However many literary scholars and Dickens experts have difficulty with Bob. He seems too much of a cliche; he does not come across as a real, complexed character. Bob seems to be more of a "story device"--more of a symbol for poor people everywhere than a real person in and of himself. In writing his story, Dickens was trying to make a social statement about poverty and the English class system that offered little hope to help the poor.
"A Southern Christmas Carol" tranfers Dickens' original story to the American South during the Great Depression. At that point in American history most Americans were struggling financially. But the one segment of the population who were the most impovershed were African Americans. The Jim Crow laws of the Southern states were designed to keep black Americans in poor, politically powerless and in low-income jobs. "A Southern Christmas Carol" takes the bold step of turning Bob Cratchit--a poor English white man--into a single black woman trying to support herself and a polio-crippled son.
Again looking to popular actors of the 1930s, the character of Eppie was inspired by the lengendary actress Ethel Waters (pictured above in 1939.) One of the first great African American stars in Broadway history, Ethel Waters was a gifted comedian, a powerful singer and grew into one of the great dramatic actresses of the first half of the 20th century. In the 1940's she starred in the classic MGM film musical "Cabin In the Sky." In the 1950's she starred on Broadway in the classic Southern drama "Member of the Wedding."