Stave One: Marley's Ghost
"Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail," crows Dickens within the first few sentences of his tale, showing the status of Scrooge's old partner. Ebenezer Scrooge sits working in his counting house and torturing his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit. Scrooge's nephew, Fred, appears with "Merry Christmas" on his lips. "'Bah!' said Scrooge, 'Humbug!" Even in Scrooge's great wealth, he refuses to give to the poor and only begrudgingly gives Bob Christmas day off. Later, Scrooge is astounded by the face of Marley on his doorknocker and the fireplace tiles. The Ghost of Marley himself appears and gives a warning to Scrooge about the way he has lived his life. The "chance and hope" for Scrooge will be three spirits that will haunt him later that night.
Stave Two: The First of the Three Spirits
The first spirit appears: the Ghost of Christmas Past whose main feature is "that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light." Scrooge follows the spirit through Scrooge's own past. He retraces his solitary days in boarding school, his happy days as an apprentice, and his choice of business and wealth over Belle, his one true love. When the spirit shows him Belle's husband and children (the life Scrooge has lost), Scrooge can bear it no longer and extinguishes the spirit's light.
Stave Three: The Second of the Three Spirits
The second of the spirits appears: the Ghost of Christmas Present, a giant surrounded by the bounty and plenty that Christmas brings. The spirit takes Scrooge through Christmas Day via the marketplace and Bob Cratchit's house. Scrooge observes the joy surrounding the Cratchit's meager Christmas and is pained to learn that Tim Cratchit will die if "these shadows remain unaltered by the Future." The spirit then allows Scrooge to observe Christmas through the poverty of a mining camp, a ship's crew, and finally a party at Scrooge's own nephew's house. Before leaving, the spirit shows Scrooge two children hidden beneath his robe (Ignorance and Want) and chides Scrooge with his own words. Suddenly, a "Phantom, draped and hooded" appears.
Stave Four: The Last of the Spirits
The final spirit is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The spirit shows Scrooge businessmen speaking glibly about an unattended funeral, street thieves bargaining for a dead man's things, and a corpse covered with a sheet. Scrooge watches "in horror" and, after requesting to see some "emotion," is shown the sad home of Bob Cratchit after Tiny Tim's death. Scrooge finds his own name written on the grave stone and emphatically promises that he will change.
Stave Five: The End of It
Christmas day dawns with Scrooge a changed man. He anonymously sends the Cratchit family the prize turkey for their Christmas dinner, gives a huge donation to the poor, and joins his nephew in a grand Christmas party. The following day, Scrooge surprises Cratchit by raising his salary and becomes a "second father" to Tiny Tim "who did NOT die." Scrooge, therefore, gets a second chance and "knew how to keep Christmas well."