Study Guide

A Christmas Carol Quotes

  • Philosophical Viewpoints: Rationality

    Stave 1

    "What else can I be," returned the uncle, "when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "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!" (1.21)

    Ah, here we are. This is a spot on summary of the kind of overreaching Dickens was worried about in the utilitarian theories of the economists—that the bottom line is the end all and be all, and that nothing else should matter to a self-interested individual but the state of his finances.

    Marley's face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look […]

    As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again.

    To say that he was not startled, or that his blood was not conscious of a terrible sensation to which it had been a stranger from infancy, would be untrue. But he put his hand upon the key he had relinquished, turned it sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle. (1.82-84)

    This is the first instance of Scrooge fighting off the supernatural and its effects—the "terrible sensation"—by committing to his nonsense-free and oh so "sturdy" approach to the world.

    No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before; he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses. (1.100)

    Okay, so now it really gets interesting. Scrooge's senses—arguably the very things you are supposed to use in order to get real information about what is happening—are telling him that Marley's ghost is indeed sitting smack dab in front of him. But (and this is a big but) Scrooge is now blocking even his senses by relying solely on the internal logic of his brain. He is secluding and isolating himself further and further as his only means of self-defense. That, and Alka-Seltzer, which is sure to clear up that indigestion and make the ghosts go bye-bye.

    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "There's another fellow," muttered Scrooge; who overheard him: "my clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas. I'll retire to Bedlam." (1.44)

    Okay, so first of all, a quick Shmoop FYI: Bedlam is the famous London hospital for the insane. Now that we've got that tidbit out of the way, we'll point out that Scrooge is unable to reconcile the idea of someone having positive emotions and at the same time being financially insecure—the very thought of mixing these two things seems crazy—Bedlam-worthy.

    Stave 2
    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "Why, it's Ali Baba!" Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. "It's dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know! One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And Valentine," said Scrooge, "and his wild brother, Orson; there they go!" […]

    To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in the city, indeed.

    "There's the Parrot!" cried Scrooge. "Green body and yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the top of his head; there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called him, when he came home again after sailing round the island." (2.57-59)

    The fact that little Ebenezer reads fantasy fiction rather than history or biography as a child is meant to be a tip-off about his eventual transformation, don't you think? If he was willing to buy into it then, he'll probably be able to buy into it again really soon.

    Stave 3

    Gentlemen of the free-and-easy sort, who plume themselves on being acquainted with a move or two, and being usually equal to the time-of-day, express the wide range of their capacity for adventure by observing that they are good for anything from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter; between which opposite extremes, no doubt, there lies a tolerably wide and comprehensive range of subjects. Without venturing for Scrooge quite as hardily as this, I don't mind calling on you to believe that he was ready for a good broad field of strange appearances, and that nothing between a baby and rhinoceros would have astonished him very much. (3.2)

    Okay, but none of those things is actually supernatural, is it? Babies, rhinoceroses, manslaughter, and pitch-and-toss are all regularly occurring things. We're thinking that this passage might be a bit facetious.

    Stave 4

    Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it. The Spirit paused a moment, as observing his condition, and giving him time to recover.

    But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black. (4.8-9)

    Why does it make it even scarier that the phantom is watching and reacting to him rather than simply indifferently existing in space? Actually, wait, we just answered our own question.

    Stave 5

    He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards. (5.71)

    So does this mean that he still tries to rely on his rationality? We thought he just transformed, whole hog. Were we wrong?

    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "There's the saucepan that the gruel was in!" cried Scrooge, starting off again, and going round the fireplace. "There's the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered! There's the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present, sat! There's the window where I saw the wandering Spirits! It's all right, it's all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!" (5.8)

    Look how far away from rationality and logic we've come—Scrooge's proof of the reality of the experience is the fact that… everything is back to the way that it was in his house. Think about every movie that has the protagonist waking up from a dream only to find some element of that dream actually exists in waking life, and now compare that to this, where nothing of the ghosts remains. What in the world are we supposed to do with that?

    It was a Turkey! He never could have stood upon his legs, that bird. He would have snapped 'em short off in a minute, like sticks of sealing-wax.

    "Why, it's impossible to carry that to Camden Town," said Scrooge. "You must have a cab." (5.32-33)

    Scrooge's powers of logic are now entirely bent in the service and economic benefit of others. Check out how instead of shrugging his shoulder at the difficulties faced by others (as he had when he said that the poor should be satisfied with jail, the workhouse, or death), now he uses his resources to solve the logistical problems in front of him. Would this kind of thinking work on a larger scale though?

