The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come ensures that Scrooge will remain reformed.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’s influence on Scrooge was limited to cementing the changes that he had already made. By the time Scrooge met this ghost, Scrooge had already decided that he was going to change. This is the reason why he was so confused throughout the chapter. He was seeing the future of the man he had been, not the man he saw himself as. Scrooge refused to acknowledge that he was the man whose life he was seeing. He is convinced that he is not seeing his own future, but someone else’s.
We know that Scrooge is a changed man at the end of Stave Three when he is confronted with Ignorance and Want because his reaction to them is completely different than it was when the men came asking for money at the beginning of the book. Scrooge ignored the poor, and suggested prisons, workhouses, and death for the “surplus population” (Stave One). Then he asks about Tiny Tim in Stave Three, suggesting that his view of the poor is altered. However, his reaction to the two poor children is completely different.
“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.
“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?” (Stave 3)
The Ghost of Christmas Present throws Scrooge’s own words back at him, reminding him what he said when he was asked for money to help the poor. However, if we take these two incidents (Scrooge’s concern for Tim’s welfare, and Scrooge’s concern for the children Ignorance and Want), it seems clear that Scrooge has already changed. In fact, we have reached the climax of the book.
How do we know though, that Scrooge is indeed already altered? Scrooge is immediately confronted by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He insists to him that he is ready to learn from what he will see. This is clear evidence that Scrooge is a better person, more open-minded, more repentant, and a changed man—and this is before the ghost arrives.
“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more than any Spectre I have seen. But, as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?” (Stave 4)
In fact, throughout this chapter, Scrooge does show an open mind about the things he sees. He is just in complete denial that he is seeing himself. This is not because he is not willing to learn, it is because he thinks of himself as changed, and it does not occur to him that he would be seeing the future of the unreformed Scrooge. His reaction to seeing the tombstone, and realizing that he saw himself all along, is one of chilling fear and remorse.
“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this if I am past all hope? …Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: “Your nature intercedes for me and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life!” (Stave 4)
Scrooge makes a promise to this last spirit that he will change. He has already seen himself as a changed man, and the future of the unchanged man that he sees terrifies him enough that he is ready to make sure that he will never go back to the course of the Scrooge he was before. As we know, he keeps his promise.
It is not that this last ghost is not important, but it is necessary to remember that Scrooge has already committed to reform by this time. The ghost's role is to reinforce to Scrooge what will happen if he does not reform, and the life that he would have led. It is a short life, and a lonely one. It horrifies Scrooge, and reminds him of why he has decided on an altered life of happiness and friends.