What does the ghost mean when he says: ‘if these shadows remain unaltered’??stave #3

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fezziwig eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Actually, this passage is spoken by the Ghost of Christmas Present after Scrooge witnesses the Cratchit family at Christmas, and more so when he sees Tiny Tim for the first time, for Scrooge sees that Tiny Tim is suffering from some fatal disease, most likely polio for Tiny Tim is on crutches. He knows that if Tiny Tim does not have good medical attention, he will die, so he asks the Ghost of Christmas Present to

"Tell [him] if Tiny Tim will live."

The Ghost of Christmas Present replies by saying,

"I see a vacant seat. . . in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved.  If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die."

After hearing Tiny Tim's fate, Scrooge's response is pleasingly surprising for he says,

"no, no,. . .'Oh no, kind spirit Spirit! say it he will be spared."

To which the Ghost of Christmas Present responses by repeating the passage but with something added to show Scrooge the magnitude of his actions for he says,

"If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race. . .will find him"

Twice the Ghost warns Scrooge with his passage. The "shadows" represent events that have not yet happened, but "shadows" also represent death, the inevitable death of Tiny Tim. For the Shadow of Death will claim Tiny Tim if Scrooge does not help the Cratchit family. However, the passage gives the reader some hope that Tiny Tim will live, and live he does, for we see that Scrooge is concerned about Tiny Tim in this Stave, and later when he sees the future, Scrooge vows to change it, and he does.

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the ghosts have shown Scrooge his past, his present and his potential future.  The future is shown to him in shadows, and they are quite unpleasant.  If he dies living like he has, no one will mourn him or care that he is gone.  He will be as alone in death as he is in life.  The word unaltered means unchanged, so when the ghost says,"if these shadows remain unaltered", the ghost is warning Scrooge that if he stays living like he is and does not change, the awful shadows which Scrooge has seen will come true.  In a transformation which makes this story timeless, Scrooge determines that he will change and the shadows he has seen will not come true.

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A Christmas Carol

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