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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What do we learn about Scrooge's home life when Fan visits him at school in A Christmas Carol?

We learn from Fan's visit that Scrooge had a very unhappy home life when he was growing up. Whereas the other boys at his school have all gone home for Christmas, young Scrooge is stuck there all alone. This indicates that Scrooge's father is a cold and unpleasant man who doesn't have much time for his son. However, in letting Scrooge home for the holidays, his father appears to have changed.

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What kind of man would keep his son at school for Christmas while all the other boys are allowed home for the holidays? The answer is Ebenezer Scrooge's father. For reasons we cannot begin to fathom, he thinks it acceptable for his son to spend Christmas all alone in a cold, miserable school while all the other boys are at home, having fun with their families. In common with many adult authority figures in Dickens, Scrooge's dad is a cold, heartless individual with no time for children, not even his own.

And yet, when Ebenezer's beloved sister Fan turns up, it appears that the old man's had a change of heart. For Fan has come to tell her brother that their father has allowed him to come home for the holidays. Mr. Scrooge's sudden about-face foreshadows his son's later remarkable transformation, when he will change from being a miserable old skinflint to the life and soul of every Christmas party.

To be sure, nothing can change the fact that Scrooge clearly had an abusive, loveless upbringing, but at least his father has shown the capacity to change for the better. And so does his son after the visit of the three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

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We learn from Fan's visit that Ebenezer Scrooge came from an emotionally abusive home and that Ebenezer's relationship with his father was not close. Ebenezer had been sent away to boarding school, and as the scene opens, he seems to assume that he won't be able to go home for Christmas, even though all the other boys have left the school for the "jolly holidays." When Fan comes in, she hugs and kisses him and calls him "dear, dear brother." The way Fan and Scrooge compliment each other shows that they know how to express affection and warmth, but apparently their father did not do so until very recently. Fan states that "Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home's like Heaven." This suggests that previously their home was the opposite, that is, a hellish environment for the children. Now their father has begun to speak gently to Fan, and she took advantage of his softening to ask for Ebenezer to come home for the Christmas holiday. Their father agrees to bring his son home not just for the holiday, but permanently; Ebenezer won't have to return to boarding school. Fan promises their Christmas will be "the merriest time in all the world."

This scene helps readers view Scrooge as a more sympathetic character. He was treated cruelly by his father for years and often had to spend Christmas alone. Such wounds don't easily heal. Readers understand some of what made Scrooge such a hard man through this glimpse of his childhood home.

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We learn that Ebenezer isn't a part of it much, as he is away at boarding school. We also get the impression he might have been there for a while.  When Fan comes to retrieve him she says that their father is "much kinder now," so much so that she thought she would try one more time to ask him if Ebenezer could come home for Christmas. This indicates that she has asked before and has been refused, which further implies there may be some strain in the relationship between at least father and son, if not the whole family, until recently. 

Although the change in Ebenezer's father is not explained, it is interesting that Ebenezer himself becomes so cruel and harsh later in life only to also suddenly change right at Christmas, just as his father did.

In addition to the small amount we can glean about his father, we can also see that Ebenezer and his sister are very close. Although she is much younger than he is, they obviously adore one another, as we can tell by the way they interact:

"She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loth to go, accompanied her" (Stave II).

He goes on to agree with the Ghost of Christmas Past when he says she had a big heart. 

From this Stave we learn nothing of the rest of Ebenezer's family, including his mother.

 

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The Ghost of Christmas Past has taken Scrooge back into his childhood so that he might see where his loathing of Christmas originated.  Scrooge's father was apparently a mean man, and young Ebeneezer resented being sent away to a boarding school.  When his sister, Fan, arrives to bring him home for Christmas, she tells him that their father "is much kinder now".  This suggests that there might have been some abusive tendencies on the part of Scrooge's father.

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