A Christmas Carol Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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What reason does Scrooge give for not making donation to the poor?

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When the two gentlemen come to collect donations for the poor, Scrooge tells them that he would like to be left alone. Further, he says that he does not "make merry" at Christmas and that he cannot afford to make "idle people" merry either. In other words, he feels that the poor are poor because they are lazy and they choose not to work: this is the implication of the word idle. It is as though they are poor and/or homeless by choice and not as the result of illness, lack of education, lack of opportunity, or some other unfortunate and unavoidable circumstance.

Furthermore, it is patently untrue what Scrooge says: that he cannot afford to make other people merry. Scrooge has boatloads of money—by 2009 standards, he would have been in personal, private possession of some $8 billion, though I have heard of figures as low as $1.3 billion—so he can certainly afford to give money to help supply the impoverished people of London in 1843 with some food and drink and means of warmth. Instead, however, he satisfies himself that the workhouses and prisons are still in operation, and then he dismisses the two well-meaning gentlemen by insisting that it is not his business to know the wants or needs of other people.

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