  • Family

    Stave 1

    He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever. (1.172)

    Dickens's own original version of hell—being able to see but not being able to help family members. That would really only work on the emotionally healthy, though, no?

    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "Good afternoon," said Scrooge.

    "I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?"

    "Good afternoon," said Scrooge. (1.36-37)

    It's never really all that well explained why Fred wants to have anything to do with Scrooge, right? But then again the very lack of explanation—the idea that "well, he's family"—is pretty powerful in its own right.

    Stave 2

    They were in another scene and place; a room, not very large or handsome, but full of comfort. Near to the winter fire sat a beautiful young girl, so like that last that Scrooge believed it was the same, until he saw her, now a comely matron, sitting opposite her daughter. The noise in this room was perfectly tumultuous, […] but no one seemed to care; on the contrary, the mother and daughter laughed heartily, and enjoyed it very much; and the latter, soon beginning to mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young brigands most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to be one of them! Though I never could have been so rude, no, no! […] And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to have questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest licence of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value. (2.136)

    Um, whoa, back off there, narrator. What's with this weird moment when the narrator wants to get in there and get some all of a sudden? The family is clearly awesome, but the strange "man I wish I could make out with that girl" is a little off-putting, isn't it?

    In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother's particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. (2.93)

    Check out how not all of these people are actually biologically related, but the text really merges them into one big happy family. The repetition of the words "In came" unites all these crazy characters as a loving unit—at least for this night.

    "You are quite a woman, little Fan!" exclaimed the boy.

    She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loth to go, accompanied her. […]

    "Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered," said the Ghost. "But she had a large heart! […] She died a woman," said the Ghost, "and had, as I think, children. […] Your nephew!"

    Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly, "Yes." (2.71-79)

    It seems to finally sink in here that Fred is Scrooge's last tether to the world of his childhood, which clearly was in some ways miserable, but was also the last place to feature love—his love for his sister.

    Stave 3

    […] young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.


    [...] in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame! (3.41,50)

    Um, awkward. The reader is put in a strange position of having to simultaneously feeling sorry for the poverty of the Cratchits, and at the same time feeling inferior to their good cheer and unflagging happiness. Is this confusing or problematic? Or can these feelings co-exist with reasonable ease?

    Stave 4

    Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for this is thy dominion! But of the loved, revered, and honoured head, thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. […]

    No voice pronounced these words in Scrooge's ears, and yet he heard them when he looked upon the bed. He thought, if this man could be raised up now, what would be his foremost thoughts? Avarice, hard-dealing, griping cares? They have brought him to a rich end, truly!

    He lay, in the dark empty house, with not a man, a woman, or a child, to say that he was kind to me in this or that, and for the memory of one kind word I will be kind to him. (4.81-83)

    Is this fear of not being remembered in death the strongest fear in the novella? Is this because Scrooge has left nothing in the world that would allow his memory to live on at least in some way? No children, no memorable deeds, no friends—bupkis. If he disappears, all that would be left would be his firm, which would simply pass on to another businessperson.

    Stave 5

    Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. (5.70)

    Again, we get the word repetition, here with the adjective "good", which firmly cements Scrooge's new standing as a super awesome dude all around. It's nice that Tiny Tim has gotten over thinking of him as an ogre, no?

  • Isolation

    Stave 1
    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "It's not my business," Scrooge returned. "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!" (1.65)

    Here, Scrooge is more like Dickens's later creations, Mr. Podsnad (from Our Mutual Friend) or Mrs. General (from Little Dorrit)—characters who want to enclose and isolate the unpleasant from their sight because it's just too pesky to deal with.

    Scrooge knew [Marley] was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. (1.4)

    It's interesting that he and Marley basically had the same lifestyle. We initially get the sense that with Marley's death, Scrooge lost his last bridge to humanity. Which of course is immediately shown to be untrue when we meet Fred and Bob Cratchit. Why the fake out?

    "How it is that I appear before you in a shape that you can see, I may not tell. I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day." It was not an agreeable idea. Scrooge shivered, and wiped the perspiration from his brow. (1.155)

    That's pretty creepy. Also, compare this to how Scrooge watches his own clerk from his little office. He's a bit of a ghost himself.

