How is Scrooge affected by seeing the Cratchits in A Christmas Carol?

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is dramatically affected by the Cratchit family’s poignant scene. They are contented and grateful for what little they have, because they have one another and the love of family. It does not matter to them that their meal is small, that the pudding smells like laundry, or that they don’t have enough punch cups. They are generous and loving, happy despite their poverty. This compels Scrooge to care about them when he did not before.

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Scrooge's eyes are well and truly opened by the sight of the Cratchits' homelife. Although they don't have two brass ha'pennies to rub together—largely thanks to Scrooge's incorrigible stinginess—they still somehow manage to maintain a household full of love, warmth, and happiness.

For a mean old skinflint like Scrooge, someone obsessed with making and hoarding money, this is a remarkable sight indeed. The Cratchits show that when it comes down to it, you don't need money to be happy. What you need is to be surrounded by people who love and care about you.

Scrooge is so deeply affected by the vision that he seems to be developing the first stirrings of compassion. He asks the Ghost of Christmas Present if Tiny Tim will live. The ghost replies by saying that if things go on as they are, then the poor boy will die. And all for the want of money.

Scrooge is saddened to hear this. What we're witnessing here is a remarkable change in attitude. A man who once expressed so much contempt and callous disregard for the welfare of the poorest members of society is now beginning to understand just how hard it is for those at the bottom rung of society's ladder.

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Scrooge’s empathy and compassion are developed by seeing the Cratchit family’s happiness and gratitude despite their relatively meager holiday feast and small home. He is especially emotionally affected by Tiny Tim’s poignant words and behavior, by seeing how much the child is loved and how much he loves others, even when his own lot in life is so difficult. When the family is about to fade from view, Scrooge says to the Ghost of Christmas Present, “Tell me if Tiny Tim will live,” and the ghost declares that, if nothing changes, then the sweet child will die. His family cannot afford any of the treatments, or even the nutrition, that might save his life.

Prior to this visit, Scrooge had declared that if poor people would rather die than go to the workhouse or poorhouse, then they should just do it and “decrease the surplus population.” He did not care about their lives, and he does not seem to have cared about anything other than money. He looked down on every human being who did not share his own values. Now the ghost throws those harsh words back into Scrooge’s own face, compelling him to hang his head in shame and feel “overcome with penitence and grief.” Without seeing the family of his employee Bob Cratchit, it seems unlikely that Scrooge would have experienced such a change of heart in his thoughts about and treatment of the poor.

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At the beginning of the story, Bob Cratchit is not real to Scrooge as a flesh-and-blood human being. He regards Cratchit merely as an expense and resents having to pay his miserable wages. He particularly resents having to pay him for the day off at Christmas, seeing it as a swindle. He knows and cares nothing about Cratchit's life and family. 

By the time the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to see the Cratchit family celebrating their meager Christmas, Scrooge's heart has begun to be softened. This is because of his visit to the Fezziwig's Christmas celebration of years gone by with the Ghost of Christmas Past. Now, when Scrooge sees the Crachits in their own home, they start to become real people to him. Scrooge sees the family make much of a simple goose for dinner. He begins to care about them, especially poor Tiny Tim, who can't get medical treatments because of how little Scrooge pays his father. He watches as Bob Cratchit takes Tiny Tim's

. . . withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him. “Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.” 

Dickens illustrates powerfully how allowing a person to witness a scene can exert a powerful influence on a one's heart. Hearing abstractly about "the poor" does nothing but irritate Scrooge; however, seeing one particular kindhearted family struggling to have a merry Christmas makes poverty and want real to him. Scrooge now has "an interest he had never felt before." 



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Deeply moved by the love and warmth in the home of his clerk, Scrooge also notices that Bob's voice "was tremulous" when he tells the family about Tiny Tim's visit to the church where he tells his father that he hopes others see him so that they will remember that it was Christ who made beggars walk and blind men see.  With this in mind, Scrooge asks the Spirit what will become of Tiny Tim in the future.

'I see a vacant seat'replied the Ghost,'in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved.  If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.'

When Scrooge protests against this future, the Spirit mocks him by retorting with Scrooge's cruel remark about the need for the poor to die, anyway, as they will "decrease the surplus population."  In "penitence and grief," Scrooge hangs his head.  Then, the Spirit reminds Scrooge that it is not for him to decide who is "surplus."  Perhaps, the Almighty may decide Scrooge to be "surplus," less worthy to live than "millions like this poor child."

Thus chastised, Scrooge, "bent before the Ghost's rebuke," lifts his head as he hears his name.  Bob Cratchit then makes a toast to the health of Mr. Scrooge, "the Founder of the Feast."  This toasting is "the first of the proceedings which had no heartiness" since no one else feels anything but resentment toward Scrooge.  Their sentiments are not missed by the miser who realizes he is the "Ogre of the family."

This part of the story begins to effect the change of character in Ebenezer Scrooge.

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