A Couple Of Questions About Dickens' Christmas Carol

Last night the Muppets’ Christmas Carol was on TV in the background while I played World of Warcraft and Mrs. Homie did… whatever the hell she does.

There’s a scene in which Scrooge, visiting Bob Cratchit’s (Kermit the Frog’s) shack, sees Cratchit’s wife (Miss Piggy) discussing Tiny Tim having gone to church. She says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that Tim enjoyed church because he hoped his presence would remind the congregation of “the one who healed the lame and made the blind to see.” Obviously talking about Jesus, but that’s rather heady stuff for a Muppet movie. My question is, how does this scene play out in the book (if at all)? Does Mrs. Cratchit come out and say “Jesus,” or does she dance around it in the same way, leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions?

Also, in the recent Disney version from the last few years or so (the 3-D one where Jim Carrey played Scrooge), Scrooge visits what I believe is a communal kitchen (the formal Dickensian language went over my head), and either he or another player in the scene rant about how the people who rely on them are kept out “one day in seven” because of the Sabbath. The speaker then notes the injustice of it all - keeping hungry people hungry in the name of Christ, who fed the hungry.

Please help me fill in the gaps in my knowledge in that scene - was it a communal kitchen (I didn’t know those were a thing in Dickensian London)? Was it Scrooge or another player who gave that speech?

As for the first, in the book it is Bob Cratchit who reports on what Tiny Tim said: “It might be pleasant to them [the congregation] to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

No direct mention of Jesus, but then there would have been no need, as Dickens’s readers were pretty much uniformly Christian and would have figured it out on their own. It wouldn’t have been “dancing around” it, but rather not stating the obvious.

So, pretty much a direct quote. And, as I interpret it, there’s no “dancing around” anything or “drawing conclusions”; Dickens’s original readers would have known exactly whom he was talking about.

Here’s the relevant bit, but I can’t be sure exactly what “these places” he’s referring to:

Link to A Christmas Carol at Project Gutenberg

The second one is more complicated. My memory is a bit foggy and so I don’t guarantee I’m right about all the details.

There were indeed “communal kitchens,” often in commercial bakeries, for the use of Victorian urbanites who did not have space for cooking facilities in their cramped apartments (which were often nothing more than single rooms).

People could use these bakeries to prepare food.

There were issues about Sundays, though: think “blue laws.” Many people believed that Sunday should be reserved for church and prayer rather than used for secular purposes like the baking of bread or the preparation of meat. So, they tried to shut these places down on Sundays (despite the fact that many people worked all day Mon-Sat and had little time during the week to take advantage of these facilities).

Scrooge is referring to those people, who tended to base their argument on religion–in essence he’s accusing the Spirit of hypocrisy. The Spirit is emphatically denying that those folks speak for God, and makes it clear that a) not everyone who claims to speak for God does so; b) many horrible deeds are done in the name of religion; and c) keeping the kitchens open on Sundays is actually and undeniably the Lord’s work.

Hope that makes sense–it’s right in outline if not in every detail.

The Annotated Christmas Carol refers to a source that says just “bakeries” cooked the meals in their ovens on Sundays for a small fee because it was illegal for the bakeries to bake on that day. The main proponent of forbidding this (and other Sunday activities then available to the poor) was one Sir Andrew Agnew, and Dickens had written a pamphlet opposing him. This pretty much agrees with Ulf’s explanation.

A poem by Thomas Love Peacock, written in the 1820s, lampoons this judgmental dog-in-the-manger attitude on the part of the wealthy and privileged. One verse runs:

The rich man has a kitchen
Wherein to cook his dinner;
The poor who would roast
To the baker’s must post,
And thus becomes a sinner.