Why is the ghost's response so devastating to Scrooge in Stave Three?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Stave III, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, who first takes him through the streets of London where merchants are happily setting out food and people are doing their last minute shopping.  From the busy streets, the Ghost then carries Scrooge to the home of Bob Cratchit where Scrooge observes the family and learns of Tiny Tim.  Then, the Ghost carries Scrooge to his nephew Fred's home where Scrooge delights in his nephew's contagious laughter and the many games he and his guests play.  After this visit, they go to a mining town and out to sea, but wherever they go, people are joyous and celebrate Christmas.

Finally, Scrooge notices that the Ghost grows older; he explains to Scrooge that his life is only twenty-four hours.  However, before the Ghost departs, a boy and a girl emerge from under his robe.

No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

When Scrooge inquires if they belong to the spirit, the Ghost responds that they are "Man's" but they appeal to him:  They are Ignorance and the girl is Want.  As Scrooge asks, "Have they no refuge or resource?" turning to Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Present answers,

"Are there no prisons?....Are there no workhouses?"

These words, of course, are those of Ebenezer Scrooge himself; they haunt Scrooge with his own cruelty and callousness. For, Scrooge perceives that unless he changes his life and learns to value the people around him and help the ignorant and the poor, he will end up like Marley.