while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob’s private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks. And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker’s they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.

I am guessing that Peter bit his collar while he was eating potatoes because his new clothes was too big for him or isn't it?

"Although his collars nearly choked him"? Wasn't it too loose that he can bite his collar?

Wasn't he eating potatoes, now he is boiling the potatoes?


  • The meaning is that his collars were so tight that he could hardly breathe.
    – Mick
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:07
  • @Mick But it said monstrous. Can you tell me what make you think that collar was so tight?
    – user66705
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:15
  • Have you checked the possible meanings of monstrous? No collar that is too big will choke you. There are other ways of being choked besides swallowing something.
    – Mick
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:18
  • 1
    You need to know that collars in those days were attached to shirts using metal studs, and they were extremely uncomfortable. When I was in the Air Training Corps in the 1960's, our shirts had stud collars, and the front stud pressed right into your Adam's apple (larynx). They were awful, but you had to pretend that they didn't bother you. This is a really a good question, but you need a lot of historical context to understand the text. It would have been a good candidate for Literature.
    – Mick
    Dec 18, 2017 at 16:00
  • 1
    By the way, these were very poor people and the father did not have the money to give his son a very fancy, very stiff-collared shirt. The historical context is poverty, if you've read much Dickens....
    – Lambie
    Dec 18, 2017 at 16:20

2 Answers 2


The collar like this one here: 1 The collar could be tight at the neck and still stick up.


Yes - he is accidentally biting the collar, because it's too big.

Peter Cratchit is one of Bob Cratchit's children, a son who is older than Tiny Tim. Bob, the father, has lent a collar (of the old, starched and removeable kind mentioned in Lambie's answer) to the boy - which is 'monstrous' because it is too big for the boy - being of a size designed to fit the father.

Peter wants to 'show off his linen' - linen being the expensive fabric that collars can be made from, in the Parks. Because it is posh and he wants to show off.

Peter Crachit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes - because he's very eager to try one, I think. He is probably also - hungry - this being a very poor family, before this feast occurs.

Peter may also be testing whether the potatoes are ready, with a fork - as he is the one responsible for cooking them, as described later - but maybe, as he's hungry, and suddenly now 'in charge' of that heady thing - potatoes! - he tries one.

He is now 'wearing his father's collar' - so isn't he now somehow even 'coming of age', here? The collar being 'conferred on him in honour of the day', by his father.

As Peter turned his head to put the potato in his mouth, the collar got in the way and went in his mouth instead, it means.

With 'monstrous', it is not talking about the collar being tight or uncomfortable. He is referring to it being unwieldy and flapping about and getting in the way.

The studs are also perhaps poorly applied - as this family is unaccustomed to dressing in fine clothes. That's why it is getting in the way. They have probably put it on wonky, or missed fixing some studs. Maybe the collar just won't fit onto the boy's smaller shirt.

The collar is too big, and they haven't put it on properly - in their haste - to get to dinner!

So in this scene, we have the excitement, the transformation - of the poor unhappy hungry family - suddenly bring presented with 'plenty' and being kind of goggle-eyed with it, drunk with the excitement of having suddenly 'what they always wanted'.

In modern terms, it would be a bit like gifting a beggar with an iPhone.

The collar getting in Peter's mouth is there to demonstrate the family's shift from poverty into a more abundant world, and how they are not used to it and now have to adapt to that, and are rushing - to enter their new world.

Is Dickens even saying something here like 'you can't eat money'? The boy is trying to eat his finery, albeit accidentally. Is that what finery does to you?

I think Peter is 'not proud' - as he is still doing the household task of cooking the potatoes - although he is dressed finely as 'his collars nearly choked him' - meaning he won't take them off, even when he's hot looking after the potatoes - as he absolutely loves wearing these smart new clothes!

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