What Does Scrooge Say About the Workhouse in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”?

As Christmas approaches, we’ve all been reminded of the classic Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol. It’s a timeless story that has become synonymous with the holiday season. And while the story teaches us about the importance of generosity and compassion, there’s one key element that often goes unnoticed: the workhouse. In the book, the workhouse is portrayed as a solution to poverty, but what does Scrooge, the iconic miser, really think about it?

To Scrooge, the workhouse is nothing more than a way to rid oneself of the responsibility of helping the poor. In his eyes, it’s a cold and impersonal solution that only serves to perpetuate the suffering of those in poverty. For him, the workhouse is a symbol of the government’s failure to truly tackle the issue of poverty. It’s a band-aid solution that ignores the root causes of poverty and leaves those in need with no real hope of escape. So, what can we learn from Scrooge’s disdain for the workhouse?

Perhaps it’s time to look beyond the quick-fixes that society has provided for the issue of poverty. Instead, we should focus on creating real change that addresses the root causes of poverty. Only then will we be able to move towards a future where those in need aren’t forced to rely on impersonal solutions like the workhouse. Scrooge’s words may be harsh, but they serve as an important reminder that there’s still much work to be done to truly help those in need.

The Workhouse in Victorian Times

The workhouse was a central institution in Victorian England, designed to provide relief to those who were poor and unemployed. However, it was often viewed as a place of horror and misery.

  • The workhouse was typically a large building where people who were impoverished could go in order to receive food and shelter.
  • However, conditions in the workhouse were often harsh and brutal, with minimal food and clothing provided and hard labor required of the residents.
  • The workhouse was viewed as a last resort by many people, and the stigma attached to it was significant.

Charles Dickens famously wrote about the workhouse in his novel, “Oliver Twist,” and the character of Ebenezer Scrooge also has a notable opinion on the subject.

In “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge responds to a request for charity with the suggestion that the poor should go to the workhouse if they are in need. He claims that the workhouse is a perfectly reasonable solution for those who cannot support themselves and that those who are too proud to go there have only themselves to blame for their misfortune.

However, as the story progresses and Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, he begins to see the error of his ways and recognizes that the workhouse is not a viable solution for the poor and downtrodden.

Charles Dickens’ Representation of the Workhouse

Charles Dickens was a renowned Victorian novelist who used his writings to highlight social issues that plagued his time. One such issue was the horrific conditions of the workhouses which supposedly provided relief to the destitute. In many of his novels, including Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, he portrayed the workhouse system as a dehumanizing and cruel system that only served to oppress the poor.

  • Dickens’ depiction of the workhouses as Dickens demonstrated through Oliver Twist is a graphic portrayal of the harsh realities of the workhouse system. The workhouses were set up to provide a means of support for the poor, but they were more like prisons than anything else. The conditions were appalling, with poor hygiene, overcrowding, and a lack of basic facilities like food and clothing.
  • Dickens’ depiction of Scrooge’s response to the workhouse in A Christmas Carol is also significant. When the gentlemen ask Scrooge to donate money to support the workhouses, his response is an emphatic no. He claims that he already pays taxes to support the workhouses and that he does not want to give any more money to that inefficient and corrupt system.
  • In a broader sense, Dickens’ representation of the workhouse can be seen as a criticism of the societal norms of the time. He was highlighting the injustice and cruelty of a system that punished the poor for their poverty. He believed that such a system only served to further marginalize and oppress the poor, and that a more humane and just approach was needed to resolve the problem of poverty.

Dickens’ Representation of the Workhouse System in Oliver Twist

In Oliver Twist, Dickens goes into great detail about the horrific conditions of the workhouses. This novel is a scathing critique of the workhouse system and the way in which it oppressed the poor. The scenes in the workhouse are brutal, and Dickens does not shy away from describing the filth, overcrowding, and despair that the poor people experienced.

The workhouse is a dehumanizing institution that reduces people to mere objects. The poor are treated like animals and are subject to arbitrary punishments and mistreatment. The novel paints a stark picture of the inhumanity of the workhouse system and highlights the need for reform.

