One of the most famous (or infamous) characters of all Victorian literature, the term "Scrooge" has made its way even into the Webster dictionary. Ebenezer's hatred of Christmas and everything with even the most remote sense of cheer is his most defining feature; he is a misery old man who hoards his money greedily. He doesn’t appear to spend his fortune; instead he simply saves it for money’s sake. He works at a counting-house and used to be partners with Jacob Marley. As a boy he attended boarding school and became something of a solitary child. He had one love, Belle, as a young adult; however, fearing poverty, he developed affection for money instead, which consumed him. His last confrontation with Belle appears to be the real turning point in his demeanor to the world, transforming him into the continuously pessimistic and hope-fearing man he is for most of the story.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rim was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him” (Dickens, 34).
Mr. Cratchit is a clerical assistant at the countinghouse. As an employee of Scrooge he is treated unfairly on a daily basis. He serves as a kind of juxtaposition to Ebenezer Scrooge: Where Scrooge's heart and house are empty, Mr. Cratchit's are full to bursting. He has a large family but is very poor; though he is no doubt constantly worried about being able to make enough to feed his family, yet he still has a sense of joy and good cheer - particularly around Christmastime.(on the Cratchit family in general):
They were not a handsome family; they were not well-dressed; their shoes were far from being waterproof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely indeed, the inside of a pawn-broker's. But they were happy, graceful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time" (Dickens, 84).
The Ghost of Christmas Past
This is the first ghost who visits Scrooge in the night; Dickens writes the ghosts in chronological order. He is small, like a child, and yet at the same time like an old man. He has long white hair, but no wrinkles; he has muscular arms but frail, aging legs. A light springs from his head; he uses a cap to diminish this. He is very soft and patient with Scrooge throughout his part of the tale, with the exception of Scrooge asking for him to put his cap on. The light on his skull is never fully explained, but it could serve as a metaphor for the ghost shedding light on the past.
'What!' exclaimed the Ghost, would you so soon put out, with wordly hands, 'the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow!' (Dickens, 56).
The Ghost of Christmas Present
The next ghost to visit in the Ghost of Christmas Present. Jolly and boisterous, this ghost seems to be the most personable of the three. Where the first ghost was wispy and slightly mysterious, the second is whimsical. He sets up a feast of sorts in Scrooge’s apartment – decorations and all – feasting being a common theme of Christmas Eve/Day. He is warm presence, juxtaposing with the third chilling ghost. He wears a holly wreath around his head and a scabbard at his waist; the scabbard bears no sword, perhaps indicating his peaceful demeanor.
There sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door. ‘Come in!’ Exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in! and know me better, man\'! (Dickens,72).
The last ghost to visit Scrooge, The Phantom, or the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, is easily the eeriest of the three. Mysterious, gloomy, and silent as the grave, the only part of him that we see is his outstretched hand. The most notable aspect of his character which sets him apart from his fellow ghosts is that he does not speak. Scrooge repeatedly asks him questions but he refuses to answer. His black-cloaked figure gives him the appearance of a demonic figure, adding a chilling aspect to the last section of Scrooge's transformation. He is particularly important because he is the ghost to show Scrooge his own grave, wrapping up the process of making Scrooge into a better, cheerier man.
It thrilled [Scrooge] with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black" (Dickens, 96).
Tiny Tim Cratchit
Though Tiny Tim, too, is one of the most well-known characters in fiction, he has a surprisingly small role. The son of Bob Cratchit, he has health issues and uses a crutch. He exists in the plot mainly to draw our sympathies for the Cratchit family; he is the voice of the London Unfortunates: poor, sick, and lame. However he, like his father, sees the good in everything; he has a sweet childish innocence that Dickens seems to want us to replicate on Christmas.
'God bless us every one!' said Tiny Tim, the last of all. He sat very close to his father's side, upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him (Dickens, 82).