“A Christmas Carol” written by Charles Dickens was published as a novella on December 19th of 1843. It was an instant success and has been popularized and has never been out of print. It was written at a time when people were beginning to sing carols and make celebrate Christmas with parties.
In 1838 Victoria began her reign and married Prince Albert in 1840. Prince Albert brought his Christmas traditions from Germany which led to the people of London compete for Christmas Cheer. New customs such as Christmas Cards and Christmas Trees became popular. Charles Dickens used his Christmas story to stimulate a charity close to his heart. Dickens had a great sympathy for the poor and hoped A Christmas Carol would make people more generous as his main character, Scrooge became by the end of the story.
In the beginning, Scrooge is a grumpy miser with no Christmas spirit. On Christmas, Eve Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former partner, who wants to help him to avoid the same fate he is suffering. He will be visited by three spirits to help him find the spirit of Christmas. The Ghost of Christmas Past, who shows him the lonely Christmas of his early childhood, and the happy Christmases he had in his early adulthood. He also sees where he began to lose his giving spirit and became too greedy to help the poor.
The next visitor is the Ghost of Christmas Present who shows Scrooge how his contemporaries celebrate Christmas. The ghost spreads Christmas spirit everywhere he goes. He teaches Scrooge the importance of abolishing ignorance and want in his fellow man.
The last visitor is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He is a terrifying phantom that shows Scrooge his fate if he doesn’t change his course. Without a complete change that makes him more generous, he will die alone and unmourned.
In the end, Scrooge becomes generous and spreads Christmas Cheer and happiness with everyone he sees, keeping the Christmas Spirit alive all year.
Stave One – Marley’s Ghost
“Marley was dead, to begin with.” Marley was the partner of Ebenezer Scrooge in their counting house. He died seven years earlier, and on this Christmas Eve, Scrooge is listening to the wind blow the sign hanging on the door that says, “Scrooge and Marley”. Even though he can see the clerk, Bob Cratchit, shivering he refused to put another lump on coal on the stove.
Suddenly his nephew, Fred, comes into the office carrying the Christmas cheer and happiness with him. When he wishes his uncle a Merry Christmas, Scrooges’ reply is “Bah! Humbug!” Scrooge also tells his nephew to “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine”. Even though Fred argues with his uncle that he doesn’ t keep Christmas at all. Scrooge is not softened, but after some persuasion, he agrees to give Cratchit Christmas day off, but he must return the next day. Fred asks Scrooge to come to dinner. He turns him down, but Fred wishes him a Happy New Year, anyway.
After Fred leaves two portly well-dressed men enter. They want Scrooge to make a donation to charity. Scrooge tells them that since the prisons and workhouses are in full operation, then the poor don’t need his money. When they tell him that many of the poor would rather die than go for help, he replies that they should go ahead and die, then.
Scrooge walks home after stopping at the same tavern he always has his usual melancholy dinner. When he comes to the door knocker on his dreary rooms, he sees an apparition. Scrooge seems to see the face of Marley on the knocker. Then when he refocuses his eyes, Scrooge can see it is the regular door knocker. He poohs his fancy and makes his way up the stairs, where he seems to see a hearse climbing ahead of him on the stairs.
Scrooge rushes to his room and locks his door. He is happy to see his meager dark space hasn’t changed. No one under the table or the sofa. He checked under his bed and in the closet. Then he put his dressing gown on and sat down to have his gruel before bed since he had been suffering from a cold in his head. As he is having his gruel before his measly fire in the large fireplace, he seems to see Marley’s face superimposed on the carvings on his mantle.
Instead of being frightened, Scrooge just dismisses the sightings and says, “Humbug!” Suddenly all the bells in the house begin to ring. Just as quickly as they began, the bells stopped and Scrooge could hear a clanking on the stairs like someone “were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine merchant’s cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains”. He still calls it humbug and refuses to believe until he sees it pass through the closed door into his room. Scrooge recognizes the spirit right away as Marley’s ghost. The transparent ghost has a chain wrapped around him at the waist with a long tail that he dragged behind him made up of “cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel”.
Scrooge still doubts his eyes. He is caustic when he asks the shade what he wants. When the ghost insists that he ask him who he was, not who he is, Scrooge says that he is “particular for a shade”. The ghost says he was Jacob Marley and Scrooge asks him if you can sit down. His sardonic tone tells the ghost that he still doesn’t believe him. The ghost asks him why he doesn’t believe his own senses and Scrooge tells him, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats.”