    Stave 2

    "The school is not quite deserted," said the Ghost. "A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still."

    Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed. (2.51-52)

    How would our understanding of Scrooge be different if we didn't get this backstory of loneliness and abandonment? Would you just be a full-on Scrooge-hater?

    And now Scrooge looked on more attentively than ever, when the master of the house, having his daughter leaning fondly on him, sat down with her and her mother at his own fireside; and when he thought that such another creature, quite as graceful and as full of promise, might have called him father, and been a spring-time in the haggard winter of his life, his sight grew very dim indeed.

    "Belle," said the husband, turning to his wife with a smile, "I saw an old friend of yours this afternoon. […]

    "Mr. Scrooge it was. I passed his office window; and as it was not shut up, and he had a candle inside, I could scarcely help seeing him. His partner lies upon the point of death, I hear; and there he sat alone. Quite alone in the world, I do believe." (2.138-39,143)

    The triple isolation here is a pretty neat trick—Scrooge is watching them talk about his mental and emotional isolation while actually being physically (magically? supernaturally? paranormally?) isolated from them, and while imagining how different his life could have been had he not walled himself off as much as he had.

    Stave 3

    Built upon a dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league or so from shore, on which the waters chafed and dashed, the wild year through, there stood a solitary lighthouse. […]

    But even here, two men who watched the light had made a fire, that through the loophole in the thick stone wall shed out a ray of brightness on the awful sea. Joining their horny hands over the rough table at which they sat, they wished each other Merry Christmas in their can of grog; and one of them: the elder, too, with his face all damaged and scarred with hard weather, as the figure-head of an old ship might be: struck up a sturdy song that was like a Gale in itself. (3.93-94)

    The images of people trying their best to escape from being isolated are really quite moving, even if they are rather generic and Hallmark-card-like. Hey, if two old cruddy dudes in a lighthouse can make the best of it, well then so can Scrooge.

    Stave 4

    "Ha, ha!" laughed the same woman, when old Joe, producing a flannel bag with money in it, told out their several gains upon the ground. "This is the end of it, you see! He frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead! Ha, ha, ha!" (4.76)

    What's great about this scene is that Scrooge's isolation in life is subverted by the way his house and body are invaded and violated in death. It's like a parody of "letting people in."

    Stave 5

    He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk—that anything—could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew's house. (5.47)

    The gradual absorption into life is nicely done in the first sentence. Look at the way the verbs very slowly integrate Scrooge. At first he is still on the outside although finally curious about those around him: he simply "went" and "walked" and "watched". But then he starts to interact by "patting" and "questioning" and "looking into". Even there, he builds the interaction, starting small with the insignificant—children, beggars—and only then moving on to people in houses, and finally to the really important, his nephew.

    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "Now, I'll tell you what, my friend," said Scrooge, "I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore," he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; "and therefore I am about to raise your salary!"


    "A merry Christmas, Bob!" said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. "A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!" (5.67-69)

    So, there we go—Scrooge is completely recovered. How do we know? Because he is now willing to actually touch another human being. Check out how odd it sounds to see Scrooge poking Bob in the ribs and "clapping him on the back." That's how alien he used to be.

    "Do you know the Poulterer's, in the next street but one, at the corner?" Scrooge inquired.

    "I should hope I did," replied the lad.

    "An intelligent boy!" said Scrooge. "A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they've sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there?—Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?"

    "What, the one as big as me?" returned the boy.

    "What a delightful boy!" said Scrooge. "It's a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!" (5.19-23)

    So, are we thinking that the strange third-person asides here—"a remarkable boy!", "it's a pleasure to talk to him"—are the result of Scrooge having forgotten how to speak to other humans? Like, his isolation has literally rendered him unable to have a normal conversation, so he just keeps exclaiming things to his face?

  • Memory and the Past

    Stave 1

    Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact, that Scrooge had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what is called fancy about him as any man in the city of London, even including—which is a bold word—the corporation, aldermen, and livery. Let it also be borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on Marley, since his last mention of his seven-years' dead partner that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change—not a knocker, but Marley's face. (1.81)

    The supernatural is believable only when other explanations—like memory tricks or the imagination—have run plumb out.

    Stave 2

    "Good Heaven!" said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. "I was bred in this place. I was a boy here!"

    The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man's sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten!

    "Your lip is trembling," said the Ghost. "And what is that upon your cheek?"

    Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice, that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him where he would.

    "You recollect the way?" inquired the Spirit.

    "Remember it!" cried Scrooge with fervour; "I could walk it blindfold."

    "Strange to have forgotten it for so many years!" observed the Ghost. "Let us go on."

    They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate, and post, and tree [...] (2.41-47)

    Check out how Scrooge's senses are returning to him here in his childhood home—the "gentle touch" of the ghost reveals "odours" floating in the air and the sight of "every gate, post, and tree." And then in turn, these senses reveal the kinds of emotional connections that Scrooge has walled himself off from: "hopes, and joys, and cares". Why do you think Scrooge lies about the tear on his cheek?

    Even this, though, when Scrooge looked at it with increasing steadiness, was not its strangest quality. For as its belt sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another, and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever. (2.21)

    This seems like a pretty reasonable way to think about how we recall past events—as shifting, wonky, tricky images. But does this description have any relation to the way memory is actually experienced in this work?

    "Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!"

    In the struggle, if that can be called a struggle in which the Ghost with no visible resistance on its own part was undisturbed by any effort of its adversary, Scrooge observed that its light was burning high and bright; and dimly connecting that with its influence over him, he seized the extinguisher-cap, and by a sudden action pressed it down upon its head.

    The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light, which streamed from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground. (2.149-150)

    Scrooge can no longer totally repress his memories of his past, which fill him with pain and guilt and remorse. The idea here is that these self-policing emotions, like guilt and remorse, are what make us functional people. Without them, we might all be compassionless Scrooges.

    Stave 4
    Bob Cratchit

    "It's just as likely as not," said Bob, "one of these days; though there's plenty of time for that, my dear. But however and whenever we part from one another, I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim—shall we—or this first parting that there was among us?"

    "Never, father!" cried they all.

    "And I know," said Bob, "I know, my dears, that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it."

    "No, never, father!" they all cried again. (4.135-138)

    Again, here is an example of how memory is used to self-correct and self-police. All these Cratchit children will now deploy their memory of the angelic Tiny Tim to quash their own negative qualities. Handy.

  • Guilt and Blame

    Stave 1

    The same face: the very same. 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. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. (1.98)

    This is one of the only visions of actual punishment in the novella. Why does Scrooge escape from any sort of negative comeuppance after a lifetime of misdeeds? We guess we're to assume that Marley never learned his lesson and apologized.

    The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever. (1.172)

    Dickens's specialized vision of hell is being able to see but not being able to help suffering family and friends. Also, check out that inspired image of members of bad governments being linked together in eternal torment.

    Stave 3

    There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker's. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit's torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last. (3.85)

    So, we're thinking there's a lot of implicit guilt and blame for the reader here, right? We've all seen a family like the Cratchits.

    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "No, no," said Scrooge. "Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared."

    "If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race," returned the Ghost, "will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

    Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief. (3.72-74)

    Nice. The Ghost of Christmas Present really makes short work of Scrooge by quoting him back to himself. And in general, the idea of combating the urge to wave away anonymous crowds of the needy (like Scrooge does) by putting an individual face on the problem (like Tiny Tim) is a pretty old one—and it's still being used today. Just check out those regular joes who get invited to the State of the Union address every year—each of them functions as a face to put with an abstract concept each President is trying to promote.

    Stave 4

    "If he wanted to keep 'em after he was dead, a wicked old screw," pursued the woman, "why wasn't he natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he'd have had somebody to look after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone by himself."

    "It's the truest word that ever was spoke," said Mrs. Dilber. "It's a judgment on him."

    "I wish it was a little heavier judgment," replied the woman; "and it should have been, you may depend upon it, if I could have laid my hands on anything else. Open that bundle, old Joe, and let me know the value of it. Speak out plain. I'm not afraid to be the first, nor afraid for them to see it. We knew pretty well that we were helping ourselves, before we met here, I believe. It's no sin. Open the bundle, Joe." (4.54-56)

    Wow, that's a pretty stellar circular argument to prove that it's actually Scrooge's own fault that these guys stole all his stuff after he died! This might be the only place in the work where blame is shifted around rather than being accepted by the rightful guilty person. These folks that steal Scrooge's stuff believe they're not at fault because Scrooge was such a jerk in his life. But that's not the soundest of arguments, now is it?

