What are some key quotes from A Christmas Carol explained?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story in A Christmas Carol is designed to get the reader thinking.  Here are some of the most significant quotations about Scrooge’s journey from miser to family man.

One of the most important quotations is from Scrooge’s conversation with the man who comes asking him to donate money for the poor.  Scrooge’s reaction is not just to say no, but to say that the poor should go to prisons and workhouses. 

“… I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. …” (Stave 1) 

This is Scrooge at his most horrifying, when he suggests that the poor are better off dead because they are “surplus population.”  Scrooge is putting himself above the poor, which the Ghost of Christmas present chides him for later.  

Jacob Marley comes to visit Scrooge, as a ghost (since he is dead), and tells Scrooge that he has arranged a special chance for him.  Marley tells Scrooge that he wishes he had done more for others when he was alive.  He wants Scrooge to be visited by ghosts to help him see that he needs to change. 

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. …” (Stave 3)

Marley tells Scrooge that he is condemned to travel the Earth as a ghost and witness hardships which he has no ability to help with.  Now that he is a ghost he cares about others, but when he was alive he was just like Scrooge.  It is too late for him to change, since he is dead, but not too late for Scrooge.

Another significant quote is from Scrooge’s conversation with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  He has faced the terrible future that will befall him if he continues on his path.  He tries to convince the ghost that he has changed, and will change his behaviors. 

“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope!” (Stave 4)

When he returns to the world of the living (or awake), Scrooge does change.  He sends the Cratchits a turkey, goes to his nephew’s house for dinner, and gives Bob Cratchit a raise.  He keeps his word, and starts to enjoy Christmas as a time for sharing with others.


kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first stave of A Christmas Carol, the following quote is really important in characterizing Scrooge:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint.

In this quote, Dickens uses a metaphor to characterize Scrooge as an unfeeling miser. Instead of just simply describing his characteristics, Dickens compares Scrooge to a piece of flint. This is significant because it helps the reader realize the extent of Scrooge's negative attributes. He is not just an unfeeling person, his heart is, in fact, comparable to a piece of stone. 

Next, this quote from stave two is also important in portraying Scrooge's transformation:

"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."

As he travels back in time to his old school, Scrooge's character transformation is already underway. In regretting not giving any money to the boy, Scrooge shows awareness for the needs of others and how he ought to help those less fortunate than himself. This is a real turning point in the story.

During the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge's transformation is complete. Seeing a glimpse of his own lonely and miserable death prompts Scrooge to acknowledge the importance of changing his ways:

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future."

In other words, Scrooge will be mindful of what might happen if he does not behave with kindness and warmth to those around him.