Throughout ‘A Christmas Carol,’ readers will explore the ups and downs of life through the struggles of characters like Bob Cratchit and his family. Scrooge’s past and the people he knew throughout his life also played an important role.
The book’s protagonist (or antagonist depending on one’s point of view). Scrooge is a miserly old man, and Dickens does a wonderful job painting him as such with his beautiful descriptions. Dickens used the phrase “stave” instead of “chapter” because it represents how a carol would be divided.
Scrooge had been hardened by events in his life but is shown the error of his ways and eventually receives his redemption. He is a wonderfully complex character that seems a little one-note at first, but thanks to the actions of the ghosts, readers see his past and the events that shaped him into the man he is.
Bob is the head of the Cratchit family and Scrooge’s long-suffering clerk. At the start of the novel, he is the victim of Scrooge’s folly as Scrooge lambasts him for having the gall to ask to be paid on Christmas day despite not working. Bob has a large family. He is married to Mrs. Cratchit, who is kind and loving but not a fan of Scrooge as she sees the way that he treats her husband. Despite how he is treated, he is often protective of his employer, citing the fact that Christmas is not the time for thoughts of ill will. Bob is the father of Tiny Tim.
Tiny Tim is an adorable character and the youngest son of Bob Cratchit. His primary function in the story is to highlight the effects of poverty on the lower classes. It is partially characters like this, who are poor but likable, that made Dickens’s work so popular among the working classes. Tiny Tim bears the misfortune of having been born handicapped. Despite his ailments, he is well-natured and positive. In an alternative view of the future, Tiny Tim passes away, and this helps Scrooge to realize the effect that he is having on people.
Jacob Marley was Scrooge’s business partner who died around Christmastime, which is one of many reasons that Scrooge might dislike the time of year. Marley traveled a similar road to Scrooge and was similarly enamored by money. Marley acts as an early cautionary tale as he warns Scrooge not to become like him. He appears in the form of a ghost covered in chains.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
This is the first of three ghosts to visit Scrooge. It is described as being both blindingly light and dark at the same time, as being both young and old simultaneously. The descriptions of this ghost are very nebulous, and consequently, depictions in various media have been wide-ranging, including in one adaptation being represented by a living candle. The ghost shows Scrooge memories from his past, and this helps the reader start to understand Scrooge and therefore paints him in a slightly more sympathetic light.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
This is the second of the three ghosts and shows Scrooge things that are currently going on that he is not privy to. For instance, he can see what his Cousin Fred is doing and how the Cratchit family are enjoying their Christmas. In both of these instances, Scrooge is mentioned and not necessarily in a positive manner. The ghost is described as being very large. Many depictions have him as a Santa-like character. Underneath his robes, he conceals two children who look haggard and scary. They are described as being “ignorance” and “want.”
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Most of the depictions of this spirit are similar, and that is perhaps no surprise. It is the most recognizable of the three spirits. That is not where the similarities end either, as this spirit highlights Scrooge’s grizzly end should he continue on his current path. The character says very little despite Scrooge’s attempts to communicate with him and instead communicates with a series of physical gestures.
Fred is Scrooge’s nephew and presents a nice juxtaposition with the characters of Scrooge. From the first moment we see Fred, he is upbeat. The two engage in back and forth dialogue early on, where despite Scrooge’s best efforts to bring Fred down, Fred’s positivity is unbreakable. Like Bob Cratchit, despite Scrooge’s demeanor, Fred refuses to give up on him and insists that he will continue to invite him to dinner every Christmas despite Scrooge’s consistent refusal of his kind offer.
In many ways, this character represents what Scrooge could be and really what he does end up becoming. Fezziwig is a character from Scrooge’s past. He was Scrooge and Marley’s employer and made sure that all of his staff were well looked after at Christmas. This offers Scrooge a realization as he can see the happiness he could potentially spread if he shared his wealth instead of clinging to it.
Belle has a minor but important role in Scrooge’s development. She is a beautiful young woman, and Scrooge loves her. However, she separated from him because she believed that the only thing that Scrooge truly loved was money. She later marries, and through his visions, Scrooge can see that neither Belle nor her new husband regards him particularly highly.
Fan is Scrooge’s sister who died. Scrooge had a good relationship with her. She was the mother of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred.