Why doesn't Scrooge start a large fire in the office or repaint the sign outside his business? What does this say about him?

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At the beginning of the classic novel A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Scrooge is the sole proprietor of a counting-house, which today would be like a bookkeeper’s or an accountant’s office. This is exactly the right choice of profession to set the groundwork for Scrooge’s character: a miserly, self-serving man more concerned with the accumulation of wealth than with people.

Toward the beginning of the story, Scrooge refuses to repaint the sign outside the business or to put more coals on the fire, even though Bob Cratchit (his sole, faithful employee) is very cold. This refusal to spend money neither for the betterment of his employee, nor for the repairs of his own business, demonstrates that Scrooge is a cheap and miserly sort of man.

Specifically, by not making a larger fire, he is hurting Bob Cratchit, and by not touching up his sign, he is hurting his own business. It was important for Dickens to establish that Scrooge’s antisocial and penny-pinching behavior hurt not only those around him but himself as well. It creates a good starting point for Scrooge’s character arc throughout the novel, where he turns from an inwardly focused cold-hearted cheapskate, to one of the most charitable, beloved, and happiest men in town.

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