A Christmas Carol


Charles Dickens

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A Christmas Carol: Foil 2 key examples

Stave 1
Explanation and Analysis—Scrooge & Bob Cratchit :

A striking foil appears in A Christmas Carol as Scrooge and Cratchit diverge from each other in every way. Whereas Scrooge is a crotchety old man, Cratchit is a pleasant family man. Scrooge hoards his cash, but Cratchit devotes his life's work to serving his wife and children. The following passage describes the Cratchits:

They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker's. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time. 

Obviously, the Cratchits are not as well-off as Scrooge, but they are much happier. Company, humanity, and love fill their home. The narrator provides a long list of what they lack, but they choose to focus on what they do possess. And they have the sort of love for each other that makes any mode of existence bearable. This foil is important because it deepens the reader's understanding of Scrooge's misery. It also communicates the irrelevance of wealth to happiness. Indeed, the narrative even subtly implies that wealth may be an enemy of happiness. The more money Scrooge has managed to accumulate, the more miserable he has become. But the moment he begins giving his wealth away, he realizes that generosity and love are the true riches of life. 

Stave 3
Explanation and Analysis—Tiny Tim & Scrooge:

A Christmas Carol presents Tiny Tim as a foil for Scrooge. Tim is a sympathetic character whose plight makes Scrooge seem extremely greedy and inhumane. His situation invokes sadness and pity, but also hope and inspiration because he has a good attitude despite being poor and physically ailing. By presenting Tiny Tim in this way, the narrative appeals to the reader's empathy. Bob Cratchit describes Tim as a thoughtful person who always remains optimistic and empathetic:

"As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

In this passage, we see a brief snapshot of Tiny Tim's character. He is a truly selfless person who refuses to let his disability get in the way of his love of humanity. The comparison of Tim to gold is significant because the Cratchit family values people over money. Bob cares far more for the health and happiness of his son than for gold. And it is important to note that the most detailed information about Tim comes from other characters; by contrast, most of Scrooge's story comes from the narrator. The narrator, who is privy to Scrooge's initial greed and narcissism, provides essential insight into his warped psyche. Although Scrooge evolves into a more generous and humane person, then his initially-negative characterization makes him the perfect foil for Tiny Tim (and vice versa).

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