illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

Start Free Trial

Compare and contrast Fezziwig and Scrooge as bosses in A Christmas Carol.

Quick answer:

In "A Christmas Carol", Fezziwig and Scrooge are polar opposites as employers. Scrooge is depicted as a miserly loner, who begrudges his clerk, Bob Cratchit, even the smallest comforts, including a day off for Christmas. In contrast, Fezziwig, Scrooge's old boss, is presented as a beneficent and generous man who joyfully celebrates Christmas with his employees, family, and clients, treating everyone with kindness and respect, regardless of their position on the social ladder.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Fezziwig and Scrooge are complete opposites as bosses. Scrooge is a miserly, misanthropic loner, described as follows:

Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

We learn that his clerk, Bob Cratchit, literally has a small fire, perhaps of one coal, and doesn't dare ask for more because he knows Scrooge will threaten to fire him if he does. Cratchit huddles in his comforter and tries to warm himself with his candle. Scrooge even begrudges him the day off for Christmas, saying that because he has to pay him for it anyway, it is a way of picking his pocket. Scrooge gives no Christmas party or Christmas treat. He doesn't even offer well wishes to Cratchit.

In constrast, when the Ghost of Christmas Past transports Scrooge back in time, Scrooge witnesses the joyful Christmas merriment Fezziwig has arranged. Fezziwig invites all his employees to a Christmas dance, replete with food, drink, warmth, and cheerful spirits. He is a generous, thoughtful, outgoing soul who takes time to consider the needs of others. As Scrooge ruminates, unwittingly condemning himself:

He [Fezziwig] has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up: what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.

As Scrooge is reintroduced to his past, the contrast between his own behavior to his clerk and Fezziwig's to his employees becomes painfully obvious.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Fezziwig is the old boss of Scrooge who he sees again thanks to the Ghost of Christmas Past, when he travels back in time to when he was Fezziwig's apprentice. Dickens introduces Fezziwig to act as a foil to Scrooge. The beginning of the story has introduced how parsimonious and miserly he is, and how focused on his money that he regrets having to give his employees a day off. Fezziwig, by contrast, is presented as a successful businessman who is beneficient and generous with his material possessions in the way that he throws a Christmas party and joyfully celebrates the season with his employees, family, and other clients. The "domestic ball" that is described features warmth, kindness and love in a way that contrasts completely with the cold, grim office where Scrooge works in the present. This is a party that all and sundry are welcomed to and where all are treated just the same, as the ending of the party shows:

Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas. When everybody had retired by thte two 'prentices, they did the same to them...

Even though Scrooge and his fellow apprentice were very low on the social ladder, they were not excluded from the Fezziwig's Christmas merriment, and were treated with just the same kindness and respect. Fezziwig is a character who Dickens therefore uses as a foil to highlight Scrooge's greed and avarice.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How do Fezziwig and the present-day Scrooge compare as employers in A Christmas Carol?

After observing the entire evening's dance and the festivities at old Fezziwig's, Scrooge tells the spirit,

He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.

Fezziwig has given a party, a Christmas party, for all of his friends, including his apprentices, Dick and Ebenezer. It was nothing extravagant, but it was full of joy, fun, and Christmas spirit, and it is clear that all in attendance had a grand time. Ebenezer and Dick's faces were "bright" as they enjoyed the party, and they "pour[ed] out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig" when the party was over. Scrooge seems to realize that he possesses a similar power, as an employer, and he realizes how dramatically he differs from his own former employer. He suddenly wishes he could "say a word or two to [his] clerk just now." He recognizes that he has little in common with Fezziwig, and this seems to tug at his conscience.

Back in stave 1, the narrator told us of Scrooge's counting house:

The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part.

In other words, whenever Bob comes in to see about getting more coal for his fire, Scrooge threatens to fire him! So, Bob, poor man, has to try to "warm himself at the candle," whereas Scrooge, himself, had enjoyed his youthful employment in warmth and relative comfort.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How do Fezziwig and the present-day Scrooge compare as employers in A Christmas Carol?

Fezziwig, Scrooge's first employer, appears in the second stave of A Christmas Carol. The first glimpse of Fezziwig's character shows him to be a jovial and happy person:

He rubbed his hands; adjusted his capacious waistcoat; laughed all over himself, from his shows to his organ of benevolence; and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice.

This provides an immediate contrast with the present-day Scrooge who is miserly and mean-spirited by nature and who turns away every man who visits his office, even his own nephew, Fred, who invites him for dinner on Christmas Day. 

In addition, unlike Scrooge, Fezziwig treats his employees well by keeping the office "snug, and warm, and dry" during the cold winter days. Scrooge, in contrast, is so mean that poor Bob Cratchit has only a single coal to burn and has to use a "white comforter" to keep himself warm.

Furthermore, unlike Scrooge, Fezziwig is eager to stop work in time for a Christmas party, to which he has invited all of his family, friends and employees. Compare this with Scrooge who is reluctant to let Bob have Christmas Day off and certainly would not consider throwing a party to celebrate the season. In fact, he tells Bob (in Stave One) to "be here all the earlier the next morning." 

It is only after the visits of the three ghosts that Scrooge comes to resemble Fezziwig in his dealings as an employer. He has become kinder and more considerate: he sends a prize-winning turkey to Bob's house on Christmas morning, for example. Later, he visits the Cratchit's home and promises Bob a pay rise - a promise which he keeps. He also becomes a "second father" to Tiny Tim, just like Fezziwig was to the young Ebeneezer Scrooge, all those years ago. 

Last Updated on