The Cautionary Tale of ‘A Christmas Carol’

Many people know and love the holiday story of "A Christmas Carol." Learn more about it on Youth Time.

The Story Behind the Book

Charles Dickens, perhaps the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, was born in Portsmouth, England in 1812. Unlike a lot of famous poets, novelists or just writers in general who did not have their work recognized during their lifetimes, Dickens was celebrated as a literary genius. From his first novel in 1833 until his death in 1870 he completed nineteen novels in total. 

The Victorian Era played a huge role in Dickens’ writing. Some consider his work as a social document of that era in Britain history, as it paints somewhat of a picture what it was like living during those times. 

A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, at a delicate time in Britain when there was a general feeling that people were leaving Christian values behind. Thus, the main character of the story ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’ was born, a wealthy yet mean old man who does not care about Christmas and very much represents the secularism of the time through the eyes of Dickens. Scrooge is to be visited by three ghosts who represent a last chance for his soul before death. 


The Story of the Book

‘Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.’

The book is divided the book into five chapters, or as Dickens referred to them as “Staves”. The first chapter begins with the death of Marley, the long-time partner of Scrooge who lead a life very much in pursuit of wealth. Upon his death, Scrooge is the only one to attend the funeral, setting up the idea that living this kind of life ultimately leads to finding yourself alone on your deathbed with no one who actually cares for you around. 

During the first chapter, Marley’s Ghost, Scrooge is set up as a cold hearted man who is not willing to give money to those in need under any circumstance. Later visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Marley, Scrooge is told that he is to be visited by three ghosts, one each night as the bell tolls one o’clock. 

The First of the Three Spirits is the ghost of Christmas past- more specifically Scrooge’s past. The ghost is described like a child and like an old man at the same time, with muscular arms and a bright clear jet of light coming from its crown of its head. With a gentle voice and its Spirit abilities, the ghost takes Scrooge on a journey to his boarding school past. Here Scrooge reminisces on a different time, as he sees his little sister Fan, his employer Mr. Fezziwig, and relives his breakup from his at-the-time fiancée Belle. She leaves him due to Scrooge’s obsession with money and neglect of her. As they go back the night Marley died, seven years ago, Belle is now happily married to another man. Scrooge can’t handle the emotions anymore and demands to leave.  

The Second of the Three Spirits appears next in Scrooge’s own room, albeit now a bit altered. ‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. After touching the green robe of the Spirit, suddenly, Scrooge finds himself standing in the city streets on Christmas Morning. People filled with joy are everywhere buying Christmas dinners and preparing for celebrations. Next, the Spirit takes Scrooge over to Bob Cratchit’s house where Tiny Tim is introduced; a kind, smart kid who walks around with a crane and has taken seriously ill and whose fate seems to be death. Scrooge notices something underneath the Spirit’s robe; two kids with nightmarish looks, the boy representing Ignorance and the girl Want. Scrooge says he’s ready for the Third Spirit as a dark shadow appears.  

The Last of the Spirits is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, or ‘The Phantom’. Scrooge finds himself terrified at the dark Spirit staring directly into him. The Phantom does not say one word, but merely takes Scrooge to observe a conversation from a Christmas in the near future. A few men are heard talking on the streets about the recent death of a certain someone whom nobody truly liked and nobody will actually attend the funeral of, unless lunch is provided of course. The only emotion shown is that of a joyful family who are now relieved that after his death they’ll have more time to get to pay their debts. ‘The only emotion that the Ghost could show him, caused by the event, was one of pleasure.’ Bob Cratchit and his family are seen mourning the death of Tiny Tim, as Scrooge is taken his grave as he begs the Spirit to give him one last chance to change his ways. 

The End of It – Scrooge looks around and notices he’s finally back in his room. It’s still Christmas morning as he joyfully dances around in his room. Then, immediately sends a big Turkey to Bob Cratchit’s family, and goes to his Nephew’s Christmas dinner that he was invited to every year but never went before. He gives to charity and makes a promise to Bob that he will increase his pay and help his family and Tiny Tim as much as he can. 

‘Scrooge was better than his word.’ He never had any other contact with the Spirits and it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well. ’May that be truly said of us, and all of us!’ 


Picture: Shutterstock / 1443568967

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