This quotation reflects the miserly attitude of the lead character Ebenezer Scrooge. Even though it is mid-Winter time, the mean-spirited Scrooge maintains only a small fire and his clerk, Bob Cratchit‘s is even smaller, which Dickens humorously compares to being the size of a single lump of coal.
Cratchit is forced to wear extra clothing and even to try to warm himself on a candle due to mean-spirited Scrooge not wanting to part with his coal supplies (which Scrooge keeps in his own room, making it harder for Marley to add extra coal).
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 little room. Bob Cratchit represents the opposite qualities to Scrooge including kindness, generosity and a love of his family members. His character has come to symbolize poor working conditions, especially long working hours. 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.
Once upon a time—of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve—old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already—it had not been light all day—and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.
The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.
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