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