A Christmas Carol Essay
Many times in life, we do not realize the importance of something until it is gone and is too late to reclaim. However, in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, we are told the story of a man who, although undeserving, is offered an opportunity to redeem himself, to receive a second chance. This man, Ebenezer Scrooge, is changed forever by the valuable lessons taught by four spirits: those of his deceased partner Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. Scrooge is first visited by the phantom of his departed companion, and sole friend, Jacob Marley.
Appearing on the knocker to his old chambers, Marley's horrifying face is the first sign of the remarkable, life-changing night yet to come. However, it is only until Ebenezer Scrooge actually sees 'Marley, in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head' (p. 17) that the old man truly believes that he was not merely seeing a reverie. The specter proceeded to warn Scrooge to change his callous, avarice ways, or to be as Marley after death: dwelling on regret and self-torment, weighed down by 'the chain [he] forged in life' (p. 21).
Knowing Ebenezer as a man of sensible nature, the ghost offers further proof that there are forever consequences, even after life. Shocked, Scrooge glimpses 'the air filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste,' (p. 25) and recognizes many as long forgotten business associates: as greedy and heartless as he. Although Jacob Marley appeared for only a brief moment, he was the most significant and influential spirit: for it was he who imparted the moral that all faults in life are paid for ten-fold in death, and who, more importantly, prepared the pragmatic man for the supernatural appearances that would follow.
The second to appear is the Spirit of Christmas Past, bringing with it a flood of poignant, haunting memories. Each evokes a new feeling, repressed anguish or forgotten happiness, felt by Scrooge during a Christmas long-ago. The first was the reminiscence of 'a solitary child, neglected by his friends' (p. 34). However dismal this scene may appear, the boy was in high spirits, washing away his solitude in a story. Scrooge is shown that one may find joy in simple things, such as a book.
At the same school many years later, the old man sees 'a girl, much younger than the boy, [come] darting in' (p. 37). His sister is a reminder that he had once been loved, but more importantly, that he himself had cared deeply for something other than money. The scene then switches to his first, truly happy Christmas, during his apprentice to Fezziwig. From this man, Scrooge learns one of life's most valuable lessons: a kind act coming from the heart, rather than from money, is what earns greater respect and appreciation.
Recalling how 'the happiness he [gave was] quite as great as if it cost a fortune' (p. 44), Ebenezer is faced with the remorse of his unkindness to those below him, such as his clerk. However, by this time the landscape has changed once more, into a grey, heartbreaking memory. The old man is confronted by Belle, his fiancee, as she explains why she must give up the battle for his love, as money is much too powerful a competitor. She appears then, years later, surrounded by a loving family that should have been his, and a husband with the life he could have had.
The Ghost of Christmas Past, and all that it shows to Scrooge, is heart wrenching for a man whose early life seeps with dire mistakes and terrible regrets. The next phantom to appear is that of Christmas Present, awash in splendid glory, bright colours and a glorious feast of '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' (p. 3). The Christmas celebrations about to be revealed, however, are of none of the same elegance and abundance. The first house the Ghost and Scrooge visit is that of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's clerk. His wonder turns into shock as his eyes open to the other side of the world, a side he had been shunning for as long as he could. Tiny Tim is a symbol of all the poor, hopeless children the world ignores, having nothing, yet finding reason to be cheerful. Scrooge is in awe that, with so little, the Cratchits are able to make so much of the Holiday.
He is in even greater wonder when they toast to him since he has treated them with low respect. Next, Ebenezer sees the Christmas party at his nephew's house: although they are without means, they enjoy themselves so thoroughly, that the old man himself '[begs] like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed,' (p. 78). Finally, before the ghost departs, he reveals man's two faults: ignorance and want, both of which, previously, Scrooge had in abundance.
The Spirit of Christmas past is vital to Ebenezer's dramatic change, as he unearths the truth that one does not need to be rich to live a successful, happy life, and uncovers his eyes to a world the he has struggled to hide from. The last to appear is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and is much different then its predecessors. This spirit, unlike the more approachable and welcoming Christmas Past and Present, petrifies Scrooge. Because 'the air through which this Spirit moved seemed to scatter gloom and mystery' (p. 3), this final specter has the most lasting impression on the old man.
It shows him images of his own death, and the unaltered, blank expressions on the faces of those receiving news of his passing. The realization that he has none to blame but himself for others' lack of caring finally dawns upon Ebenezer, and he vows, in that moment, to transform all the sorrow he had caused into happiness, and all the bad he had done into good.