The pawning of the dead man’s things and the lonely body in the lonely room cause Scrooge to ask the Phantom to show him some emotion caused by the man’s death. Whether he is feeling sorry for the man or wondering if his own death will pass without emotion, Scrooge needs to believe that this man is not completely alone.
The Phantom obliges him, and Scrooge finds himself in a room with a mother and children waiting for the return of her husband. And he finds emotion: relief, joy, a tinge of guilt, but most of all, pleasure and peace. The death of the man—a merciless man—brought pleasure to the young family. They would have time now to gather the funds needed to repay the debt.
I don’t know what Scrooge hoped to see, but I don’t think this was it. For he then asks the Phantom to show him some tenderness associated with a death. Notice the change. He had moved on from this man, to any man. Scrooge had seen all the associations of this death that he wanted to: a casual conversation on the streets with little interest in the funeral, a group of people who took the shirt right off the dead man’s back, an empty room, and a joyous couple.
Scrooge wants to see a life remembered, not forgotten. And so back to the Cratchit’s house they go, where we find the family weighed down with the death of Tiny Tim. Yet despite the sorrow, there was a contented peace that rested on the family. It was not a family devoid of tears but a family that “was reconciled to what had happened.” Scrooge found what he was looking for—a tenderness.
But why? This other man who had died was apparently wealthy, a somebody. In the grand scheme of things, surely he was more important than Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim could hardly count as important in that day and age. He was crippled, not able to help provide for a family that instead had, I am sure, to spend extra to take care of him. Isn’t everyone better off, in the long run, with Tiny Tim dead? And won’t there be some gaping hole in society with this other man gone?
May the lesson that Dickens sends our way find its mark.