With a short work such as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the manipulation of time and place is almost essential. So, the use of the Spirits of Christmases Past, Present, and Future provide the background for the development and enlightenment of heart in the character of Ebenezer Scrooge that is required for this novella to have the impact that it does.
- The Spirit of Christmas Past
This is the spirit who carries Scrooge into his memory where he perceives that he was a happy and loving man at one time with a love for life. But, he lost Belle, who wished to be his wife until he became so avaricious. "Another idol has displaced me...a golden one," she tells Ebenezer. When the spirit reveals a vision of Belle and her husband and children, Scrooge perceives what his greed has cost him. "Spirit!" he cries, "remove me from this place....I cannot bear it!"
- The Spirit of Christmas Present
This spirit takes Scrooge through the London Streets where he observes the engagement of people with one another as they prepare for Christmas. When they look in on Bob Crachit's family, Scrooge is surprised that such impoverished people can be so happy and loving to one another. After dining on their goose and about which they have raved, Bob offers a toast, "A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!"
After watching this celebration of the Crachit family, Scrooge is moved and feeling an affection long unknown to him, he asks the spirit if Tiny Tim will live. The spirit replies that he sees "a vacant seat" unless the future changes for him. Satirically, then, he uses Scrooge's own words, saying if Tim dies, then he will "decrease the surplus population."
Then, they move on and witness the celebration at the home of Scrooge's nephew, a celebration which Scrooge himself could have attended. Scrooge watches avidly and is reluctant to depart. Somehow the twelve days of Christmas are spent, and Scrooge notices that the Spirit has aged, and then he sees the children of Want and Ignorance. Moved by this sight, he is warned that unless something is done about Ignorance there is "Doom."
- The Spirit of Christmas Future
It is a grim vision of the future that Scrooge is shown: Tiny Tim has died as has Scrooge himself and no one mourns him; he is "bereft, unwatched, unwept, uncared for...."
Certainly, all the experiences of Scrooge with the Spirits have a powerful affect upon him. Truly, he reforms,
"I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse [experience]. I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year....I will not shut out the lesson that they teach...."
Scrooge rushes to his nephew Fred's home and is welcomed. When Bob Crachit is late for work and apologizes, Scrooge acts stern but raises his salary, instead. And, at last, Ebenezer Scrooge feels something he has not experienced for a long time--happiness. And, it is thanks to this travels with the Spirits of Christmas.