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, why didn't the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come speak?

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The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is described as a phantom, and instead of speaking, he points throughout his time with Scrooge. Scrooge asks the ghost countless questions, but perhaps the most important is: "'Answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?'"(Stave Four, 10). Because the Ghost is mute, Scrooge doesn't receive an answer to his question. The ghost continues to point to Scrooge's untended grave as an answer. Scrooge finally looks at the grave in horror.

So, why doesn't the Ghost speak? Perhaps this last Ghost is silent to show Scrooge that he really does have free will to change the future. By not giving Scrooge definite answers to his questions, the future appears changeable if Scrooge changes his present course of action. The Past has already been written, the Present is occurring, but the Future is unknown. The theme of man controlling his own destiny is emphasized by this last ghostly visit. In fact, at the end of the tale, Scrooge does change the future the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come showed him, and "he became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world..." (Stave Five, 5).

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There may be a number of reasons why Charles Dickens chooses to have the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come remain silent, even while the previous two ghosts are quite talkative. The silence of this ghost lends an air of mystery and dread, and Scrooge admits he is frightened. The black robe that shrouds the Ghost's face conjures an image of the Grim Reaper, and indeed this Ghost does show Scrooge many images of death, including a scene where the Cratchit family mourns Tiny Tim, a scene where Scrooge hears himself being talked about as if he is dead, and a scene where Scrooge sees his own tombstone in the churchyard. The silence of the Ghost implies a sort of inevitability of these possible outcomes; unlike the previous two Ghosts, Scrooge is not able to ask questions, nor to argue or defend himself or his actions. The silence also adds an air of loneliness and underscores Scrooge's lack of desire to maintain relationships with family, friends, or neighbors. Scrooge can only had his own voice, and this emphasizes his aloneness, as well as the fact that the only thing that can help prevent these possible outcomes has to come from Scrooge himself: his own initiative, his own words and deeds.

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