Background.

A Christmas Carol.
  • A Christmas Carol is a novella, or short story, written by Charles Dickens and first published in the Christmas of 1843. The allegorical tale tells the story of the transformation of the mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge through the visits of the spirit of his former business partner and three ghosts over the course of a Christmas Eve night. It remains a much-loved traditional Christmas tale.

Context.

This quotation is said by Ebenezer Scrooge who is talking to his clerk, Bob Cratchit. It is said towards the end of A Christmas Carol. After emerging from a night when he is visited by the spirits of his former business partner, Jacob Marley and three ghosts, Scrooge is relieved to wake and find his nightmare is over, and emerges with a newly found passion for life and resolve to do good.

After offering Cratchit a pay rise, Scrooge tells him to make up the fires, a transformation from the beginning of the story when we learn’t that Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. Scrooge then goes on to ask Cratchit to buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, an indication that his previously mean-spirited character has changed to that of a generous person.





Illustration from Stave 5 of the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.

Symbolism in A Christmas Carol: Fire.

Charles Dickens uses the imagery of fire to symbolise greed and generosity within the story of A Christmas Carol. Fuel was an expensive commodity for many at the time the novella was written so the amount burn’t, reflected by the size of a fire, reflected the generosity of a character. The image of small fires at the start of the story reflect the mean-spirited characteristic of Ebenezer Scrooge, who keeps a very small fire and for his clerk Bob Cratchit‘s he was even meaner as his fire resembled a lump of coal despite it being a bitter cold Christmas Eve. Scrooge keeps the fuel in his own room, frightening Cratchit into wearing extra clothing and trying to warm himself by a candle. By contrast scenes of happiness are represented by large fires, such as that of a party in a scene from the past held by Fezziwig, where fuel was heaped upon the fire, so much so that the generous host had a positive light reflect from his legs which shone like moons. In the present, Scrooge witnesses scenes of fires at Christmas time that bring happiness including the brightness of the roaring fires in kitchens, parlours, and all sorts of rooms, was wonderful and the family of a miner who are a cheerful company assembled round a glowing fire. Through Scrooge’s transformation in this allegorical tale we also see his attitude to using fuel change. After emerging from a night when he is visited by the spirits of his former business partner, Jacob Marley and three ghosts, Scrooge asks to make up the fires and even tells Cratchit to buy another coal-scuttle, suggesting he now wants to pay for more fuel.


Source.

Taken from the following passage in Stave 5 (The End Of It) of A Christmas Carol:

“Hallo!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?”

“I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. “I am behind my time.”

“You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.”

“It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. “It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!”

Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

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Make up the fires!
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