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

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens
Start Free Trial

How does Dickens use the Cratchits in A Christmas Carol?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Dickens uses the Cratchits in two primary ways within the text.  The first is to establish that having money is not a prerequisite for being happy.  While the Cratchits have little food for a Christmas feast, must wear ill-fitting hand-me-down clothing, and must work in demanding jobs, they are still able to maintain their love for each other and their general happiness.  This calls Ebenezer Scrooge's value system into question, as Scrooge values money above all else.

The Cratchits also put a face to the nameless poor.  Earlier in Stave One, when Ebenezer is asked to donate money to the poor, he refuses, saying that he supports only "prisons" and "workhouses."  It is clear from his response that he does not have a clear idea of the plight of London's poor people, and that he is largely unsympathetic.  Showing the Cratchits permits Dickens to highlight what the tribulations of the poor looked like in practical terms.  This, in turn, causes Scrooge to fully understand the situation of poverty at the time, and changes the way he views his role in the situation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team