Describe the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Stave Two of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past. This "strange figure" appears to Scrooge as a cross between a child and a old man. It has, for instance, an unwrinkled face and a tender "bloom" on the skin. Its arms and hands were "long and muscular," again suggesting youth, as are its bare feet and legs. The ghost's long, white hair, however, is suggestive of old age. 

The ghost's clothing is a further source of fascination for Scrooge. It wears a tunic "of the purest white" and has a "lustrous belt" tied around its waist. It hold a fresh sprig of holly in its hand, a symbol of Christmas, while its tunic is decorated with summer flowers. This contrast is, perhaps, deliberate and suggests that Dickens wants to encourage the Christmas spirit all year round. 

What is most striking about the ghost's physical appearance, however, is the jet of white light which protrudes from its head. This light is so strong that the ghost carries a cap which can be used to extinguish the light. Scrooge attempts to use the cap at the end of this stave but is unsuccessful. No matter what he does, he cannot extinguish this light and change the ghost's physical appearance. This is because the light represents the reformation of Scrooge's character: he is already beginning to reform and there can be no turning back. 

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A Christmas Carol

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