Marley’s ghost tells him that the weight he carries represents heartless deeds he committed in his life. He tells him that everyone must wander the earth when the die and must “witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness”. Then he tells Scrooge that when he died their burdens were equal, now Scrooge can add another seven years to his future burden. Scrooge begs him to help him. Marley’s ghost tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts on the next three nights. “Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls One”. “Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third, upon the next night when the last stoke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate”. Then Marley’s ghost has Scrooge look out the window where he sees ghosts wander around moaning, each bound in chains due to their failures to lead caring, helpful lives. Marley joins the group and disappears in the mist. Then Scrooge staggers in to bed and falls asleep.
Stave Two – The First of the Three Spirits
At midnight Scrooge wakes up, which is odd since he went to sleep at 2 a.m. He wonders if he slept till noon, but then remembers what the ghost threatened him when he visited. He fearfully waits for the first spirit.
Then at 1 a.m. a strange little creature that looks like a child, but has an aura of wisdom, blows back the curtains around his bed. The spirit is wearing a cap to cover the light shining from his head. He tells Scrooge that he is the Ghost of Christmas Past, and tells him to join him. He touches Scrooge on the heart, and gives him the ability to fly, so they leave through the window.
The ghost and Scrooge fly over the countryside where Scrooge was raised. He sees his old school, and familiar landmarks from his childhood. He even sees the children he played with. These memories make Scrooge begin to weep, and the spirit takes him to the school where they see a little boy spending the Christmas holiday alone. The boy is Scrooge, himself.
Time passes before his eyes and Scrooge sees the boy age, but always alone at Christmas, until at last, a little girl, his sister, Fran dashes into the room and says she is there to take him home for the holidays. She tells him that their father has become kinder and is giving him permission to come home for Christmas. Young Scrooge hugs his sister, and Old Scrooge tells the spirit that his sister died years ago and that she is the mother of his nephew, Fred.
Christmases continue to go past while they watch. Soon they see a party thrown by Fezziwig, his kind boss of his youth. And a visit with Belle, who is breaking their engagement because he only cares about money. Then they peek at a more recent Belle who is reminiscing about Scrooge to her husband. The husband tells her that Scrooge is now alone in the world. Scrooge begs the spirit to take him home because he can’t take any more of the torment of seeing his past. He pulls the ghost’s hat down to put out the light peeking out and is transported back to his room, where he stumbles back to bed.
Stave Three – The Second of the Three Spirits
When the clock strikes one a. m. Scrooge wakes again. He’s glad he woke up and plans to confront the spirit before it arrives. But, when fifteen minutes pass without the spirit showing up, Scrooge is a bit disappointed. Then a bright light shines on him and he goes into the other room to investigate. There he sees the spirit waiting for him. A courtly giant is sitting on a throne with a huge feast. His voice is loud when he tells Scrooge that he is the Ghost of Christmas Present. He has over eighteen hundred brothers and he lives only for the single day. Then he directs Scrooge to touch his robe.
Scrooge finds himself walking beside the ghost in the middle of a busy city on Christmas morning. People are wrapped up in the joy of Christmas day. They enjoy the scents coming from the shops and the decorations. There are people happily shoveling snow, carrying presents and wishing each other a Merry Christmas.
After all the bounty of Christmas joy, the spirit takes Scrooge to the small poor house of Bob Cratchit. They see Mrs. Cratchit making the small Christmas goose and enjoying the few small treats. The oldest children arrive from their jobs and Bob comes in carrying his small little boy who is crippled, Tiny Tim, on his shoulders. Scrooge is surprised to see how much the family is enjoying their meager fare. Scrooge asks the spirit if Tiny Tim will survive, but the spirit tells him that if things don’t change in their house, next year the tiny chair will be empty. The spirit reminds Scrooge of the time he said that if the poor were going to die, they should get on with it. Scrooge hangs his head in shame. Especially when he hears Cratchit offer a toast to him.
As the night progresses the spirit takes Scrooge around to other parties, including his nephew’s. Scrooge has a grand time playing the games with his guests, even though they can’t see him there. Even thought Scrooge turned him down, Fred wishes him a Merry Christmas anyway, wherever he is. The spirit ages as the hours pass by. “Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick-beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery’s every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door, and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts”.
