At the onset of A Christmas Carol, Dickens paints Scrooge as a miserly, corpse-like old man who lacks human connection and draws pleasure solely from the money in his pocket. However, Scrooge is able to find happiness after he gives away the money that he once found so precious. Dickens introduces poverty into the novel as a sort of illness– something that needs to be cured. But Dickens also shows that being rich can also be hazardous.
In the opening of the novel, the negative effects of having too much money are evident. Scrooge refuses to donate to the poor and implies they should find their own way off the streets, saying, “Are there no prisons…. And the Union workhouses? Are they still in operation?” (10) This sentiment comes back to haunt him when the Ghost of Christmas Present throws back these very questions at Scrooge when he sees the impoverished children. Scrooge is also described like an invalid: “the cold shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red and his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.” (6) The effects of his miserly illness are both physical and mental, and the Ghost of Christmas Future shows him that if he does not find a cure he will end up dead.
In staves 2-4, Scrooge is presented with his cure. He realizes the errors in his ways and discovers the importance of compassion and family as he looks in upon familial images in the Past, Present and Future. He returns to the Present and begins to give away his money. He gives Bob a raise, buys a large turkey and donates to the poor. The images of family lead to Scrooge’s selflessness, and he cures his “illness.” Scrooge is now “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.” (87) But Scrooge is not alone in his recovery.
Dickens shows the reader the other extreme: poverty. Tiny Tim, Cratchit’s son, is a crippled boy who, like Scrooge, is show dying by the Ghost of Christmas Future. His family is suffering from poverty, and despite their struggles, maintain love and happiness. However, even love and happiness cannot seem to be enough to save Tiny Tim. Instead it is dependent on Scrooge’s transformation. As Scrooge is able to give money to Tiny Tim’s family, Dickens allows Tiny Tim to live as well. His survival acts as almost a reward to Scrooge. At the close of the novel, “To Tiny Tim, who did not die, [Scrooge] was a second father.” (87) Scrooge’s charitable ways gift him a family.
Dickens presents two illnesses that plague the characters: greed and poverty. It is when Scrooge is able to overcome his avarice that he saves himself from a miserly death and Tiny Tim from an impoverished death.