Arguably, this novel was a way to generate awareness about the lives of the poor, true o Dickens’ philanthropic philosophy, as many upper class families would read the book and show compassion for the terrible conditions they were living in. At this time, poverty was predominant in London so the poor Law was put in place so that each parish had to give money to its poor.
However, many were still forced to go to workhouses and work in the terrible conditions for long hours in exchange for meager amounts of food, resulting in many poor dying anyway- a consequence that both Scrooge and the Victorian reader has to witness in Stave 4 with the death of Tiny Tim caused by poverty. Primarily, Dickens symbolizes poverty and death with the character of Tiny Tim. Notably, he shows that Scrooge is greatly affected by the the family poverty, but especially on the crippled Tiny Tim, a character that Dickens includes to represent the population of poor children as Tiny Tim is a helpless victim of poverty.
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Scrooge’s newfound empathy is shown, ‘tell me if Tiny Tim will live’ showing that seeing this life of poverty has changed his attitude to the poor. The spirit warns Scrooge that, ‘If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die’, filling Scrooge with, ‘penitence and grief, and desire to help Tiny Tim, ‘Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last. ‘ Ultimately, the harshness of poverty is shown by the death of Tiny Tim, ‘and he took a child, and set him in the midst of them’.
The Charity family mourn his death, ‘none of us forget poor Tiny Tim’, showing how the family were unable to prevent their loss, not have enough money to provide Tiny Tim with healthcare. In turn, this fills Scrooge with an overwhelming sense of remorse, knowing he could prevent the death, and gives Scrooge the final incentive to change his ways, ‘l am not the man I was. I ill not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse’. Dickens’ message is that poverty is the cause for innumerable deaths and can only be stopped by a change of attitude from the middle and upper classes by giving money to help them.
Critically, the Charity family epitomize poverty throughout the novel. During a visit from the Ghost Of Christmas present, Scrooge is taken to see how the Charity family celebrate Christmas even though they live a life of poverty, ‘four-roomed house’. The family is described as having cheap, ragged clothing, ‘dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown’, and hand-me- owns, ‘monstrous shirt collar. Furthermore, the extent of the family poverty is shown by the just ‘sufficient dinner’, having nothing in excess.
However, despite the desperate poverty the family live in, ‘they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty’, they were still full of Christmas Spirit and goodwill, ‘happy, grateful, pleased with one another, showing that the Charity family were grateful to just be with each other, something Scrooge does not understand even though he is not the one living in poverty. Importantly, Dickens clearly describes the abject poverty of children during he visit to Scrooge by the ghost of Christmas Present in Stave 3.
Dickens describes the children- a personification of ignorance and want- as, ‘Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish’, their features instead of being filled out were instead “stale and shriveled” and “twisted” in fact almost animal in appearance “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both. ” The children are used to represent the lack of food, medicine and other basic needs that the poor are deprived of. Scrooge is appalled when he sees these children and asks “Have they no refuge or resource? ” Scrooge is answered in rods he himself has used “Are there no prisons?
Are there no workhouses? ” Scrooge realizes how harshly he himself as well as other rich and wealthy people have treated the poor. In this extract Dickens is attempting to powerfully and passionately convey his feelings, stating how strongly he feels towards helping the poor and helping the rich to overcome their ignorance. In Stave 5 we see the fruition of this change in Scrooge, now knowing the trials of those in poverty he changes from a once miserly misanthrope to a philanthropist, ‘Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you’.