A Christmas Carol is the most read story of Charles Dickens. The story shows the reform of the miserly Scrooge, which has become one of the greatest symbols of humanity.
The very title of the story suggests that it is about Christmas. The opening of the story initiates the theme. The writer at the outset tells that Scrooge and Marley were partners by profession for a very long period and Marley was now dead. After his death all the legal rights were in the sole possession of Scrooge. The writer refers to the ghost of Hamlet’s father to prepare the readers that the story will be about spirits at the centre of the story.
We are told that Scrooge is a hard-hearted, old and covetous sinner. The coldness of heart and cruelty of head were prominent on the face and figure of Scrooge. He is an isolated figure and does not enjoy any kind of social relations. Neither human beings nor animals had a fellow feeling with him. The story is set on a Christmas Eve. Old Scrooge is shown busy in his counting-house. It was late afternoon and the clerk in the counting-house was copying letters in candle light. Everything was dull and damp when Scrooge suddenly heard a cheerful voice of his nephew wishing him ‘a merry Christmas’. Scrooge retorts coldly and cruelly and wishes that everybody wishing merry Christmas should be killed. Both the uncle and the nephew have a heated argument over the issue and when the clerk tries to interfere he is bluntly silenced by Scrooge. At the departure of Scrooge’s nephew two people enter the office and ask for some donation to help the poor and destitutes. The two gentlemen too are rebuked and forced out without a single penny from Scrooge’s pockets.
Next came a singer of Christmas Carol, but he too was forced to run away in fear lest he should be hit by Scrooge. By this time the hour of departure of the clerk arrived and after along debate he is provided with the next day’s holiday though quite reluctantly on the part of Scrooge. The office was closed and Scrooge went to his residence after having meals. As he reached the door of his bedroom he had a strange feeling of seeing Marley’s face on the door.He was surprised and frightened but soon discarded the feeling of fear considering it to be nothing but a hallucination of his mind.
He shut the door behind him and retired to bed. But very soon there was a booming sound and with that entered a spirit through the closed door into his room. Scrooge gathered courage to take to the spirit and learnt that it was the spirit of his deceased partner Jacob Marley, who had died seven years ago on the same day. The spirit is seen fettered and when Scrooge asks the reason for it, the ghost of Marley replies that it was the chain forged by him in his life by his own free will and he wore it by the same free will. Now Scrooge pleads Marley’s ghost to speak to him. When Scrooge reminds the ghost that during his life time he was a good man of business, the ghost painfully replied that his true business was the welfare of mankind to which he did not attend honestly. The ghost of Marley further says that his purpose to visit him that night was to warn him that he (Scrooge) still had chance to escape the same painful fate. The ghost also tells Scrooge that very soon three Spirits will visit him. With these words Marley’s ghost disappeared and Scrooge went straight to bed and immediately fell asleep.
Scrooge opened his eyes only to hear twelve strokes by the chimes of a nearby church and was surprised to think that he had slept till twelve in the noon and anxiously looked through the window to see everything covered in extreme darkness, he then realized that still it was midnight. He started thinking about his meeting with Marley’s ghost. Time passed and the church clock struck one and suddenly there was light in his room and the curtains of his bed were drawn aside. At that moment Scrooge found a Spirit standing near him with strange looks. It was dressed in purest white. Scrooge spoke to the spirit asking if it was the some Spirit as was told by Marley’s ghost, and the Spirit replied in the affirmative. The Spirit told Scrooge that it was “the ghost of Christmas Past”. The Spirit said that it had come to him for his welfare. It asked Scrooge to ride and walk with him. The Spirit air-lifted Scrooge and took him to his childhood days into the past.
