What comparisons and contrasts can be made among the three spirits that visit Scrooge in A Christmas Carol ?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The three spirits, Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future each appear to Ebenezer Scrooge in order to aid his perception of certain realities and to awaken the Christmas spirit in the old miser's heart. They quietly appear to him and escort Scrooge around London in order that he see various sights which will affect him.

  • The Spirit of Christmas Past

This diminutive spirit appears to Scrooge, dressed in a white tunic and appearing both young and old simultaneously:

It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand;...from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light....

But the light moves so that at times part of the spirit is in shadow. His voice is slight and low, as though he speaks from a distance. This spirit acts as a conscience, displaying people from Scrooge's past that he has abandoned or avoided, making Scrooge ashamed. 

  • The Spirit of Christmas Present

Unlike the diminutive spirit of the past, this spirit is boisterous and loud. Celebratory in appearance, he shows Scrooge how his nephew celebrates Christmas. In addition, this spirit performs magic; for instance, from under his robe, there issues "holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, and all sorts of holiday foods." When the people go to church, he sprinkles "incense on their dinners from his torch," and he blesses the Crachit home when he and Scrooge visit it.

But, the spirit is not all kindness, especially as he tells Scrooge that he sees an empty seat where Tiny Tim sits; and, he uses some sarcasm, as well.  

  • The Spirit of Christmas Future

Resembling the Grim Reaper, the ominous third spirit does not speak. Instead, he shows Scrooge his own dead body and the rag pickers taking everything from him. There is no one to mourn him, either. Further the spirit lets Scrooge hear what people say about him after he has died. After Ebenezer Scrooge witnesses his lonely and humiliating death, along with the horror of the "Phantom," he is an altered man when he awakens and can feel the beposts. In his resolve to be a better Christian, Scrooge sets out to celebrate Christmas.

Read the study guide:
A Christmas Carol

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