In Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is visited by three spirits who will teach him to mend his avaricious ways before it is too late. The second spirit comes in the form of a “a jolly Giant, glorious to see.” This spirit introduces himself as the Ghost of Christmas Present. The spirit takes Scrooge to observe the Christmas that his clerk, Bob Cratchit, shares with his large family. It is a meager Christmas, as they cannot afford a lavish dinner. However, it is also evident that the Cratchits are a loving family, and that makes their Christmas holiday warm and lovely. Scrooge also observes Tiny Tim, who is very ill. Scrooge realizes that Bob’s son is in poor health and needs medical attention that the Cratchits cannot afford.
The spirit then takes Scrooge to observe the holiday celebration at his nephew’s house. This drives home the knowledge that Scrooge has a family, but he chooses to ignore them in the pursuit of his one passion: earning money. He also chooses to ignore them on Christmas. The nephew observes that Scrooge “loses some pleasant moments” by not celebrating with them.
The spirit then shows Scrooge two children who emerge from the spirit's robe. They are described in words that convey how awful they are. Specifically, they are “wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable.”
The spirit orders Scrooge to look at the children. When he does, Scrooge realizes that
they were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds.
Everything that one imagines about innocent children is lacking with these two. They are not like angels; instead, “devils lurked” in connection with them. Dickens spares no negative descriptive phrases to convey how horrible these children are. He writes,
No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Scrooge started back, appalled.
The spirit explains that these children are Mankind’s children: Ignorance and Want. In other words, this is the human condition that befalls many unfortunate people. Many are ignorant, as Scrooge is. The spirit expressly tells Scrooge to be particularly wary of Ignorance, as Scrooge’s life is characterized by ignorance. He is ignorant of the pleasant ways of people around him, such as his nephew and Bob Cratchit. He is ignorant of how to behave to people and how to help them whenever he can. In short, he is ignorant of how to be a good person. As a result of ignorance, many people live in horrible conditions and want for their very food and warmth. Although not quite at this level, Bob Cratchit’s family certainly wants for more sustenance than they can afford on the meager wages that Scrooge pays, which is one of the lessons this spirit tries to teach Scrooge.