The protagonist, Scrooge is a cold, miserly creditor whose redemption to kindness and selflessness forms the arc of A Christmas Carol. Scrooge represents the Victorian rich who neglect the poor and think only of their own well-being. The most motivation Dickens provides for Scrooge's character is his depiction of him as a young boy; neglected by his peers and, it appears, by his father, the young Scrooge seemed determined to live only for himself as he aged.
Cratchit is Scrooge's overworked employee, a timid man afraid to stand up to his boss's demanding ways. The patriarch of a family poor in wealth but rich in love, he cares especially dearly for his crippled son, Tiny Tim. Cratchit is a symbol for the Victorian poor, good-hearted and hard-working but unable to climb out the stifling conditions of poverty.
The first ghost to visit Scrooge, the small, elderly figure represents memory.
A giant clad in robes, this ghost has 1800 brothers and a life span of one day. He represents celebration and charity.
This solemn, silent phantom represents death, but also the presents the possibility that the future is not determined, but open to the free will of humans.
Scrooge's nephew, Fred embodies the jollity and sharing of Christmas. He refuses to let Scrooge's "Bah! Humbug!" attitude bring him down, and is overjoyed when his uncle converts and attends his party.
Cratchit's crippled son, Tiny Tim represents the overwhelming goodness of the Christmas spirit.
Scrooge's old partner, Marley appears to Scrooge as a ghost and warns him about the dangers of being obsessed with money.
The young Scrooge's jolly, selfless boss.
Scrooge's former girlfriend, she breaks up with him because of his greed.
Scrooge's younger sister.
The poor clerk that works for Scrooge's moneylending firm, Cratchit is the father of Tiny Tim, an angelic sickly boy.
Say what you will about Dickens's many, many strong suits, but subtle characterization? Not really up there in the top five. There's a reason for this, of course. After all, if you're trying really hard to make a moralizing point, it's really much easier to have it be a simple matter of right and wrong than to try to factor in a bunch of gray-area nuance.
And A Christmas Carol is nothing if not a moralizing little number. Be altruistic and generous! Don't hoard your money! Think about other people! Okay, okay, Charlie. We get it.
But how do you persuade people that giving their money to poor strangers is a really noble idea if you're doing it in a place and at a time when the poor were pretty widely believed to be responsible for their own problems? Well, one way is to create a character like Bob Cratchit—to put a respectable face on the anonymous crowd of the needy.
Bob is poor, sure, but he is good and respectable and upright and loving and sober and responsible and deeply religious and all that smooth jazz—as is the whole family:
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. (3.85)
In short? They are the perfect specimens for charity, with not a flaw or a scratch or a bad habit among the bunch.
Ironically, the danger of this kind of characterization is that the Cratchits are so perfect that they stop being human. Or, to put another way, they stop being figures of pity and become walking jokes.
After all, how realistic is it that a family that is so overcome with poverty that their youngest son is literally dying of it, are totally unaffected by the stress that all of this would cause? Not a single harsh word spoken, and everyone always on perfect behavior?
We're talking after-school special robots here, folks. So, what do you think? Is Dickens laying it on a bit thick here with Bob and the gang? Would the readers be better served to see at least one foible or two to be able to relate to these people? Or is this a moving way to give a glimpse into poor life?