Ebenezer Scrooge The protagonist of the novel, who begins the story as a hard-hearted, tight-fisted man of commerce and ends it as a large-hearted, open-handed man for his fellow human beings. Scholar Michael Patrick Hearn, in The Annotated Christmas Carol (1976; New York: Norton, 2004), points out that, while broadly drawn, Scrooge is a more complicated character than some readers and critics give him credit for being; he notes, for instance, Scrooge’s “twisted sense of humor” as offering hope for the man’s “eventual redemption” (p. xli). The keys to Scrooge’s redemption lie in memory and empathy, lessons taught to him by his various ghostly visitors.
Jacob Marley Scrooge’s late business partner, who died on Christmas Eve seven years prior to the beginning of the story. Marley’s Ghost appears to Scrooge in Stave One to warn him that he, Scrooge, must learn the lessons which Marley never did. Dickens’ language about and descriptions of Marley suggest that he has been damned for his failure to connect with his fellow human beings.
Bob Cratchit Scrooge’s overworked and underpaid clerk, who nonetheless finds great joy in life, especially in the love of his large family. The biblical passage which Bob’s son Peter begins to read in Stave Four-Jesus’ teaching that those who enter the kingdom of heaven must become like children-appropriately summarizes Bob Cratchit himself, a man who can leave his cold (literally and figuratively) place of employment to go “down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honor of its being Christmas Eve . . . .”
Fred Scrooge’s nephew (the son of Scrooge’s sister, Fan), who, like Bob Cratchit (with whom he naturally sympathizes, despite the gap in their economic status; see their conversations in Staves One and Four), maintains a child-like enjoyment of life and family. Fred maintains a generous spirit toward his miserly uncle, extending an annual invitation to Christmas dinner no matter how many times Scrooge declines it. He invites Scrooge not out of a sense of obligation, but out of a sincere desire to spread and share his sense of joy. Likewise, in Stave Four’s “alternate future,” he shows gentle kindness to Bob Cratchit when Tiny Tim dies, and generously offers to assist the grieving Cratchit family in any way he can.
Tiny Tim A young boy who cannot walk without the aid of braces and crutch, but who is devout and wise beyond his years (as Bob’s report of Tim’s comments while at worship indicate). Dickens presents Tim as the essence of childish innocence. He is described as “patient” and “mild,” examples of his virtuous character. After his reformation, Scrooge becomes a second father to Tim.
Fezziwig The man under whom young Ebenezer Scrooge served an apprenticeship, whose party for employees and friends at Christmas exemplifies the generosity of spirit and power to nurture others which old Scrooge must learn.