Dickens’ Representation of Scrooge’s Response to the Workhouse in A Christmas Carol

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s response to the gentlemen who ask for donations for the workhouses is telling. He is dismissive of their request, claiming that he already pays taxes to support the workhouses. He is also critical of the workhouse system, calling it inefficient and corrupt.

Dickens’ portrayal of Scrooge’s response to the workhouse shows how detached the wealthy and privileged were from the plight of the poor. Scrooge’s response highlights the need for a more compassionate and empathetic approach to poverty and social inequality.

The Significance of Dickens’ Representation of the Workhouse

Dickens’ representation of the workhouse system is significant because it highlights the injustice and cruelty of a system that punished the poor for their poverty. His novels and characters serve as a reminder that poverty and social inequality are not inevitable, and that change is possible.

Characteristics of Workhouses Dickens’ Representation of Workhouses in his Novels
Dehumanizing and cruel Brutal and oppressive systems that reduce people to mere objects
Poor hygiene, overcrowding, and lack of basic facilities Filthy, overcrowded, and despairing conditions that inflict arbitrary punishments and mistreatment
Repressive and unjust Inhumane systems that exacerbate poverty and social inequality

Dickens’ representation of the workhouse is a powerful critique of a system that oppressed the poor, and his work serves as a reminder that we must continue to fight against poverty and social inequality today.

Scrooge’s Characterization in “A Christmas Carol”

Scrooge’s character in the novella “A Christmas Carol” is portrayed as a miserly, cold-hearted, and selfish businessman. He is depicted as someone who values wealth and financial gain above all else. He is characterized by his indifference towards the poor and his belief that the well-being of others is not his concern.

  • Scrooge is presented as someone who is obsessed with money and sees it as the most important thing in life. He is often quoted saying, “Bah! Humbug!” to anything related to Christmas, including charity and goodwill.
  • Scrooge is shown to be extremely frugal, refusing to give his clerk, Bob Cratchit, a raise and insisting on turning down requests for donations from charitable organizations.
  • Scrooge’s lack of compassion for the poor is also evident in his support for workhouses, where the destitute were often sent to live and work in harsh conditions. When asked to donate to charity, Scrooge famously responds, “Are there no workhouses?”

Scrooge’s attitude towards the poor and his support for workhouses is particularly relevant to the social and economic context of the time in which “A Christmas Carol” was written. The 19th century saw a rise in poverty and a lack of government support for the poor, which led to the establishment of workhouses.

Scrooge’s Character Traits Examples from the Text
Miserly “Old Scrooge…nobody ever stopped him in the street to say with gladsome looks ‘My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?”
Cold-hearted “If they would rather die…they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population”
Selfish “What’s Christmas time…but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer”

Overall, Scrooge’s character in “A Christmas Carol” serves as a symbol of the greed and indifference towards the poor that were prevalent during the time in which the novella was written. Through the use of the ghostly visits, Scrooge is able to undergo a transformation and ultimately recognize the value of compassion and charity.

“A Christmas Carol”: Thematic Analysis

“A Christmas Carol” is a classic novel written by Charles Dickens that explores various themes such as greed, love, redemption, and social injustice. One of the key themes that stand out in this novel is the treatment of the poor and how the society at that time viewed them. At the center of this theme is Ebenezer Scrooge, who is a classic example of a man who values money over everything else. In this article, we will explore what Scrooge says about the workhouse and its role in society.

The Workhouse: Scrooge’s View

  • In chapter 2, Scrooge is visited by two gentlemen who come to collect donations for the poor. Scrooge’s response is dismissive and portrays a lack of sympathy for the poor. He tells the gentlemen that he already pays taxes which contribute towards the workhouses and prisons, and therefore, he should not be expected to do more.
  • Later in the novel, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, who takes him to see the conditions under which the poor live. A particular scene that stands out is when Scrooge sees a family in a workhouse, and he comments that they should be grateful for being given shelter and food. This shows a lack of empathy and understanding towards the plight of the poor.
  • Scrooge also expresses a belief that the poor are responsible for their condition. He tells Bob Cratchit that if he were to work harder, he wouldn’t be poor. This shows a lack of understanding of the systemic issues that lead to poverty and a failure to acknowledge that some people are born into poverty and do not have the same opportunities as others.

