A Christmas Carol

by: Charles Dickens

Bob Cratchit

Scrooge had a very small fire, but his 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. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle….

The narrator describes the scene in Scrooge’s office where Scrooge rations the live coals needed to heat the place during winter. Scrooge relegates his clerk Bob Cratchit to a minimal fire, expecting Cratchit to work while cold. Bob knows that if he replenishes his fire, Scrooge will threaten to terminate his job. So he tries to warm himself as best he can without angering Scrooge. Despite the poor working conditions, Bob cannot afford to lose his job as he has a family to support. Bob suffers in silence for his family’s sake.

He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greetings of the season on the clerk, who, cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge, for he returned them cordially. “There’s another fellow,” mustered Scrooge, who overheard him; “my clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas. I’ll retire to Bedlam.”

Scrooge overhears Bob Cratchit cheerfully returning Fred’s Christmas greeting. Knowing the wages his clerk and his family subsist on, he thinks the poor man crazy. Scrooge’s joke about Bedlam, a famous insane asylum, reflects his perplexity at a world where people can be gracious while impoverished. Scrooge believes one can only be happy with wealth, but ironically, he remains miserable despite his wealth. Bob knows that celebrating Christmas has nothing to do with money. Wishing Fred a merry Christmas costs him nothing—but the words bring them both happiness, a point lost on Scrooge.

The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great-coat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honor of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at Blindman’s buff.

Here, the narrator describes the moment Bob Cratchit closes up shop, excited to celebrate Christmas Eve. He joins a group of boys sledding, despite not having a warm coat. Bob feels warmed by the good cheer of being with others in celebration. Although a good and mature man and father, Bob possesses a childlike appreciation of innocent fun—which may be, in part, why he is such a good father.

He sat very close to his father’s side, upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

Scrooge describes the scene within the Cratchit house that he sees while with the Ghost of Christmas Present. Readers view the scene through Scrooge’s eyes, his choice of words conveying a sense of wonder at Bob’s behavior. Bob obviously behaves as if he loves Tiny Tim with all of his heart and fears he may be taken from him by his illness. The reader reflects on the lack of parental affection in Scrooge’s childhood. Scrooge may be realizing for the first time how much some fathers love their children.

[H]owever and wherever we part from one another, I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim—shall we—or this first parting that there was among us? … And I know… I know my dears, that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child, we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.

In a Christmas Yet to Come, Tiny Tim has just died. Here, Bob tries to turn his death into a life lesson for his remaining children. He asks them to behave towards each other as Tiny Tim always did. With these words, Bob shows his mature side as his family’s leader and guide—even in grief he tries to keep his family committed both to loving each other and to doing right.