A Christmas Carol: Summary & Analysis

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  • 0:33 The Opening Scene
  • 2:20 The Ghost of Christmas Past
  • 3:28 The Ghost of Christmas Present
  • 5:10 The Ghost of Christmas…
  • 6:01 The Reformation of Scrooge
  • 6:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
Charles Dickens' work, ''A Christmas Carol'', is probably his most well-known and beloved piece. Each year during the Christmas season, this famous story is revived once again. In this lesson, we will discover why so many people enjoy its message.

A Christmas Carol's Main Characters

In this lesson, we take a look at A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. First, let's talk about the main characters. Ebenezer Scrooge is the protagonist, a miser, and a very lonely old man. His former business partner, Jacob Marley, has been dead for seven years. The two men had built a reputation of being shrewd and merciless loan sharks in their community. Scrooge's timid clerk, Bob Cratchit, has several children at home and is very poor. Scrooge pays him very little and even begrudges giving him Christmas Day off.

Opening Scene

As the story begins, Scrooge has a visit from his nephew, Fred, who - as he does each year - invites Scrooge to Christmas dinner, and Scrooge promptly refuses. It is at this point in the story where we hear Scrooge say his famous phrase, 'Bah humbug!' in response to his nephew's cheerful 'Merry Christmas'. Scrooge becomes so irritated with Fred's cheery disposition that he says, 'Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!' This exposition definitely provides an accurate picture of Scrooge's negative state of mind.

After Fred leaves, Scrooge is visited by a portly gentleman who is seeking donations for the poor. As we can predict, Scrooge does not respond kindly to his pleas and even says that 'If the poor don't want to go live in prisons or Union Workhouses, they should die and decrease the surplus population'. The gentleman leaves empty-handed.

It is Christmas Eve when Scrooge returns home, and he is startled by a transformation in his door knocker which momentarily looks like a ghastly version of Marley's face. Scrooge shakes it off but soon hears clamoring bells and clanking chains. He is then brought face-to-face with Marley's tortured ghost. Marley has come to warn Scrooge to change his ways, or he will suffer a similar fate to Marley - a type of tortured purgatory, wandering the earth while wrapped in the links of chain forged from his own sins and disregard for human suffering. Marley promises Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts each at one o'clock in the morning for the next three days, but even after Marley leaves, Scrooge barely believes he has seen anything beyond his own imagination.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Sure enough, Scrooge is visited by the first ghost that night, a child-like looking creature, yet old, with white hair, muscular arms, and a white robe. The ghost has a glowing, glittery belt. The ghost explains that he is the ghost of Scrooge's own past. He then transports Scrooge back to his childhood where he can see people he once knew, but they, of course cannot see him. It is during this stage that we gain empathy for Scrooge, for we see that he was neglected as a child. During holidays, for instance, his parents simply leave him at boarding school alone.

The ghost soon takes Scrooge to Fezziwig's warehouse where Scrooge apprenticed as a young man. We learn that Scrooge becomes engaged to a beautiful young woman, Belle, but that he becomes obsessed with money and loses her. Scrooge is further tormented by observing Belle, happily married with children. He begs to ghost to take him from the place.

When he returns home, Scrooge is so exasperated with the ghost that he takes a candle extinguisher and forces it down upon the ghost's head, making him disappear. Scrooge then falls asleep, exhausted.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Scrooge wakes up the next night as the clock chimes to signal one o'clock. He gets out of bed, opens his door, and sees that his home has been transformed into a Christmas feast! Decorations are everywhere, and his home is glowing with torchlight. He sees turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. He also sees the Ghost of Christmas Present, who looked much like an old-fashioned Father Christmas.

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