With every hour that passes the spirit grows older. Scrooge asks the ghost about the feet under his robe. When he opens it Scrooge sees two small children cowering, “wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable”. Scrooge asks if the children are his only to be told the children are “Man’s”. He says they cling to him appealing from their fathers. The boy is Ignorance and the girl is Want. The spirit says the boy is the most dangerous, “for on his brow I see that written with is Doom unless the writing is erased. Deny it!” Scrooge asks what can help them, when the spirit uses Scrooges prior words against him, “Are there no prisons?” “Are there no workhouses”.
Scrooge looks around for the spirit when the clock strikes midnight, but he has disappeared. As he hears the last vibration of the bells, he sees a “solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, toward him”.
Stave Four – The Last of the Spirits
The Phantom is wearing a black hooded robe. All that is visible is one outstretched hand. Without the hand, separating the cloaked figure from the dark night would have been impossible. Although the Phantom neither spoke nor moved, Scrooge felt a sense of dread. He asks the Phantom if he is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Instead of answering the Phantom points his finger to where they are to go. Although Scrooge fears this ghost more than any other, he hopes to become a better man so Scrooge is “prepared to bear your company, and do it with a thankful heart”.
They stop near a group of businessmen who are discussing the death of a very rich man. They only care about the fate of his money. They assume the funeral will be small since he was so cheap. Scrooge recognizes them but is unsure who they are talking about. Scrooge also recognizes the next two men they listen to. They are wealthy businessmen who he always tried to make a good impression on. The men only talk about the weather, and Scrooge is unsure why the Phantom thinks this is important to his lesson.
They also stop at a pawn shop in a London slum where they see a group of vagabonds fighting over some things stolen from a dead man, while they make crude remarks over the meanness of the dead man. Also, they go to the Cratchit’s where they are dealing with the death of Tiny Tim. Scrooge becomes frustrated at the silence of the Phantom. He wants to know the identity of the dead man they are all talking about so uncaring. When he guesses it is an unhappy man who shares the same fate he will share if he doesn’t change his life, the Phantom takes him to the bedside of a man that has been stripped of the curtains and linen. “Plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept, uncared for, was the body of this man”.
Scrooge begs the Phantom to show him just one person who has a kind word to say about the man. They see a sad woman sitting at an empty table waiting for her husband to return. She asks him about their overwhelming debt they must pay, and he tells her the horrible man they owe the money to has died, so there is hope they won’t have to repay their debt.
When Scrooge asks the Phantom to show him his own fate at this time, he is taken passed his office, that is obviously not his anymore. But, that is not their goal. They enter an overgrown churchyard. Scrooge assumes they will be seeing the grave of the unknown sad man he has heard about throughout town, but never the less, he is apprehensive. “Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be or are their shadows of the things that May be, only?” The Phantom is unmoving and unanswering. He finally looks at the neglected grave and reads the stone. “EBENEZER SCROOGE”.
Scrooge grabs the Phantom’s hand begging for a different fate. He promises to honor Christmas in his heart and to keep it all year. He will live in the Past, Present, and Future, never forgetting the lessons he has learned. The Phantom pulls his hand free and Scrooge clasps his hands in prayer. Suddenly he sees the Phantom change. “It shrank, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.”
Stave Five – The End of It
Scrooge is overjoyed to wake up in his own bed. He is happiest to discover he is in his own time, and can make amends. He blesses Heaven, Christmas and Jacob Marley. He is determined to change the future the Phantom showed him. Scrooge is so excited he has trouble dressing. Happily shouting Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Scrooge dances around the room. Although his laugh is out of practice, he laughs out loud. “The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!” Unsure even what day it is, he hears the Christmas Bells tolling. He dashes to a window and shouts down to a boy in Sunday clothes, asking what day it is. He promises the boy a shilling if he will bring him the turkey he saw in a window. If the boy returns in less than five minutes he will pay him a crown. He plans to send it anonymously to Bob Cratchit. While he waits for the turkey on the street, Scrooge looks at the door knocker that does not look like Jacob Marley now. When he sees the size of the turkey, he pays for a cab for delivery.
Later while practically dancing down the street, and smiling at everyone he passes, Scrooge meets one of the men who had asked him for a donation the day before. He knows the man will not be pleased to see him, but Scrooge stops him on the road. Scrooge whispers a donation to the man that leaves him speechless.
Next, he visits Fred’s Christmas party and spreads the Christmas Spirit to everyone there, that they hardly recognize him. Scrooge has a great time at the party but leaves early so he can get to work early the next morning. He wants to be there before Bob.
