Bob Crachit as the oppressed, modern office worker

Bob Crachit may be irrepressible but his condition mirrors those of many a modern office worker: bad boss, long hours, and a small and cold office. While the book A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, Crachit’s position reminded me of the modern office as described in Cubed. A quick description of Scrooge’s building from A Christmas Carol (the Project Gutenberg version):

The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

It doesn’t exactly resemble the modern office park but does hint at what we know today. Scrooge and Crachit presumably work within walking distance of work but home and work life has clearly been separated. (Scrooge regularly eats at a tavern on his way home.) Scrooge is fixated on the bottom line while Crachit hopes the job can (barely) support his family. The conditions inside the office are all about maximizing the profit: not too much space, not very warm, a boss who controls the setting. This is the white-collar employee laboring for the capitalist within a controlled office.

Of course, Scrooge reverses course at the end of the book and I wonder if his change of heart would extend to a different kind of office. When visiting Bob Crachit and family, Scrooge suggests: “I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!” The second to last paragraph suggests his demeanor certainly changed. But, would this extend to having a brighter, warmer office with a more ergonomic setting for Bob?

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