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 stave 3 of A Christmas Carol, how are the Cratchits presented?

In Stave 3 of A Christmas Carol, the Cratchits are presented as poor but happy. Despite their poverty they're looking forward to Christmas, which they tend to celebrate as best they can.

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Many of Dickens's readers will doubtless have shared the noxious prejudices of Ebenezer Scrooge concerning the poor and underprivileged. The general belief in society at that time was that poverty was a moral failing and that the poor had only themselves to blame for their lowly condition in life. In presenting the Cratchit family as poor but respectable, Dickens seeks to challenge this preconception and show that poor people are human beings too.

Though the Cratchits are desperately poor, they don't wallow in self-pity. They accept their lot in life and try to make the best of it. Despite their paltry Christmas feast, they enter into the spirit of the holiday season as enthusiastically as anyone. Contrast this with old "Bah, humbug!" Scrooge, who doesn't celebrate Christmas, despite his enormous wealth.

In giving us and Scrooge privileged access to the Cratchits' home and hearth Dickens aims to humanize the family, showing that wealth, or the lack of it, is no indicator of someone's character. All the Cratchits are fine, decent people who just happen to find themselves at the bottom of the heap through no fault of their own. They are certainly not poor through any moral failing on the part of Bob; he works just as hard as the younger Scrooge did when he had the same job.

Scrooge is so overcome by the warmth and decency of the Cratchits that he asks the Ghost of Christmas Present if poor little Tiny Tim will survive. The Ghost replies that if conditions don't change then there will be no place at the dinner table for Tiny Tim next Christmas. Scrooge is deeply saddened by the news, displaying the same kind of reaction that Dickens would've hoped to have provoked in his readers.

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