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 happens to Scrooge's belongings in Christmas Future and what does he learn?

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In "A Christmas Carol", the future reveals that Scrooge's belongings are stolen and sold by his servants and other unfortunates after his death, a fact that leaves him shocked and repulsed. This grim reality, coupled with the indifference of the public towards his demise, makes him realize the emptiness and insignificance of his life. Recognizing the value of people over possessions, he resolves to change his ways, which he does by becoming kinder, more generous, and more loving.

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After the Ghost of Christmas Future visits Scrooge, the old miser hears businessmen speaking of someone's death and the reference is made to "Old Scratch" being finally dead (Old Scratch is a name for the devil).

Scrooge soon finds himself taken to a rather seedy section of the city where people have brought stolen goods. One of the women, a laundress, justifies her theft, saying that Scrooge should have been kinder during life and he would have had someone to whom he could have left his riches. 

"If he wanted to keep 'em after he was dead, a wicked old screw," pursued the woman, "why wasn't he natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he'd have had somebody to look after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone by himself."

As he listens, Scrooge realizes that the very shirt in which he was prepared for death has been taken from his dead body. Scrooge is repulsed as he listens to the thieves, pondering the little value given to his life. As he shudders in terror, Scrooge finds himself on his deathbed having been plundered and left in a tragic condition.

"Spirit!" he said, "this is a fearful place. In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. Let us go!"

As Scrooge is taken back, he vows,

"I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"

The Spirit repels him, though. Still, Scrooge holds his hands up in prayer. Then, he sees the Phantom shrink and fade. "I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!" Scrooge vows.

The next day is Christmas Day, and it is a changed Scrooge who has a huge turkey sent to the Crachit home; then, he arrives at his nephew's, where he accepts an invitation to dinner. The next day, he raises the salary for Bob Crachit. Indeed, Scrooge has learned to be kinder and generous. He has care given to Tiny Tim, and the boy thinks of Mr. Scrooge as a father. 

While some people laugh at the changes made in Scrooge, his own "heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."

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Ebenezer witnesses his servants and other mistreated unfortunates stealing what they can from his home--ripping down his bed curtains, scooping up piles of clothing--in the hopes that they will be worth something.  He watches as they collect at the local junk dealer's place of business to discuss what they have and how much he will pay them for it. 

In addition, no one really mourns the death of Scrooge.  They are only there to see what they can get from what is left behind. 

To Ebenezer Scrooge, this is a sad testament to the way he has lived his life.  He wants that to change so that when he does die, people will come to the funeral to show how much he the person meant to them...not to snatch a curtain to sell later for some personal gain.

In short, he has learned that people are worth more than things, and he needs to change his greedy, miserly, miserable, and unloving ways.

This is why, upon his return from the Christmases Future experience, he is joyous to find he still has time.  He pays the young boy to get the turkey and sends it to the Cratchit home. He buys toys for area children, he attends Christmas dinner at his nephew's, and he gives Cratchit a raise.  We see from his behavior that his future will be different than that the ghosts have shown him.

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Scrooge’s belongings are stolen by his employees in the Christmas future.

When Scrooge travels into the future with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, he sees his future self.  He has no idea that the man whose life he is seeing in the future is actually himself.  He thinks of himself as a changed man, and not the miserable lonely man he was.

However, the visions the ghost shows him are from his future if he continues on his present course.  This is the Scrooge who has no one and cares about no one.  This is why when he dies no one is there except the help, and they begin to steal from him almost immediately.  They steal his bedclothes and curtains, and even the shirt off his back.

When Joe, the fence, sees the shirt he asks if Scrooge died of anything contagious.

“Don’t you be afraid of that,” returned the woman. “I an’t so fond of his company that I’d loiter about him for such things, if he did. … It’s the best he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me.” (Stave 4)

By wasting it, she means that he was supposed to be buried in it.  The maid, the undertaker, and the laundress all robbed Scrooge as soon as he was dead.  Scrooge is horrified by this.

It takes Scrooge awhile to figure out that he is seeing his own future.  When he finds himself looking at his headstone, he begs the ghost to understand that he is a changed man.

“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)

Scrooge vows to become a better person, and “honour Christmas” in his heart.  He says he will not shut out the lessons he has learned.  His point is a good one, but so is the ghost's.  Even though the images of the past and future seemed to change Scrooge, he still needed to see what direction he was going if he didn’t change.

Indeed, Scrooge keeps his word.  He donates to charity, visits his nephew, and becomes like a part of Bob Cratchit’s family.  The intervention of the spirits did the trick, and when Scrooge does die, it will not be alone.

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