How does Scrooge react to the Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol?

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reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scrooge's first reaction to the Ghost of Christmas Past is one of wonder:

"Being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever" (2). The Ghost has the ability to change its distinct qualities from light to dark, giving the appearance of a perpetually changing, shimmering being.

As the Ghost takes Scrooge on his journey to Christmases past, Scrooge's reaction becomes one of sadness and regret. Upon visiting his old school, the Ghost asks him if he remembers it:  "Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed" (3). The visits to the past become more difficult when Scrooge sees Belle:

"Spirit," said Scrooge. "Show me no more. Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me."
"One shadow more!" exclaimed the Ghost. "No more!" cried Scrooge. "No more, I don't wish to see it. Show me no more."
But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms, and forced him to observe what happened next" (10).

Scrooge is forced to witness Belle, happily married, with her own family. Her husband relates to her that he saw Scrooge in his office, "quite alone in the world" (11).

Therefore, this Ghost evokes reactions of regret and melancholy for all that Scrooge has given up for the wrong reasons: Scrooge has chosen money over love.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge events of his childhood and young adulthood that make him sad.  As an older man, he is shown the images of his choices as a young man when he lost the love of Belle, the woman who left him when his ambition to be wealthy became more important than everything else in his life. 

She recognized even then, when he was a young man, that he would turn into a man who was driven by the desire for material wealth and that he would put her and his family second, coldly.  She released him from his promise to her.   

Scrooge is now an old man, who has lived a lonely life in a cold house with no warmth, no family, no wife, and no children.  He has money, but nothing else.  He is a miserable man.  When he sees Belle, he remembers what it felt like to be in love.     

When the Ghost of Christmas Past shows these events to Scrooge, he is deeply saddened; he cannot bear to look at himself as a young and foolish man who let love slip away.

"'Spirit!' said Scrooge, 'show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?'" (Dickens) 

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scrooge has several reactions during his visit from the ghost of Christmas past. At his first stop, the school he attended as a boy, he realizes how lonely he was and he is surprised that he was so interested in adventure stories like Robinson Crusoe. At the second stop, Scrooge realizes the importance of celebration when he visits Fezziwig, a man he worked for when he was young. Fezziwig celebrates Christmas by having music, dancing and food provided at his office. He tells the ghost:

"He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome, a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up, what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune."

Finally, Scrooge is saddened when he is taken to the scene when Belle, a girl to whom he was engaged, breaks the engagement because all Scrooge does is work. He then sees Belle married to another man and happy and asks the ghost to take him home.

Read the study guide:
A Christmas Carol

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