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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In A Christmas Carol, what supernatural encounters inspire Scrooge's moral transformation?

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Scrooge's transformation from cold, cruel miser to warm, charitable man is effected after his confrontations with the ghost of his former partner and three spirits:  the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

Marley's Ghost

When Scrooge returns from his "melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern," and he reaches his door, he is amazed to find that the knocker on the door resembles the face of his deceased partner of seven years, Marley. Somewhat unnerved, Scrooge passes through his rooms to assure himself that all is normal. Satisfied, he locks himself in; however, the spirit of Marley passes through his door, dragging a chain from around his waist. Terrorized, Scrooge feels that the specter's voice disturbs "the very marrow in his bones."  He asks this ghost, "Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?" The ghost of Jacob Marley explains that he must wander the earth with his chains, seeking to help others, but unable to do so. He tells his
old partner Scrooge that he has come to warn him because he stll has a chance to escape Marley's fate. Further, he tells Scrooge he will be visited by other spirits.

The Spirit of Christmas Past

True to Marley's warning, when the bell tolls one, and Scrooge meets "an unearthly visitor." This new apparition returns Scrooge to his happy childhood when he came home from school and worked for the jovial and generous Mr. Fezziwig.  Then, Ebenezer Scrooge sees himself as a young man who begins to have the look of avarice in his eye. A pretty young woman sits near him with tears in her eyes, declaring, "Another idol has replaced me...Saddened greatly by this memory, the spirit shows him Belle as a matron, surrounded by a loving, happy family. After a time, the husband returns home and tells Belle that he has seen Scrooge, and learned that his partner Marley has died. He says Scrooge is not far from death, either. Greatly unnerved, Scrooge begs to be taken home; so, the spirit drops him amid great light.

The Spirit of Christmas Present

Again, Scrooge is awakened on the next night by the Spirit of Christmas Present, who takes him into the festive streets of London. where revellers carry home dinners. From there they go to Bob Crachit's dwelling where the spirit blesses the four-room house. Inside, the large family exclaim over a "wonderful goose," and toast each other. As he watches, Scrooge asks the spirit if Tiny Tim will live; the ghost informs him that unless the "shadows" are removed from him, little Tim will die and "decrease the surplus population."  These words of his make Scrooge hang his head in shame.

Scrooge is taken to see poor miners enjoying Christmas. Later he witnesses two lonely men at a lighthouse holding hands and celebrating Christmas. Finally, he is taken to Fred's house where he observes his nephew, and joyous family and friends. After this visit, the spirit shows Scrooge two miserable children; the boy is Ignorance and the girl is Want. When Scrooge asks, "Have they no refuge or resource, again the spirit quotes Scrooge, "Are there no prisons? workhouses?" and disappears.

The Spirit of Christmas Future

Scrooge's experience with the sight of himself dead and the rag pickers arguing over his clothes and no one to mourn for him, moves him, indeed.  And, when he witnesses the Cratchits grieving for their lost Tiny Tim, he begs for the chance to alter his ways. In Stave V, then, it is a reformed Scrooge who visits Fred and generously cares for Tiny Tim.





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