The Meaning behind the Ghosts’ Visits

In A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly old man who is very selfish and cares only about himself. Throughout the course of the story he is visited by four ghosts whose job it is to show Scrooge the negative consequences of living such a selfish existence. The first ghost is Marley, an old friend, who warns Scrooge that if he continues to live his life as a miser he will meet the same fate – death. The second ghost is the Ghost of Christmas Past, who shows him several Christmases from his past and the effects that his behavior has had on the people who loved him.

The third ghost is the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows Scrooge the meager celebrations of many people, including the Cratchits. Scrooge witnesses what people really think of him. The ghost also shows him two small children named “Ignorance” and “Want” who are hidden in his robe. The fourth and final ghost is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who shows Scrooge his death. Scrooge realizes that no one would miss him if he died and also realizes how his behavior affects others. All four of the ghosts are important, but the Ghost of Christmas Present will be analyzed do discover why he takes Scrooge to the places he does and what the significance of each place is to Scrooge’s transformation.

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The Ghost of Christmas Present appears to Scrooge as a giant wearing a green robe. He instructs Scrooge to touch his robe and when Scrooge follows orders his home fades and busy city street on Christmas morning takes its place (Dickens, 1843). Scrooge is able to witness the joy of so many people as they shovel snow, carry gifts and call out “Merry Christmas!” to one another. This opening scene is meant to show Scrooge what he missing by being such a selfish person. He sees the happiness that others feel on Christmas morning and soon realizes that he will spend Christmas alone and that no one will be bringing him gifts or wishing him a “Merry Christmas!” The whole point of showing this scene to Scrooge first is to prove to him that his miserly ways are causing him to miss out on the good things in life.

Shortly, Scrooge is transported to the home of Bob Cratchit, his employee. He watches Mrs. Cratchit prepare a Christmas dinner of goose and sees that the children only get a few small treats as gifts. The scene shows the Cratchit’s three children. The oldest daughter had to work on Christmas Day and is just returning home. The middle child is wearing his father’s old hand me down clothes. It is the smallest boy, Tiny Tim that prompts the first change in Scrooge. Tiny Tim is crippled and Scrooge can tell he is sick. He asks the Ghost of Christmas Present if the boy is going to die to which the Ghost responds that “there will be an empty chair next year” (Dickens, 1843).

Scrooge is also able to see that despite their meager feast and the sickness of Tiny Tim, the family is happy to be celebrating Christmas together. Scrooge had never bothered to visit the Cratchit’s home or to find out anything about the family. This scene shows Scrooge that his behavior has negative consequences for others. He quickly realizes the dramatic consequences of his selfish behavior. He barely pays Bob Cratchit enough to survive let alone get medical care for his sick son. Scrooge comes to realize that his habit of counting his money has cost him valuable relationships and caused the heartbreak of many other people (Dickens, 1843).

Scrooge is then taken to several other locations where people are celebrating Christmas. He sees a community of miners and a party aboard a ship. These locations once again show Scrooge that it doesn’t matter how much money one has – it is more important to be surrounded by friends and family members especially on such a wonderful holiday as Christmas. Scrooge is also able to see a party at Fred’s house. The guests are unaware that Scrooge is there but Scrooge has a great time anyway (Dickens, 1843). This scene shows Scrooge that spending time having fun and celebrating Christmas with loved ones is so much more rewarding than having a lot of money.

The final place that Scrooge is taken to is an isolated place where he meets the two small children who travel with the Ghost of Christmas Present. The little girl is named “Want” and the little boy is named “Ignorance.” The two children are starving and Scrooge wonders aloud if there is anything that can be done to help them. The ghost reminds Scrooge of his past behavior when he refused to help those in need (Dickens, 1843). This scene again gives Scrooge startling evidence that his actions have negative consequences for others. The ghost is able to show Scrooge that his selfish ways stand in the way of helping others – such as medical care for Tiny Tim or food for the two starving children. The names of the children are a final testament to Scrooge’s miserly ways. When a person is ignorant and wants everything other people have to go without.

The first scene of a wonderful Christmas morning instills a desire to be happy into Scrooge. Watching Tiny Tim struggle to walk begins to allow Scrooge to feel empathy for the plight of others. At the same time, he realizes that he could afford the biggest and best feast but it wouldn’t mean anything without loved ones to share it with. This is the most important scene in the story because it is the turning point in Scrooge’s life. It is through watching a sick little boy show happiness to simply be celebrating Christmas that Scrooge realizes the error of his ways.

He develops a small amount of empathy as he discovers that he doesn’t want Tiny Tim to die. The scenes that come next build on this feeling by showing him the true reward of Christmas doesn’t come in any amount of money but rather comes in spending time with loved ones. The scene with the two small children once again proves that money is better put to use helping others than by hoarding it for oneself. When the Ghost of Christmas Present disappears Scrooge is left with the knowledge that Christmas is about sharing with others. Scrooge has finally learned that it really is better to give than to receive.

Dickens, Charles. (1843). A Christmas Carol. United Kingdom:



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