The Workhouse: Symbolism

In “A Christmas Carol,” the workhouse is a symbol of the society’s failure to care for the poor. The workhouse was a government institution that provided shelter and food for the poor, but conditions were often poor and dehumanizing. In the novel, the workhouse represents the lack of humanity and empathy that Scrooge displays towards the poor. Scrooge’s belief that the poor are responsible for their condition is a reflection of the larger society’s attitude towards the poor. This attitude is also reflected in the conditions of the workhouses, which were often so dehumanizing that people would rather suffer on the streets than go to them.

Symbolism of the Workhouse in “A Christmas Carol”
The workhouse represents the failure of society to care for the poor.
The conditions of the workhouse are dehumanizing and reflect the lack of empathy towards the poor.
Scrooge’s attitude towards the poor is a reflection of the larger society’s attitude.


In conclusion, “A Christmas Carol” explores the treatment of the poor and the role of the workhouse in society. Scrooge’s dismissive attitude towards the poor and his belief that they are responsible for their condition is reflective of the larger society’s attitude towards the poor. The workhouse, as a symbol of the failure of society to care for the poor, highlights the dehumanizing conditions that people were subjected to in the pursuit of survival. Ultimately, “A Christmas Carol” is a call for empathy and compassion towards the less fortunate and a reminder that we all have a responsibility to care for each other.

Miserliness and Themes of Social Injustice

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a timeless classic that still resonates with audiences today due to its exploration of themes of social injustice and miserliness. The novel’s protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, embodies these themes as he is portrayed as a miser and a character that does not care for the suffering of the poor in his community.

Scrooge’s attitude towards the workhouse is a clear example of his miserliness and lack of concern for social justice. When two men visit him to ask for donations to help the poor in the workhouse, Scrooge responds by asking whether the workhouses are still in operation. When he is told that they are, he replies, “I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” insinuating that he would be glad if the workhouses were closed down.

  • This shows Scrooge’s miserliness as he sees no value in giving money to the poor.
  • It also shows his lack of concern for the social injustice that is occurring in his community as the poor are forced to live in workhouses, which were notorious for their harsh conditions.
  • Overall, Scrooge’s attitude towards the workhouse highlights the themes of social injustice and miserliness that run throughout A Christmas Carol.

Moreover, Scrooge’s transformation throughout the novel is a clear message that Dickens wanted to convey to his readers. Through the visitation of three ghosts, Scrooge is forced to confront his past, present, and future actions, and the consequences of his miserliness and lack of concern for social justice.

The tale concludes with Scrooge embracing a newfound sense of generosity and empathy towards others, showing that it is never too late to change one’s ways. Thus, Dickens encourages readers to examine their own attitudes towards social justice and to make a conscious effort to be more generous and empathetic towards others, especially those in need.

In conclusion, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol provides a powerful commentary on themes of miserliness and social injustice through the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge’s attitude towards the workhouse highlights these themes, underlining the importance of generosity and empathy towards others, particularly those in need.

Miserliness Themes of Social Injustice
Scrooge’s unwillingness to donate to help the poor in the workhouse shows his miserliness Workhouses were notorious for their harsh conditions, highlighting the social injustice in Scrooge’s community
Scrooge’s transformation at the end of the novel shows the consequences of miserliness The novel encourages readers to be more empathetic and generous towards others, especially those in need

Dickens’ timeless novel serves as a reminder of the importance of addressing social injustice and of the dangers of allowing ourselves to become too focused on our own wants and needs. By embracing a more generous and empathetic mentality, we can all contribute to creating a more just and equitable society for all.

The Workhouse as a Symbol of Poverty and Deprivation

Charles Dickens, through the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, portrays the workhouse as a symbol of poverty and deprivation in Victorian England. The workhouse was a government-run institution where the poor and destitute were sent to work and live. It was meant to provide relief to the poor, but instead, it was a place of hardship and suffering.

  • The workhouse was a last resort for the poor, and once they entered, they were stripped of their dignity and freedom.
  • Conditions in the workhouse were often squalid, with overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate food and clothing.
  • The workhouse was meant to be a deterrent to idleness and encourage people to find work, but for many, it was a trap that they could not escape.

