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 quotes describe how Scrooge changes in stave 3 of A Christmas Carol?

Several quotations in stave 3 of A Christmas Carol make it clear that Scrooge is changing for the better. Instead of dismissing the second ghost, Scrooge speaks to it “reverently” and “submissively,” asking to learn from it. He also expresses concern for Tiny Tim and shows sadness over the boy’s apparent fate, feeling “penitence and grief” when he is reminded of what he said about poor people the day before.

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In stave 3, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present. When he sees the very large spirit, the narrator says that Scrooge looked at it “reverently,” which is quite a contrast from the way he initially treated the Ghost of Christmas Past. Further, Scrooge speaks to the spirit “submissively,” saying,

conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.

With the Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge had been dismissive rather than submissive, and he certainly did not treat the spirit with deference or respect. In fact, he implied that if the spirit really cared about Scrooge’s welfare, then the spirit would let Scrooge sleep. Scrooge acknowledges now that he only went with that spirit because he was forced to do so, but he admits that he learned something valuable from the ghost, and this makes him eager to see what lessons this new ghost has to teach him.

When the spirit takes him to the Cratchits’ home, Scrooge watches Tiny Tim. As the happy scene before them fades, Scrooge speaks “with an interest he had never felt before,” saying, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.” When the ghost declares that he sees a vacant seat at the table and a crutch without an owner in the family’s future, Scrooge cries out, “Oh, no, kind Spirit! Say he will be spared.” Then, when the spirit throws Scrooge’s own harsh words and cruel sentiments regarding poor people back in his face,

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

Scrooge clearly feels something like affection toward the sickly child—a feeling for which we have seen no prior examples—and he feels bad about the terrible things he said about people like the Cratchits just the day before. He is clearly changing for the better.

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Scrooge begins to care about other people in Stave Three.

At the beginning of Stave Three, Scrooge has already begun to change.  The journey into his past demonstrated to him that he chose to be alone.  It also reminded him of the people who used to be in his life, and the pain that he has experienced in the past.

Scrooge is extremely reflective as he watches Christmas present unfold.  Part of the experience is seeing people go about their lives and be happy as they celebrate the holiday together.  When he watches his clerk Bob Cratchit and his family, he shows that he is changing by the question he asks the ghost about Tiny Tim.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

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

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die.” (Stave 3)

Before this, Scrooge never paid any attention to Cratchit’s family and didn’t care about their health or anyone else’s.  He told the men collecting for charity that he supported prisons and workhouses, not charities.  Yet here he is, asking about Tiny Tim and feeling sad when he learns that he might die.

Another example of Scrooge’s change in perception and behavior is his reaction to Ignorance and Want.  These are the children hiding under the Ghost of Christmas present’s robe.  When Scrooge inquiries about them, the ghost throws his words back at him.

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?” (Stave 3)

The ghost is reminding his charge that he has a lot to atone for.  Scrooge was not a friend to his fellow man.  Now Scrooge is obviously a very different man.  He actually cares about Tiny Tim and the children.

When the third ghost appears, Scrooge tells him he is ready to learn whatever lessons the ghost has to teach.  In his mind, he is a new man.  He demonstrates this again when he sees his headstone, reminding the ghost that he would not have been shown the visions if there was no hope for him.

Dickens is telling us that anyone can change.  In the climax of the story, Scrooge’s own words are thrown back at him.  He realizes that, as Jacob Marley said, mankind is his business.  From this point on, Scrooge vows to change and he does.  Scrooge is a different man after his journey with the ghosts.  He allows people into his life, and does his best to help the needy anywhere he can.

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