Scrooge waits the next morning at his desk for Bob who is fifteen minutes late. He keeps the door open so he can see Bob when he enters. Bob rushes in with apologies for his tardiness. Scrooge begins by making Bob think he will fire him but instead gives him a raise. Bob thinks Scrooge may be going mad. But, he finally convinces him of his sanity and tells Bob that along with the raise in salary, he will help his family. They will talk about it “over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop.” But first, he wants more coal on the fire.
Scrooge helps the family, Tiny Tim does not die, and Scrooge becomes a second father to him. Even though some people laugh at him, he continues to be gracious and giving. He lived by the Total Abstinence Principle, and as Tiny Tim said, “God bless Us, Every One!”
Ebenezer Scrooge – the owner of Scrooge and Marley, a counting house in London. He is a cold hearted miser who thinks that all the poor and needy should find help with all the places his taxes support. He also says the dying should get on with it. He is equally bitter to everyone, from his nephew to his employee. As a child Scrooge was neglected by his father, then as a young man he took a job in a counting-house, where he finally found the warmth he needed. But, he leaned more towards money than people and lost his fiancee. Scrooge lived a life of pinching every penny and hoarding all of his money. After being taken on trips of self-discovery by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, he changes his ways, keeping the good feelings of Christmas all year long. Spreading Christmas Cheer, and generosity.
Bob Cratchit – a clerk of Scrooge and Marley’s Accounting House. He is a loyal employee and devoted family man. He is kind and mild. His pay is not enough to support his large family, but he never loses his happiness. Even though Scrooge is harsh at the beginning of the book, Bob never complains about him. Bob tries to find the good in every situation. Although his is poor at the beginning, by the end of the book, Scrooge gives him a huge raise and helps to save the life of his youngest son who is ill.
Tiny Tim – the youngest son of Bob Cratchit. He is crippled and ill. Expected to die before the next Christmas, but is saved by the generosity of Scrooge after his change in personality. Although poor, sick and crippled, Tiny Tim is still hopeful. His faith against obstacles is meant to spotlight the poor of London during the Christmas season and make the middle and upper class more giving.
Jacob Marley – in life he was the partner of Ebenezer Scrooge in their Counting House. He and Scrooge were equally greedy, but he died seven years earlier. When his spirit arrives dragging is burdens brought by his mistreatment of people while he was alive. He tells Scrooge that his burden will be the same as his, plus seven years. He tells Scrooge that the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future will visit to help him avoid his fate.
Ghost of Christmas Past – a childlike spirit that is the first to visit Scrooge. He takes Scrooge on a trip through his previous Christmases.
Ghost of Christmas Present – a giant spirit in a green robe that takes Scrooge on a visit to see how people he knows celebrate Christmas. Every where he visits, the spirit spreads Christmas Cheer. As the day progresses he ages hourly, his lifespan is restricted to Christmas Day. He has a little boy and girl hanging on his robe named Ignorance and Want.
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – a silent phantom that is dressed in a hooded long black cloak. The only part of him that is seen is his bony hand that points the way the are to travel. The phantom is Scrooges third and last visitor. He shows him his death and the fact there is no one to mourn his passing.
Fred – Scrooges nephew by his only sister who Scrooge was devoted to. Every year he asks his uncle to Christmas dinner because he is family and was loved by Fred’s mother.
Charles Dickens Biography
Charles Dickens (1812-70) was born in Portsmouth, England. He is one of the most popular writers in the history of literature.
Dickens was pulled from school at a young age when his father was put in prison for debts. He was forced to take a job in a blacking warehouse, which influenced his writing later in life. When his father left prison, Dickens returned to school but was mostly self-taught.
After finishing school, he became a legal clerk then went on to work as a reporter in the courts and parliament. In 1833 he began to publish humorous descriptive sketches of daily life in London under the pseudonym, Boz. The series of articles, accompanied by artistic sketches became very popular and led to his publication of “The Pickwick Papers”.
It also led to a new way of writing in London; the serial story. Dickens maintained his fame with a series of popular novels, editing magazines, and charitable work pressing for social reforms. He also managed a theatrical company who performed for Queen Victoria and did public readings of his works.
But, success in business did not mean success in his home life. After an affair with a young actress and citing incompatibility with his wife, they separated in 1858 even though the marriage had produced 10 children. He suffered a fatal stroke on June 9, 1870, and was buried in Westminster Abbey five days later.