- ‘As good as gold, and better‘ is a quotation from A Christmas Carol (Stave 3).
- A Christmas Carol is a novella, or short story, written by Charles Dickens and first published in the Christmas of 1843. The allegorical tale tells the story of the transformation of the mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge through the visits of the spirit of his former business partner and three ghosts over the course of a Christmas Eve night. It remains a much-loved traditional Christmas tale.
This quotation is a description of Tiny Tim, the disabled son of Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit. It is said by the character Bob Cratchit who is responding to question from his wife asking about the behaviour of their son after his return from going to church on a Christmas Day morning.
The Ghost of Christmas Present, the second of the three spirits that haunt the miser Ebenezer Scrooge, in order to prompt him to repent his selfish ways, has taken Scrooge to see the family of his clerk, Bob Cratchit. There, he witnesses the Cratchit family enjoy a Christmas meal.
This is an example of the figurative language Charles Dickens uses in his works, here using the literary technique of hyperbole (exaggerated language) in the form of a simile to compare Tiny Tim’s behaviour to be better than gold. The phrase as good as gold was already in common use before A Christmas Carol was written and usually referred to something being good or genuine, a reference to monetary transactions where the precious metal gold was used as the preferred currency due to its difficulty to counterfeit and retention of value. Dickens adapts the phrase to mean well behaved (of Bob Cratchit’s son Tiny Tim at church). Bob Cratchit was a clerk working at a counting house (dealing with money) so it would not be unexpected for him to have come across the expression as good as gold in his time working for Ebenezer Scrooge. The use of the phrase as good as gold has grown since the publication of A Christmas Carol, and is now usually applied to mean good behaviour of a child rather than its original reference to something being good or genuine.
Taken from the following passage in Stave 3 (The Second Of The Three Spirits) of A Christmas Carol:
“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart’s content.
“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”
Bob’s voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.
His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool before the fire; and while Bob, turning up his cuffs—as if, poor fellow, they were capable of being made more shabby—compounded some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and stirred it round and round and put it on the hob to simmer; Master Peter, and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose, with which they soon returned in high procession.
Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course—and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone—too nervous to bear witnesses—to take the pudding up and bring it in.
Timothy Cratchit, nicknamed Tiny Tim, is the youngest son of Bob Cratchit, the underpaid clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge. Tim is disabled and requires the use of a crutch to walk. The Cratchit family are unable to pay for proper care for him on Bob’s poor salary. When visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge sees that Tiny Tim has died. Scrooge asks if the desperately ill Tim will die. The Ghost first states that ‘If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die,’ then – quick to use Scrooge’s past unkind comments toward two charitable solicitors against him – suggests he ‘had better do it, and decrease the surplus population‘. This, and several other visions, lead Scrooge to reform his ways.
The abused, underpaid clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit is a kind but very poor man with a large family and a very sick son, Tim. He works for Scrooge, copying letters in a cold dismal room, so small it is described as a sort of tank. Bring wintertime, he is forced to try and stay warm with thick clothes and heat himself by the flame of a candle. He wears tattered clothes as he cannot afford a coat. Cratchit is treated poorly by Scrooge and given a weekly salary that is insufficient to provide his family with a proper Christmas dinner. Despite these circumstances, Bob Cratchit represents the opposite qualities of Scrooge including kindness, generosity and the love of his family members.
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