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, how does the last ghost help Scrooge become a better person?

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In Stave Four of Dickens's A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come does, indeed, point his "inexorable finger" to various scenes that depict what will occur after Scrooge is dead, such as his body, "plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept, uncared for," and completely alone.  These scenes depict the emptiness of Scrooge's life, his lack of compassion for others, his lack of friends--in short, his despicable character.

In a scene other than those already mentioned, there is a mother with her children who speaks out of the "emotion of her heart" to her careworn husband of the "miracle" of Scrooge's death as they may be relieved of a debt which threatens to ruin them.  More poignant than this scene, however, is that of the Crachits whose dear child Tim has died.  Mr. Crachit mentions to his wife that Scrooge's nephew has been so kind in commiserating with him, "I am heartily sorry for it, Mr. Crachit." The family vows to never forget their dear child.

"Immovable as ever," the Spirit finally takes Scrooge to the graveyard where he reads his own name.  Shaken and contrite, Scrooge catches the hand of the spectre, entreating him that he may have time to change,

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year....I will not shut out the lessons that they [the other Spirits] teach.

As he holds up his hand in prayer to have his fate reversed, Scrooge witnesses the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shrink and "dwindle down into a bedpost," a bedpost that Scrooge knows is "his own," signifying that he is in charge again of his life.

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By the time the Ghost of Christmas Future takes his turn with Scrooge, the old man has been shaken up by visits to his occasionally painful Christmases past, and then to Christmases present, courtesy of the ghosts of the same name.  The Ghost of Christmas Future, clad only in a black, hooded robe, doesn't speak, but rather simply allows Scrooge to infer what is going to be an unhappy future if he continues his miserly ways.  Scrooge sees the Cratchit family in mourning, for on the current path, Tiny Tim will die from lack of medical treatment; Cratchit could never afford to get the little boy the proper care on his current salary.  Scrooge also sees people discussing his death with mild interest (the businessmen who said they would go to the funeral if there was going to be lunch served) and a couple of women commenting on his hateful disposition even as they sell items ransacked from his apartment.  Scrooge is horrified by what he sees, and desperately begs for a chance to avoid these tragic scenes--which the Ghost of Present Future allows to occur by vanishing into the air, leaving his robe in a pile on the floor, and a vastly relieved Scrooge ready to get his life together as a different person.

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