Scrooge saw a school where a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire, he also saw some other things dear to him during his childhood and Scrooge for the first time had tears in his eyes and wished he should have helped the poor boy singing Christmas Carol at his door the previous night. Scrooge was shown another scene by the Spirit in which he saw a little girl calling him “Dear, dear brother”. She told him that it was Christmas time and she had come to fetch him to home, at this the poor, hopeless boy jumped in delight and the school master granted leave to the little boy. This entire scene delighted old Scrooge and he remembered his dear sister who was already dead and was survived by one son.
The Spirit further carried Scrooge to his place of apprenticeship and old Scrooge was pleased to see his master old Fezziwig who was a jolly fellow. Scrooge sees the scene of his apprenticeship and the Christmas Eve when Fezziwig prohibited them from work and asked them to join the ball at his home. The scene now shifts to Fezziwig’s house where a huge gathering is seen dancing and enjoying. Scrooge also heard the words spoken by him in praise of Fezziwig, and feels that Fezziwig deserved such praise on account of the extra money spent on him, which provided him greatest pleasure. Just at that instant old Scrooge recollected his own harsh treatment towards his clerk and wished he could also do something for him like old Fezziwig.
Now the scene shifts to a young woman conversing with a young man who has turned hostile to her on account of newly acquired riches. She said that he would never choose a dowerless girl and so she will no more trouble him with her love, with these words she left him. Old Scrooge was pained to see all this, as the young man in the scene was nobody else but his own self. The Spirit shows one last scene in which this young woman is shown leading a happy married life as mother of one sweet daughter. Old Scrooge feels the pinch in his heart for his foolish decision of marrying money and profit and losing the real wealth of life that is true love.
Finally, Scrooge pleads earnestly before the Spirit to free him and carry him back to his present life, which being done by the Spirit, Scrooge sank into a heavy sleep immediately.
After the first of the three Spirits departs Scrooge falls in deep sleep. However he awakes suddenly and listens to the stroke of clock, which declares it is One. He sits up and waits for the second Spirit. More than an hour has elapsed but no Spirit enters his room. After sometime he concentrates upon a blaze of ruddy light which shone upon his bed and wishes to search its origins. He rises from his bed and starts towards the door as he touches the lock, a strange voice asks him to enter the adjoining room. He enters and finds a Giant sitting on the couch holding a torch in his hand. The spirit announces to Scrooge that he was the Ghost of Christmas Present. The Spirit asks Scrooge if he had ever seen him before,and Scrooge replies in the negative.
Scrooge now implored the Spirit to take him wherever he felt appropriate. The Spirit carried Scrooge through the streets of the city into the Christmas Morning. There was heavy snowfall and people were removing shoes, and were joking and laughing at the some time. The markets were full of various dainties to be enjoyed with. The writer thus displays a world full of eatables and enjoyment. In fact, it is the true picture of a festive season. As both of them crossed the streets they found everybody cheerful. They also saw some stray incidents of quarrel, which too were soon patched up. The evening approached and the people moved from market to their houses to celebrate the most pious day of the year. Both Scrooge and the Spirit moved through the streets when Scrooge asked the Spirit to bless the poor with the sprinkling of his torch which has the power to provide a particular flavor to the Christmas food.
The first house chosen by the Spirit was that of Bob Cratchit. The four roomed house of Bob is shown from inside with the members of the family showering love and blessings upon each other. The intimacy among the inmates of the house added extra charm to the festival. Tiny Tim, the youngest child of the family was loved most owing to his innocence and his crippled frame of body. The parents displayed anxiousness at the pitiable form of their heart’s desire. The dinner is set and enjoyed by everybody; the mashed potatoes, the goose, the pudding and everything else was delicious and the meal ended with custard and roasted chest-nuts.
Scrooge was pained to see Bob who always held Tim close for the fear of losing him. Scrooge inquired if Tim will live or die, the spirit replied he cannot say for sure. At this Scrooge pleaded the Spirit to spare Tim and the Spirit echoed Scrooge’s word as he said: “ If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Scrooge at this point felt grief for his callousness towards his unprivileged fellow human beings. By now the time had arrived for the toast and Bob declared to drink it to Mr Scrooge. At this the whole family was angry at Bob, because nobody in the family liked Scrooge, not even Tiny Tim. The author described the family as a poor one yet happier. Scrooge was moved to hear and see all this.
