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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In A Christmas Carol, what business is Joe in and who is the woman to whom he is speaking?

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Old Joe is a pawnbroker, someone who buys used items cheaply and then sells them at a higher price for a profit. He speaks to the charwoman, a woman who is employed to clean houses and office spaces, as well as the laundress (named Mrs. Dilber) and the undertaker's assistant....

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Old Joe is a pawnbroker, someone who buys used items cheaply and then sells them at a higher price for a profit. He speaks to the charwoman, a woman who is employed to clean houses and office spaces, as well as the laundress (named Mrs. Dilber) and the undertaker's assistant. These individuals enter right around the same time, each carrying a heavy bundle, and "they all three burst into a laugh" when they realize that they each had the same idea to steal from Scrooge and then sell his belongings. The charwoman and laundress likely worked for Scrooge and the undertaker's man probably assisted with Scrooge's body after his death. They all easily justify their actions; to this end, the charwoman says of his possessions

If he wanted to keep 'em after he was dead, a wicked old screw, . . . why wasn't he natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he'd have had somebody to look after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone by himself.

They feel that Scrooge basically compelled them to steal from him in death because he was so stingy and mean during his life. He had no one to sit with his body, to protect him from such thieves, because there was none who loved him enough to do so; he pushed everyone away. Because he was not "natural" during his life, he died all alone, vulnerable to thieves and to people like old Joe, the pawnbroker, who could profit from Scrooge's death.

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Joe runs a pawn shop. He buys items from anyone who brings him something that he thinks he can resell at a profit for himself. Joe's shop is as rundown and decrepit as many of the items he has for sale; the persons who bring goods to him are desparate for money and will take whatever he will give them. "Sitting in among the wares he dealt in, by a charcoal stove, made of old bricks, was a grey-haired rascal, nearly seventy years of age."

The charwoman, who had probably done the cleaning and cooking for Scrooge, presented her goods stolen from the dead man's house first. "Sheets and towels, a little wearing apparel, two old-fashioned teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a few boots."

The other woman was the laundress, the woman who had done Scrooge's laundry. She brought the curtains, blankets, and  a shirt, in which someone thought Scrooge would be buried. "It's the best he had, and a fine one too. They'd have wasted it, if it hadn't been for me."

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