These Holidays, A Reminder That the Health of the Many Depends on the Health of the Few | Fortune

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Tiny Tim is not the main character of A Christmas Carol. That would be Ebenezer Scrooge, the old miser who, through the intercession of three spirits, changes, by the end of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, into a good man. It is hard to read A Christmas Carol, however, or watch one of its many film adaptations, and not feel Tiny Tim is somehow its heart. Born sickly, into a family without the means to properly care for him, he seems fated for an early death, until Scrooge’s reformation, when the old man decides to help the boy, becoming a “second father” to him, and providing the financial support that ensures Tiny Tim will live.

Dickens announces this uplifting development in the story’s closing lines; it is the tale’s emotional payoff, the final indicator that the battle for Scrooge’s soul has been won by his better angels, that the bitter man he once was is no more. By caring for Tiny Tim, Scrooge at last comes into his own as a fully human being.

Imagine, now, a version of A Christmas Carol where, despite Scrooge’s change of heart, Tiny Tim still dies. This would hardly be a happy ending. Tiny Tim is in many ways a stand-in for the most vulnerable members of Scrooge’s society, those who did not share in the economic gains or improved living standards created by the Industrial Revolution. Concluding the tale with the death of such a figure would have cast a pall over the entire piece. Dickens knew that people, and stories, are judged by their treatment of the disadvantaged—those who lack resources to live healthy lives. For Scrooge, and the world he inhabits, to be truly redeemable, Tiny Tim has to live.

Read full piece at Fortune.