Now they moved further looking at the preparations going on in some other families.They passed through the street of Miners. These people were also singing Christmas songs.The duo then crossed the sea and visited a ship. Here also everybody was colored with Christmas colors. The next destination of the spirit and Scrooge was the house of Fred, the nephew of Scrooge. Fred was seen by them both laughing heartily and he was joined in his laughter by his wife. Scrooge heard that both were talking about him. Scrooge found that Fred had sympathy for him even though he treated Fred badly. Scrooge was moved by this scene.Fred further says that Scrooge hates Christmas time, yet he (Fred) will go to wish him ‘Marry Christmas’ year after year so that he(Scrooge) may at least develop the wish to help his own clerk with some money. The family of Fred enjoyed some music and played some games to celebrate the Christmas night. Finally, the family drank toast to the health of Uncle Scrooge.Here Scrooge realises that there are people in this world who love him despite his evil nature.This journey was a lesson to him. Now the time arrived for the departure of the Spirit, but before going away he showed two children to Scrooge, which he told were ‘Ignorance’ the boy and ‘Want’ the girl. The Spirit warned Scrooge to be careful of these two and with these words of warning the Spirit disappeared.
The final apparition which appeared before Scrooge was the Ghost of Christmas Future. When this Spirit came near Scrooge it was hooded and except an outstretched hand nothing could be seen of it. The Spirit did not speak but only pointed with its hand to the query raised by Scrooge. The Spirit of Christmas Future led Scrooge to a place where some businessmen were talking about the death of a person and the conversation showed that the per-son in discussion was not held in esteem. One speaker commented “Old Scratch had got his own at last.”
Now the two moved on to ugly shop where the owner was sitting surrounded by three customers. All the four were cutting jokes on a person now dead, who accumulated wealth in his life only to be plundered by these four people after his death. The three people had stolen things from the house of this dead man and were selling them to this shopkeeper who on his own part was getting profited by underpaying them. Scrooge was shocked to see the behavior of these people. This was the real picture of selfish human beings. Scrooge now pleaded the spirit to carry him to any such house in the town where the people were emotional at his death.The scene now shifted to one of Scrooge’s debtors where the wife felt sorry and emotional at this death. However, the emotion was not of sorrow but pleasure and thus the Spirit could show Scrooge only the emotion of pleasure at the death of this man. Next, Scrooge wished to see some tenderness at the death of this man.
The spirit carried Scrooge to the house of Poor Bob Cratchit. The family was discussing the humane nature of Fred and trying to forget the sad demise of Tiny Tim. The tenderness moved Scrooge greatly and he persuaded the Spirit to tell him the name of the dead man. The Ghost carried Scrooge to a Churchyard with a grave having the name of EBENEZER SCROOGE. This was the most shocking experience for Scrooge and he promised the Ghost213to be a changed person from now onwards. With this promise from Scrooge, the Spirit vanished.
The author now changes the character of Scrooge completely and instead of a callous and miserly person he becomes a fairy godfather. After waking up in the morning Scrooge laughed as if for the first time in life. He called a boy and talked to him and asked him to call the Poulterer. When the Poulterer arrived Scrooge made payment for the prize turkey and sent it to Bob Cratchit as Christmas gift. Scrooge himself dressed in his best and went out. He visited his nephew’s house to dine with him which was a pleasant surprise to the whole family. The next morning when Bob came to office Scrooge was present in advance. Bob was afraid to be late but was exhilarated to hear an increment in his salary from that very day.
The changed Scrooge was received well by everybody and the Christmas Spirit of Past, Present and Future transformed him from a demon into an angel. The writer at this change in the character of Scrooge, comments. “His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.”