What did Scrooge say about giving his clerk a day off to celebrate Christmas in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol?
In Stave One of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, the character of Ebenezer Scrooge is quickly and thoroughly developed as a wealthy but bitter old man, friendless and contemptuous of those around him. Dickens wastes no time establishing that his protagonist is a mean, vindictive individual with seemingly no redeeming qualities. He looks down on those less fortunate than himself, and loathes the cheerfulness that accompanies the annual return of the Christmas season. Scrooge wonders what right the poor have to adopt a benevolent attitude towards others. In short, Scrooge is a bad person at the beginning of A Christmas Carol.
Scrooge's antipathy towards his fellow man extends to his loyal but ill-treated clerk, Bob Cratchit. The elderly miser condemns his sole employee to a life of misery, going so far as to deprive the young clerk of enough coal to warm his cramped office space. As if to emphasize further the nature of Scrooge's character, Dickens has his main character be visited by a kind gentleman seeking a charitable contribution for the benefit of the poor. Scrooge's response to this request is to inquire whether prison is not an appropriate venue in which to house such individuals and families. It is not, consequently, surprising that the old man responds to his clerk's request for Christmas Day off with a typically uncaring remark. Note, in the following passage, the tone of the exchange between the hapless clerk and the domineering, miserly employer:
“You’ll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.
“If quite convenient, sir.”
“It’s not convenient,” said Scrooge, “and it’s not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound?”
The clerk smiled faintly.
“And yet,” said Scrooge, “you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”
The clerk observed that it was only once a year.
“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. “But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.”
Dickens has established the hostile nature of his protagonist so he can henceforth proceed with the series of nocturnal developments intended to redeem the old man's soul. This is an individual badly in need of redemption, and the following sections, or "staves," of A Christmas Carol do precisely that. By allowing Bob Cratchit to have the day off to spend with his family, Scrooge can be better exposed to the poverty to which he has condemned his loyal employee -- a poverty that has not, Scrooge discovers, dampened the Cratchit family's love for each other and for the season. The Cratchits remain a loving, compassionate family despite their poverty, and Scrooge is taught an invaluable lesson by being forced to observe them in their dismal dwelling.
Scrooge was not happy about the idea that his clerk, Bob Cratchit, would want the entire day off to celebrate Christmas, particularly since Cratchit would receive his regular daily pay for the holiday. To Scrooge's stingy, tight-fisted way of thinking, the idea of a paid holiday for his employee was robbing him of the labor for which he was paying.
It's not convenient...and it's not fair. If I was to stop half a crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?...And yet,...you don't think me ill-used when I pay a day's wages for no work.
In Scrooge's mind, there was no reason to ever take a holiday. The purpose of life was to accumulate as much money as possible, and the way in which to accomplish that end was to work every day. He did not agree with the social expectation that said that work should be suspended for a holiday, on Christmas or on any other day.