Who is Tiny Tim?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tiny Tim is a character in Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol. He is the son of the Cratchitts, and the character of Scrooge comes to know the child through his visit to the Cratchitt household with the Spirit of Christmas present.

Tiny Tim is a boy in "A Christmas Carol".
Tiny Tim is a boy in "A Christmas Carol".

Many have accused Dickens of blatant sentimentality in regards to Tiny Tim. He is crippled, and seems wise beyond his years. The boy is also threatened with death, as Scrooge finds. In fact, Scrooge’s intervention for the good of the Cratchitt family is the only way in which the child can be saved.

Some call Tiny Tim a classic Dickens’ character, a portrait of the wise child who will soon exit the earth. He puts up with his infirmities and illness in a way most feel would not be borne by most children, even if they are ill. Dickens lived in a world where children did die, however, and though Tiny Tim’s illness and behavior may seem overtly sentimental, it may also be accurate.

Charles Dickens was the author of "A Christmas Carol", a novel that featured the character Tiny Tim.
Charles Dickens was the author of "A Christmas Carol", a novel that featured the character Tiny Tim.

With fewer cures for disease in the Victorian period, there were many children like Tiny Tim, and many families who could quite readily relate to the threat of losing one or more of their children. In fact, for many families today, the boy still strikes a chord of sadness. There are still illnesses that spirit children away before their time, and any parent with an ill child is likely to see a kernel of truth in the way he is portrayed.

Some theorize that Tiny Tim suffered from tuberculosis.
Some theorize that Tiny Tim suffered from tuberculosis.

Actually, some research has been done suggesting what might be the cause of the boy's mysterious illness. Some suggest he suffered from polio, while others suggest renal disease or tuberculosis. In either of the latter two cases, proper medical attention might have halted the disease. These potential suggestions make the child's plight more real.

It is theorized that Tiny Tim suffered from renal disease.
It is theorized that Tiny Tim suffered from renal disease.

Many argue that the boy is largely symbolic of an issue Dickens wanted to press home. There were households all over England that had sick children who might have lived but for poverty. Tiny Tim is symbolic not only of these children, but as catalyst for change. Dickens probably hoped to convert more than one Scrooge by the end of A Christmas Carol.

Many believe tiny Tim is symbolic of children who are sick and may have never lived out of poverty.
Many believe tiny Tim is symbolic of children who are sick and may have never lived out of poverty.

Evidence in most of Dickens’ novels points to his continuing search for social justice and reasonable treatment of the poor. Tiny Tim is not just a pitiable dying child, therefore, but represents Dickens’ viewpoint. If Dickens could get his audience to understand the many empty seats left by children who could not afford medical care, he had succeeded in his argument that much more needed to be done for the poor.

The novel does not end with Scrooge’s words but with Tiny Tim's, “God Bless us, every one.” This suggests again that the boy, in many ways, is an allegory for a fundamental argument for social justice. He doesn’t just ask blessing for his family, but for everyone.

Although some may accuse Dickens of appeal to emotion in arguing a point, it is an appeal that still resonates. Tiny Tim merely gives the reader the opportunity for considering the many children who still lack cures for disease or money to stay well. Dickens, many would argue, would look at the sea of ill children today and suggest that they deserve compassion and have a right to treatment.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent LanguageHumanities contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent LanguageHumanities contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

anon229089

I suggest tiny tim carried the burden of scrooge and scrooge had to save him by doing good, overcoming, through tiny tim's father. tiny tim carried scrooge's burden which lifted at the end when scrooge has a change of heart.

icecream17

Mutsy-I agree with you. I think that Tiny Tim reminds us how precious our children are and that no matter what they are facing they are always content.

Adults can learn a lot from children. Most children are happy from the attention that their parent’s give and have such a positive outlook that has an air of innocence that we as adult forget about.

Despite his financial hardships and health conditions, Tiny Tim was happy. This is something that Scrooge could not understand because Tiny Tim had failing health and his family was destitute.

mutsy

Suntan12- Many countries including the United States have generously given to this nation and will continue to give for years to come, but if the political corruption is not eradicated all of our efforts would be summarized as putting a band aid on a serious cancer.

The government needs to change and appropriate infrastructure and educational opportunities need to exist for these children to even have a chance at a decent life.

Most Haitians stop their education at the 6th grade which also adds to the cycle of poverty because people lack the education to find meaningful work that can support a family.

I think that the children of Haiti are all Tiny Tim’s in their own way and much still need to be done to help these kids.

suntan12

Bhutan-I just wanted to say that many children in Haiti for example, are facing a cholera outbreak because the living conditions in Haiti have deteriorated so.

Cholera is a deadly disease that arises from water with excessive levels of bacteria. Because our water is chlorinated and filtered we can safely drink our tap water, but in Haiti the children are not able to even drink water for fear of catching this disease.

These children suffer, like Tiny Tim did everyday with the possibility that they may not live another day.

Bhutan

I think that Tiny Tim allows us to remember how certain afflictions that children developed made us understand their quality of life.

Children with diseases that we have cures for today would not be able to overcome those illnesses back then.

Polio for example, was a problematic disease that led to paralysis and even death in some cases, but luckily today our children are vaccinated against this debilitating disease.

It is safe to say that although we have come a long way in medical advances there will always be children in need of medical help.

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    • Tiny Tim is a boy in "A Christmas Carol".
      By: Brendan C
      Tiny Tim is a boy in "A Christmas Carol".
    • Charles Dickens was the author of "A Christmas Carol", a novel that featured the character Tiny Tim.
      By: nickolae
      Charles Dickens was the author of "A Christmas Carol", a novel that featured the character Tiny Tim.
    • Some theorize that Tiny Tim suffered from tuberculosis.
      By: stockdevil
      Some theorize that Tiny Tim suffered from tuberculosis.
    • It is theorized that Tiny Tim suffered from renal disease.
      By: maya2008
      It is theorized that Tiny Tim suffered from renal disease.
    • Many believe tiny Tim is symbolic of children who are sick and may have never lived out of poverty.
      By: TheFinalMiracle
      Many believe tiny Tim is symbolic of children who are sick and may have never lived out of poverty.