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

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

Start Free Trial

How does Scrooge react to the Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol?

Quick answer:

In A Christmas Carol, The Ghost of Christmas Future changes Scrooge by showing him to be a dead man mourned by no one. As Scrooge wants to avoid this fate when he dies, he finally sees the error of his ways and turns away from his former life as a stingy old miser.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

After Marley's ghost leaves, Scrooge is left wondering whether the experience was real or imagined. Then the clock peals the hour of one o'clock and another being appears in Scrooge's residence. He isn't as shocked as you might expect and notes all the details of the spirit's clothing and appearance. He "demands" to know who the spirit is, implying that he feels some sense of superiority in the situation.

Scrooge must feel comfortable with this spirit, as he "made bold to inquire what business brought [the spirit] there." His confidence is typical of his usual daily interactions; Scrooge is a keen businessman and is treating this much like a business meeting, not an opportunity for personal growth.

When the spirit tells Scrooge to follow him, Scrooge considers all the reasons he might protest: it isn't a good hour for walking; it's too cold outside; and he is already dressed for bed. However, even the businessman realizes that it would be "vain" to attempt to protest against this spirit.

Thus, Scrooge rises to meet the spirit, although he clearly isn't sold on the idea that this is either real or personally beneficial. As they journey through Scrooge's past, Scrooge does become increasingly insightful about the relationships he's abandoned along life's journeyand therefore his attitudes toward the Ghost of Christmas Past transforms as well.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Scrooge's first reaction to the Ghost of Christmas Past is one of wonder:

Being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever.

The Ghost has the ability to change its distinct qualities from light to dark, giving the appearance of a perpetually changing, shimmering being.

As the Ghost takes Scrooge on his journey to Christmases past, Scrooge's reaction becomes one of sadness and regret. Upon visiting his old school, the Ghost asks him if he remembers it: "Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed" (3). The visits to the past become more difficult when Scrooge sees Belle:

"Spirit," said Scrooge. "Show me no more. Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me."
"One shadow more!" exclaimed the Ghost. "No more!" cried Scrooge. "No more, I don't wish to see it. Show me no more."
But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms, and forced him to observe what happened next" (10).

Scrooge is forced to witness Belle, happily married, with her own family. Her husband relates to her that he saw Scrooge in his office, "quite alone in the world" (11).

Therefore, this Ghost evokes reactions of regret and melancholy for all that Scrooge has given up for the wrong reasons: Scrooge has chosen money over love.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge events of his childhood and young adulthood that make him sad.  As an older man, he is shown the images of his choices as a young man when he lost the love of Belle, the woman who left him when his ambition to be wealthy became more important than everything else in his life. 

She recognized even then, when he was a young man, that he would turn into a man who was driven by the desire for material wealth and that he would put her and his family second, coldly.  She released him from his promise to her.   

Scrooge is now an old man, who has lived a lonely life in a cold house with no warmth, no family, no wife, and no children.  He has money, but nothing else.  He is a miserable man.  When he sees Belle, he remembers what it felt like to be in love.     

When the Ghost of Christmas Past shows these events to Scrooge, he is deeply saddened; he cannot bear to look at himself as a young and foolish man who let love slip away.

"'Spirit!' said Scrooge, 'show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?'" (Dickens) 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Scrooge has several reactions during his visit from the ghost of Christmas past. At his first stop, the school he attended as a boy, he realizes how lonely he was and he is surprised that he was so interested in adventure stories like Robinson Crusoe. At the second stop, Scrooge realizes the importance of celebration when he visits Fezziwig, a man he worked for when he was young. Fezziwig celebrates Christmas by having music, dancing and food provided at his office. He tells the ghost:

"He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome, a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up, what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune."

Finally, Scrooge is saddened when he is taken to the scene when Belle, a girl to whom he was engaged, breaks the engagement because all Scrooge does is work. He then sees Belle married to another man and happy and asks the ghost to take him home.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What effect does the Ghost of Christmas Past have on Scrooge?

Initially, Scrooge feels a strong desire to see the ghost put on its extinguisher cap. He "begged him to be covered." Something about the light is painful or, at least, uncomfortable for Scrooge and he "had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap." Next, Scrooge wants to know why the spirit has come, interrupting his sleep, in the first place, and he scoffs when the Ghost says that concern for Scrooge's welfare is what brought him. 

Almost immediately, when the spirit removes Scrooge from the present and takes him into the past, Scrooge becomes aware of smells that bring back all kinds of memories. The Ghost sees that the old man's "'lip is trembling'" and he asks about a tear on Scrooge's cheek.   Then, when Scrooge is reminded of the fact that he spent his holidays alone, neglected by friends and family, "he sobbed."

