What lesson does Scrooge learn from each spirit in A Christmas Carol?

In A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, he learns that he was not responsible for his poor treatment as a child but that he is responsible for his mistakes as an adult. The Ghost of Christmas Present teaches him that family is the most important thing and that humankind is the business that he should be concerned about. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come teaches him that he must change immediately.

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In stave 2, "The First of the Three Spirits," of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey into the past—Scrooge's past—which begins with a walk down a country road near Scrooge's childhood home near an idyllic, riverside market town. The scene with Scrooge's childhood friends calling out "Merry Christmas" to each other is a happy scene, in contrast to the scene of young Ebenezer sitting alone and forlorn at Christmas in a deserted classroom at his boarding school. Seeing himself, sitting there reading without another person to be seen or heard, Scrooge remembers the boy singing Christmas carols outside Scrooge's countinghouse who Scrooge chased away with a ruler in stave 1.

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”


“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.


“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.”
(stave 2)

Scrooge is reminded to be tolerant of those who are less fortunate than he is who simply want to brighten the lives of others without hoping to profit from their good deeds.

Another Christmas finds Scrooge again sitting alone at the boarding school, but this time Scrooge's young sister, Fan, comes to rescue him and take him back home.

The spirit recalls for Scrooge that Fan was "a delicate creature" and that "she had a large heart!"

“She died a woman,” said the Ghost, “and had, as I think, children.”


“One child,” Scrooge returned.


“True,” said the Ghost. “Your nephew! "
(stave 2)

Fan's child and Scrooge's nephew is Fred, the young man whose invitation to Christmas dinner Scrooge rudely rejected and who Scrooge all but threw out of his countinghouse on Christmas Eve in stave 1.

Scrooge resents Fred for some unstated reason—perhaps for Fan's death—but Scrooge is beginning to learn to hold onto cherished memories of loved ones and about the importance of family.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to the warehouse where Scrooge was apprenticed as a young man. Scrooge is reminded of the value of friendship and camaraderie and learns a lesson about being a kindly, generous employer, like Mr. Fezziwig. Scrooge observes, "The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune" (stave 2).

Scrooge thinks about his own employee, Bob Cratchit.

I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all.

The spirit shows Scrooge two scenes with Belle, a young woman who was Scrooge's one true love and with whom a young Ebenezer Scrooge was engaged to be married.

In the first scene with Belle, Scrooge sees how he's changed from a person happy and content with his life to a person obsessed with accumulating money, to the exclusion of everything else in his life, including Belle.

The second scene with Belle occurs when Belle is older, married, and with a family of her own, including a daughter who looks very much like Belle herself. The scene takes place just seven years ago when Scrooge's partner, Jacob Marley, "lies at the point of death." Belle's husband remarks how he's just seen Scrooge sitting alone in his countinghouse, "quite alone in the world."

This scene is interesting because, unlike all the other scenes that the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge, this is the only scene from Scrooge's past in which Scrooge didn't experience the events in the scene himself and which isn't part of Scrooge's own memories. The spirit shows Scrooge this scene to remind him about the importance of love, relationships, and family, and to teach Scrooge that his rejection of these things, as well as his rejection of friendship, camaraderie, tolerance, kindness, and generosity have left him "quite alone in the world."

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Scrooge learns from the Ghost of Christmas Past exactly where he went wrong in life. Once upon a time, Scrooge used to enjoy Christmas and happily entered into the spirit of Mr. Fezziwig's parties. But then the iron entered his soul, and he became obsessed with making money so much so that he ruined his relationship with Belle. From that day on, Scrooge became the heartless miser that he is when the ghost comes to see him.

From the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas. Although the Cratchit family is dirt poor—thanks largely to Scrooge's stinginess—they still enjoy the Christmas holidays as best they can. They may not have two ha'pennies to rub together, but what they lack in money they more than make up for in love. This is a very valuable lesson for Scrooge, who despite being rich has no love or warmth in his miserable, lonely life.

Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come warns Scrooge that he'll die a lonely, miserable death, a death that will go unmourned by anyone, if he doesn't change his ways. Not only that but Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit's disabled son, will die. Thankfully, Scrooge learns a valuable lesson from his experiences and becomes a completely different man.

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From his travels with the Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge sees his progression from an innocent, neglected child to a responsible, choice-making adult.  He was not at fault for the treatment he received when he was young, but, as he aged, he started making bad decisions of his own accord.  He realizes that it is his own fault that he lost Belle, because he valued money over her love.  He also realizes that he is not a very good boss when faced with his memories of Fezziwig's generosity.

From his travels with the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge learns that little is more important than family; his clerk, Bob Cratchit, is poor, but he is happier than Scrooge because he has his family's love.  He also sees his own nephew participating in a game that teases Scrooge, but Scrooge himself is warmed by the fact that he is remembered at all and wishes he could stay there.  He also sees various people, in difficult situations all over the world, celebrating the holiday together, and he realizes that, even though he is rich in wealth, he is poor in friends and spirit.  Finally, when he sees the specters of Ignorance and Want, he begins to realize that humankind is his business, despite his earlier insistence that it was not.  He begins to realize that he should care about his fellow human beings and try to help them when he can.

From his travels with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge learns that, if he continues to live the way he has, there will be no one to mourn him when he is gone.  He will leave absolutely no positive impact on a single person, except for those people who rob him in death or get extensions on their loans and benefit from him that way: a horrifying prospect.  He learns that a small child, Tiny Tim, will be remembered much more faithfully than Scrooge ever will be because the child knew how to love and Scrooge has forgotten.  

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In general, Ebenezer Scrooge learned the same lesson from the three spirits.  From all of them, he learned that he needed to turn his life around and be a happier, more caring person than he was at the beginning of the story.  Each spirit taught him a different part of that lesson.

The first spirit shows him that he (Scrooge) used to be a much happier person.  This shows him that it is possible for him to be that way again.  This spirit also shows him how important it is to be kind because of the impacts that has on others.

The second spirit shows him that he is now something of a tyrant and that his behavior makes problems for other people.  It also shows him that people can be happy without having as much money as Scrooge wants to have.

The third spirit shows him what will happen if he doesn't change his ways.  It shows him that his current behavior makes it so that no one loves him or even cares about him.

Between them, the three teach Scrooge that it is important to act more kindly and humanely towards other people (and even towards himself).

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