illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens
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What does the Ghost of Christmas Past tell Scrooge?

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The Ghost of Christmas Past visits Scrooge in the second part of "A Christmas Carol ." When they first meet, the ghost tells Scrooge that he represents Scrooge's past, not the past in general, and that his visit is prompted by concern for Scrooge's welfare. What is most interesting...

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The Ghost of Christmas Past visits Scrooge in the second part of "A Christmas Carol." When they first meet, the ghost tells Scrooge that he represents Scrooge's past, not the past in general, and that his visit is prompted by concern for Scrooge's welfare. What is most interesting about this opening conversation is that the ghost appears able to read Scrooge's thoughts. Internally, for example, Scrooge mocks the ghost's reason for visiting, believing that a night of unbroken sleep would have a more positive effect on his welfare. As if by telepathy, the ghost retorts that it is more a question of Scrooge's "reclamation" than of welfare.

The course of the ghost's visit continues along this theme. The ghost shows Scrooge painful memories of his childhood and formative years and appears to know the people from Scrooge's past intimately. Of his sister, Fanny, for instance, the ghost comments on her "large heart," a sentiment which Scrooge shares. 

The pair continue their journey through Scrooge's past. After seeing Belle, Scrooge's former fiancée, Scrooge asks the ghost to take him away from these memories, to which the ghost replies:

"I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,'' said the Ghost. "That they are what they are, do not blame me!''

Here, the ghost tells Scrooge something of crucial importance: that the present-day Scrooge is the product of these early experiences and that the only way to heal the pain of the past is to reform today. This message is so powerful that it begins the process of transformation in Scrooge, forcing him to accept how his actions have impacted the lives of others. This, then, is the foundation of Scrooge's reformation, which is steadily developed over his next two encounters.

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The Ghost of Christmas Past informs Scrooge, upon first making its appearance, that it has come to deal with Scrooge's "welfare...your reclamation". It then takes Scrooge on a tour of Christmas scenes from his past.

At each stop, Scrooge is unable to remain merely an observer of the events that occurred years ago. He is delighted to see and hear the greetings the children and adults of his hometown are exchanging, explains some of his favorite childhood stories with great animation and enthusiasm, and fully identifies with his former self during the Fezziwigs' Christmas Eve dance.

His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation.

All these appearances are for the same purposes - to give Scrooge a reminder of the ways in which he has conducted himself and his relationships to others in years past, and to give him an opportunity to reconsider those patterns in the future. "I told you these were shadows of the things that have been," said the Ghost. "That they are what they are, do not blame me!"

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