  • Transformation

    Stave 1

    The brightness of the shops where holly sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the windows, made pale faces ruddy as they passed. Poulterers' and grocers' trades became a splendid joke: a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do. (1.67)

    See, Dickens, capitalism ain't all that bad. As long as everyone's in a good mood, at least. Here, the cruel coldness of economics gives way to the jolly good fun of everyone's favorite pastime: shopping. But not for Scrooge—his business doesn't produce anything jolly good, so he can never rise above the cold hard facts of buying and selling.

    Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.

    External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. (1.7-8)

    Well, when you put it that way, even Scrooge himself has some supernatural qualities, no? Why is this description so overblown—why not describe Scrooge as a nasty old man, instead of the very personification of coldness? And pardon Shmoop, while we go crawl back under our snuggie.

    Stave 2

    For again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime of life. His face had not the harsh and rigid lines of later years; but it had begun to wear the signs of care and avarice. There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which showed the passion that had taken root, and where the shadow of the growing tree would fall. (2.110)

    Dickens's characters never stick to the old adage that books can't be judged by their covers. In his world, you can always tell the general goodness or badness of anyone just by looking at them. Here, as soon as Scrooge starts to be a little too into the money stuff, his face immediately reflects the new preoccupation. He practically turns green.

    It was a strange figure—like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions. (2.20)

    You know what? We'd argue that surreal and hallucinogenic images like this one make this work actually unfilmable—or at least unfilmable in a way that stays true to the original. So stop trying, Hallmark Channel!

    Stave 3
    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask," said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, "but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?"


    They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. (3.137,142)

    So clearly we are supposed to be far more interested in the allegorical nature of what is happening here—that these kids are symbols of Want and Ignorance, and that humans should work to prevent them from happening or whatever, but we can't help but think that the wildly disturbing imagery of a rapidly aging male ghost giving birth to twins while standing up… well, it really overshadows the allegory a bit, no?

    After a while [Fred and his guests] played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself. Stop! There was first a game at blind-man's buff. […] He always knew where the plump sister was. He wouldn't catch anybody else. If you had fallen up against him (as some of them did), on purpose, he would have made a feint of endeavouring to seize you, which would have been an affront to your understanding, and would instantly have sidled off in the direction of the plump sister. She often cried out that it wasn't fair; and it really was not. But when at last, he caught her; when, in spite of all her silken rustlings, and her rapid flutterings past him, he got her into a corner whence there was no escape; then his conduct was the most execrable. […] No doubt she told him her opinion of it, when, another blind-man being in office, they were so very confidential together, behind the curtains. (3.117)

    Yet another kind of transformation—a children's game that takes on a totally different meaning when played in an adult context.

    It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge's time, or Marley's, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were 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. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door. (3.5)

    Have you ever watched HGTV or any of the home makeover shows on other channels? Doesn't this sound eerily like the final "reveal" of the way the designer has transformed a useless space into an inviting one? It's like a magical party planner just dropped by Scrooge's place to spruce it up a bit.

    Stave 4
    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope!" (4.160)

    Finally. Scrooge acknowledges the internal transformation that has taken place. And we can all go grab some cider.

    He looked about in that very place for his own image; but another man stood in his accustomed corner, and though the clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he saw no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured in through the Porch. It gave him little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried out in this. (4.39)

    Remember how when the Ghost of Christmas Past starts showing him stuff, Scrooge is really, really quick on the uptake? Here, though, the fact that this future happens after his death just will not sink in. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, Shmoopers.

    Stave 5

    He dressed himself "all in his best," and at last got out into the streets. The people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen them with the Ghost of Christmas Present; and walking with his hands behind him, Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile. He looked so irresistibly pleasant, in a word, that three or four good-humoured fellows said, "Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you!" And Scrooge said often afterwards, that of all the blithe sounds he had ever heard, those were the blithest in his ears. (5.36)

    This squares pretty well with the earlier transformation of his face into one that immediately broadcasts greed. Here, as soon as he's decided to be a nice and generous guy, he right away looks the part and his appearance always transforms to match his interior. The outsides match the insides, in true Dickens fashion.

  • Choices

    Stave 1
    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

    "Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

    Again, Marley's poor choices in life are haunting him in death. Look at the sarcastic repetition of the word "business" in combination with all the unbusinesslike things that Marley should be been involved with. That kind of word repetition is a delicious Dickensian specialty.

    "You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?"