When Scrooge sees the shadows of his lonely childhood, he "wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be." His weeping continues until he is reminded of the books he used to read and the characters with which he used to populate his imaginative world. Later, he cries again over his poor childhood and remembers the "'boy singing a Christmas Carol at [his] door last night'" and he now feels that he "'should like to have given him something.'" It is clear that, even at this early stage, Scrooge's goodness is being rekindled by the Ghost of Christmas Past. He still has a long way to go before he will be totally reclaimed, but his regret about how he treated the young boy at his door, as well as his copious and sincere tears, shows that he's begun to change already.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What effect does the Ghost of Christmas Past have on Scrooge?

The first of the three spirits to visit Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the Ghost of Christmas Past, who looks like a young person and an old man at the same time. The spirit takes Scrooge to several scenes of past Christmases, and several of those points affect Scrooge's view of himself and make him want to change his actions or attitudes. When he sees himself as a child at boarding school, left alone over the Christmas vacation, he wishes he had been kinder to the Christmas caroler who had come to his shop the previous evening. When he sees his sister, Fan, coming to pick him up another year to bring him home, it is implied that he may wish he treated his nephew, Fan's son, better when he invited him to Christmas dinner. The biggest effect on Scrooge in Stave Two is when he observes Fezziwig's festive employee Christmas celebration. The contrast between himself and his generous former employer is so stark that Scrooge wishes he "could say a word or two to my clerk just now," showing that he is having a change of heart about the way he treats Bob Cratchit. But when the spirit brings him to the scene of Belle breaking their engagement, and when it shows him Belle's happy life married to another man, Scrooge protests and finally responds with anger, trying to snuff the spirit out with his large cap. This shows that the changes that are taking place in Scrooge, although important, are not sufficient to help him truly "keep Christmas in his heart."

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Christmas Carol, how does Scrooge react to the events that the Ghost of Christmas Present show him?

The Ghost of Christmas Past is the second spirit to visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve. During their time together, the spirit shows Scrooge some scenarios which prompt very emotional responses. First of all, for example, the spirit and Scrooge visit the Cratchit family where a vacant seat indicates the death of Tiny Tim. On realising this, Scrooge reacts with disbelief and a strong sense of concern. He says to the spirit: "Oh no, kind spirit! Say he will be spared!" This is one of the first times that Scrooge has demonstrated concern towards another person, specifically to someone who is poorer than himself. For this reason, this is an important moment in the book.

Next, when Scrooge sees his nephew, Fred, and friends playing games in his absence, his reaction is very positive. Despite being mocked in the Yes and No game, Scrooge has become so "gay" and "light of heart" that he is able to accept other people's awareness of his character flaws without being angry or upset. Similarly, when the spirit takes him on a tour of hospitals and almshouses, Scrooge comes to understand the importance of hope, and the scene finishes with a "happy end."

What is clear from these reactions, then, is that Scrooge is undergoing an important change of heart. He is becoming more humanitarian, more understanding and more empathetic to those around him. He is prepared to make amends for the wrongs he has committed and is ready to learn his next lesson with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Christmas Carol, how does the Ghost of Christmas Future change Scrooge?

The Ghost of Christmas Future gives Scrooge a frightening glimpse into what life will be like when he dies. Because Scrooge was such a mean old skinflint in life, a man without a single friend in the world, his passing goes completely unmourned. To illustrate the point, Scrooge is shown a group of men talking about the recent death of a rich man. They talk about his funeral: how it's bound to be a cheap one and that they'll only go if lunch is provided.

Scrooge is also shown what happens to the rich man's belongings after he dies. They are stolen, and those who steal them justify their theft on the grounds that Scrooge—who isn't as yet identified as the dead man—was such a mean-spirited individual when he was alive.

Scrooge is further horrified by the sight of the dead man's corpse, covered up by nothing but a thin cloth. As Scrooge can't bring himself to pull back the cloth and look at the corpse, the Ghost whisks him off to a cemetery, where old Ebenezer is finally revealed as being the dead rich man who died unmourned, who was stolen from after he died, and who died alone.

Scrooge responds to this frightening vision, and to the death of Tiny Tim, also revealed to him by the Ghost, by agreeing to change his ways. As subsequent events will show, Scrooge's contrition is absolutely genuine; he will change for the better.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How was Scrooge visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past?

Dickens doesn't show us exactly how the spirit gets into Scrooge's room. Instead we know that Scrooge is asleep, then awakened by the clock chiming, and then the spirit pulls back the curtains on his bed to reveal himself. 

After Scrooge gets up, the spirit gestures to the window and Scrooge says he is "mortal and liable to fall," but the spirit prompts Scrooge to hold his hand. Then,

"as the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand" (Stave II).

Based on how they left the room, we might be able to assume that the spirit initially visited Scrooge in the same way, but we just don't know. Even the description of the spirit is very fantastical and leads us to believe that the spirits have many powers that we are not aware of, so the arrive into the room could have happened many ways.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on