Scrooge reflects on the workhouse in a conversation with two gentlemen who are raising money to provide Christmas dinners for the poor. When they ask if he wants to make a contribution, he responds:

Scrooge’s Quote Analysis
“I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.” Scrooge views the workhouse as a necessary evil, but he fails to acknowledge the suffering and deprivation that the poor endure in these institutions. His callous attitude reflects the indifference of many people in Victorian England towards the poor and destitute.

Dickens uses Scrooge’s attitude towards the workhouse to critique the social and economic conditions of Victorian England. He shows how the government’s policies towards the poor were inadequate and how society viewed the poor as a burden rather than as fellow human beings in need of assistance.

Critical Reception of “A Christmas Carol”

“A Christmas Carol” has been a beloved holiday story for over 170 years, with countless adaptations across media platforms. However, it wasn’t always met with such praise. In this subsection, we will examine the critical reception of “A Christmas Carol.”

The Number 7

One interesting aspect of “A Christmas Carol” is the usage of the number 7. Throughout the story, the number appears repeatedly, from the seven years of Scrooge’s business partner Marley’s death to the seven visits from the three ghosts. Some scholars have suggested that this usage of numerology was intentional, highlighting the spiritual nature of the story. Others have pointed out that seven was commonly associated with luck and good fortune in popular culture at the time of the story’s publication, and Dickens may have used it as a literary device to aid in the story’s popularity.

The instances of the number 7 in “A Christmas Carol” are:

Number 7 in “A Christmas Carol” Explanation
Marley’s death Marley has been dead for seven years when he visits Scrooge.
Chains Marley’s chains, which represent his sins in life, were created over the course of seven years.
Visits from the ghosts Scrooge is visited by three ghosts over the course of seven hours.
Candies When Scrooge sends a boy to buy the prize turkey for the Cratchit family, he gives him seven shillings to purchase a half-stone of candied fruit as well.
Dwarves Vision of the future shows Scrooge seven children clinging to the skirts of a spirit, who are referred to as “little similes.”
Days of the week The story takes place over the course of seven days, from Christmas Eve to the day after Christmas.
Deadly sins In medieval traditions, there were believed to be the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. These influence Scrooge throughout the story.

These instances of the number 7 serve to create a sense of unity throughout the story, allowing for a coherent and satisfying narrative structure. Overall, the usage of numerology in “A Christmas Carol” helps to amplify the moral lesson of the story, emphasizing the importance of redemption and spiritual growth.

What Does Scrooge Say About the Workhouse FAQs

1. What is Scrooge’s opinion on workhouses?
Scrooge believes that workhouses are the solution to poverty and homelessness. He sees them as a necessary measure to keep the poor from being a burden to society.

2. Does Scrooge think workhouses are a good thing?
Yes, Scrooge thinks workhouses are a good thing. He believes they provide a solution to the problem of poverty and help people become self-sufficient.

3. How does Scrooge think the poor should be treated?
Scrooge believes that the poor should take care of themselves and not rely on others. He thinks that workhouses are the best solution for the poor and that they should be grateful for them.

4. What does Scrooge think about charity?
Scrooge doesn’t believe in charity. He thinks it encourages laziness and dependence. Instead, he believes that the poor should work and earn money to support themselves.

5. Why does Scrooge think workhouses are necessary?
Scrooge thinks workhouses are necessary to control poverty and keep the poor from being a burden to society. He believes that the poor should work and contribute to society instead of relying on charity and handouts.

6. Does Scrooge care about the poor?
Not really. Scrooge believes that the poor are responsible for their own situation and that it’s up to them to improve their lives. He has no sympathy for the poor and thinks they should just work harder.

7. What is Scrooge’s attitude towards those in need?
Scrooge’s attitude towards those in need is one of indifference. He doesn’t believe it’s his responsibility to help them and sees them as a burden to society.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading about what Scrooge says about workhouses. While his views may seem harsh to many, they are reflective of the attitudes of some towards the poor in Victorian times. As we reflect on the holiday spirit of giving, it’s important to remember those less fortunate and help them where we can. Don’t forget to visit us again for more interesting articles and insights.