Background.

A Christmas Carol.
  • The clerk in the Tank involuntarily applauded. Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark for ever” is a quotation from A Christmas Carol (Stave 1).

Context.

This quotation reflects the relationship between Ebenezer Scrooge and his clerk, Bob Cratchit.

†Bob Cratchit is employed by Ebenezer Scrooge in his counting house. He has only been given a small room to work in, described earlier in Stave 1 as ‘a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank‘. Scrooge keeps his door open so he can keep an eye on Cratchit.

Fred, the nephew of Scrooge, has come to visit his uncle on Christmas Eve and invite him to a family dinner. Scrooge dismisses the invitation but Fed, a jovial character, pesists in trying to persuade him. When he describes the joys of Christmas, Bob Cratchit applauds Fred but soon stops himself, no doubt aware of the distain of his employer. He pokes his small fire which we have previosuly learned is so small that it looks like a single piece of coal. Scrooge keeps the coal supplies and Cratchit is obviously scared of asking for more fuel from Scrooge so the passage describes the fire as being extinguished.

Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.
Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge (left), here being visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, bound by the chains he forged in life.

Character Profile: Bob Cratchit.

The abused, underpaid clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit is a kind but very poor man with a large family and a very sick son, Tim. He works for Scrooge, copying letters in a cold dismal room, so small it is described as a sort of tank. Bring winter time, he is forced to try and stay warm with thick clothes and heat himself by the flame of a candle. He wears tattered clothes as he cannot afford a coat. Cratchit is treated poorly by Scrooge and given a weekly salary that is insufficient to provide his family with a proper Christmas dinner. Despite these circumstances, Bob Cratchit represents the opposite qualities to Scrooge including kindness, generosity and a love of his family members.

Source.

Taken from the following passage of Stave 1 (Marley’s Ghost) of A Christmas Carol:

“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.

“Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.

“Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”

“Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

The clerk in the Tank involuntarily applauded. Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark for ever.

“Let me hear another sound from you,” said Scrooge, “and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation! You’re quite a powerful speaker, sir,” he added, turning to his nephew. “I wonder you don’t go into Parliament.

“Don’t be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us to-morrow.”

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The clerk in the Tank involuntarily applauded. Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark for ever.
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