmas dinner that can upset Bob. It is no matter that their dinner is scant and their pudding smells like laundry.

Moreover, being at Fred's with the ghost and listening to the games may be the happiest we ever see Scrooge. Even though one game is played at his expense, he doesn't mind, because being with loved ones makes him so happy. Ultimately, he goes to spend his holiday with Fred and Fred's wife because he seems to have recognized how joyful it would be; further, he allows the Cratchits to have their own family holiday together (without interruption by him), and he offers Bob the partnership when he returns to work the next day.

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Dickens presents family as a source of social cohesion in A Christmas Carol. Families, with their joys and responsibilities, provide a sharp contrast to Scrooge's lonely existence. Early on, for instance, Scrooge's nephew, who is poor, comes to visit. Unlike Scrooge, he "was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked..." He invites Scrooge to Christmas dinner, declaring that although he is poor, Christmas does him good, for it brings people together.

Scrooge rejects his nephew, who is such a cheerful representative of family life. He also makes life difficult for his clerk Bob Cratchit, but Cratchit's happy family, despite their poverty, makes a striking counterpoint to Scrooge's shriveled existence:

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

“A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!”

Which all the family re-echoed.

The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge a Christmas party from days gone by, ending with the following:

When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas. When everybody had retired but the two ’prentices, they did the same to them; and thus the cheerful voices died away, and the lads were left to their beds; which were under a counter in the back-shop.

This scene of family joy and harmony begins to do its work on Scrooge's hard heart:

During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation. 

Families are sources of strength in this tale, and good families, Dickens shows, keep hearts and minds open and alive. They even work their magic on Scrooge, reminding him that life is made of more than money.

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Charles Dickens shows family in an overall positive light.  When Scrooge looks at his past, he sees the joy in Fan's face when she tells him that their father has changed into a kinder and gentler man.  Fan tells young Scrooge that she has arrived to take him home so that they can be a family again.  Then Scrooge sees Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig and the joy of their marriage.  

Later, Scrooge gazes upon the Cratchit family.  Though they are poor, they are a happy and loving family.  They have little food and live in a shabby house, but they care for one another and focus on their blessings in life.  Scrooge observes his nephew, Fred, and how much he loves his wife.  Even later when Scrooge visits the Cratchit family after the death of Tiny Tim, he observes a loving family who remembers their departed son with tenderness.

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In A Christmas Carol, what image of the Cratchit family does Dickens give us?

Dickens presents the Cratchit family as the ideal embodiment of all the values he cherishes. They are a loving, close-knit family, always supporting each other through thick and thin. Though incredibly poor, they are still very grateful for what little they have in life. And despite having every right to complain about their lowly station in life, they choose not to; so they muddle along as best they can. Unlike Scrooge, the epitome of grasping materialism, they have a deep veneration for Christmas and the spiritual values it represents. Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim even find it within their hearts to say something good about Scrooge despite his miserliness. 

Throughout his work, Dickens showed great sympathy for the poor and downtrodden. At the same time, as we see in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens didn't much care for social revolution, however sympathetic he may have been to the grievances of the poor. In that sense, the Cratchits' meek, uncomplaining acceptance of poverty fits in with Dickens's ideal of how poor people should conduct themselves.

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In A Christmas Carol, what image of the Cratchit family does Dickens give us?

In A Christmas Carol, Dickens portrays the Cratchits as a happy, loving, and contented family, despite the fact that they have very little money. Take stave 3, for example. In this scene, the Cratchit family sit down to eat Christmas lunch. Although the goose is small and cheap, and the pudding is small and like a "speckled cannon ball," not one member of the family makes a complaint. Instead, they are grateful and happy to be together. Notice the image of the family gathered around the hearth wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

It is also worth noting that the Cratchit family's happiness and love stay strong, even when Tiny Tim dies in stave 4. For them, the death of Tiny Tim provides a reason to remember happy times and to stick together, as Bob explains:

"And I know,'' said Bob, "I know, my dears, that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.''

The Cratchit family, therefore, contrasts sharply with Scrooge, but its love, contentment, and happiness contributes to his transformation.

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In A Christmas Carol, what image of the Cratchit family does Dickens give us?

It is the Ghost of Christmas Present that takes Scrooge to view the Christmas that the Cratchit family enjoys, and it is notable that in spite of the many years that Bob Cratchit has worked for Scrooge, Scrooge has never visited his family home. What stands out above all about the Cratchit family is the way that, in spite of their want and poverty, they share the warmth of human love and affection, which is in marked contrast to Scrooge, who, in spite of all of his wealth, is not able to participate in such a relationship. Consider the way that Dickens concludes his portrait of the Cratchits:

They were not a handsome family; 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; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit's torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.

Dickens shows us therefore through the Cratchit family that wealth does not necessarily bring happiness, and that it is not necessary to be rich to enjoy warmth and human affection. This of course has the effect of filling Scrooge with a yearning for something he only experienced a very long time ago.

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