    "I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?" (1.131-132)

    Notice how important it is that the chain isn't something that is imposed on bad people in the afterlife, but is instead created with "free will." In other words, be nice, dear Shmoopers, or you'll wear chains forever.

    Stave 2
    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "I wish," Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: "but it's too late now."

    "What is the matter?" asked the Spirit.

    "Nothing," said Scrooge. "Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that's all." (2.61-63)

    Scrooge begins to rethink his past choices. Sure, this is a pretty small one, but hey, it's a start.

    "It isn't that," said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. "It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune." (2.102)

    Scrooge suddenly gets clocked by an Undercover Boss revelation. Who knew that as the boss of a business, he sets the tone for the employees? Again, check out how much the language stresses the completely free will of each manager to make the workplace "happy or unhappy", "light or burdensome."

    Stave 3

    "And how did little Tim behave?" asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart's content.

    "As good as gold," said Bob, "and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see." (3.55-56)

    Is Tiny Tim making a choice about how to deal with his illness here? Is he angelic or just pragmatic? Or can he be a little bit of both?

    "This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end!"

    "Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.

    "Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?" (3.144-146)

    Zing! The ghost totally throws what Scrooge said earlier back in his face.

    Stave 4

    Scrooge was at first inclined to be surprised that the Spirit should attach importance to conversations apparently so trivial; but feeling assured that they must have some hidden purpose, he set himself to consider what it was likely to be. They could scarcely be supposed to have any bearing on the death of Jacob, his old partner, for that was Past, and this Ghost's province was the Future. Nor could he think of any one immediately connected with himself, to whom he could apply them. But nothing doubting that to whomsoever they applied they had some latent moral for his own improvement, he resolved to treasure up every word he heard, and everything he saw; and especially to observe the shadow of himself when it appeared. For he had an expectation that the conduct of his future self would give him the clue he missed, and would render the solution of these riddles easy. (4.38)

    Scrooge chooses to invest himself in the experience, even though he totally doesn't get why they are listening to this conversation between some business dudes. It's this decision to "treasure up every word" that marks him a changed man already, don't you think? Is his denial here a mark of resistance to the transformation or just straight up cowardice?

    "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!" (4.164)

    Does changing his life change the timing or just the manner of his death? We should also point out that if he had just been a Christmas-lover to begin with, he'd never have to travel through time and witness his own death. And really, who wants to do that?

    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Scrooge, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"

    Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

    "Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!" (4.151-153)

    Scrooge freaks out that everything might be determined by fate rather than free will. Seriously, Ghosties, why show him these things if he has no power over them? No fair. And in general the novel's idea is that there is no reason to feel guilty or question decisions unless you have free will. Otherwise the outcome of your choices is meaningless.

    Stave 5

    "Lord bless me!" cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. "My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?"

    "If you please," said Scrooge. "Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favour?"

    "My dear sir," said the other, shaking hands with him. "I don't know what to say to such munifi—" (5.41-43)

    Scrooge chooses to pay up his fair share of charity money. Why do we never see the recipients? Would that complicate this novella too much—since most likely his money won't really change their existence or wipe out their problems? Maybe.

  • The Home

    Stave 1

    Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker's-book, went home to bed. He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again. It was old enough now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but Scrooge, the other rooms being all let out as offices. (1.80)

    Every other person we see eats their dinner at home. Every one, except Scrooge that is. But hey, who would want to eat in a place that's barely more than a series of "chambers" and "rooms." It hardly sounds like a home at all. Also, check out that really great image of a "young house" getting lost in a place where "it had no business to be" and then growing old. Um, does that sound familiar? Like a certain Ebenezer S. that we might have recently met?

    Stave 2

    They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their gates decayed. […] There was an earthy savour in the air, a chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too much to eat.

    They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be. (2.53-54)

    It's interesting that none of the places where we see Scrooge is actually a home. They are all either temporary housing or in some other way they lack just about all the qualities that make a house a home—safety, comfort, and love. Is this why he doesn't have a problem spying on other people with the ghosts? Because he has never really experienced the safe, cozy feeling of a real home?

    Stave 3

    A light shone from the window of a hut, and swiftly they advanced towards it. Passing through the wall of mud and stone, they found a cheerful company assembled round a glowing fire. An old, old man and woman, with their children and their children's children, and another generation beyond that, all decked out gaily in their holiday attire. The old man, in a voice that seldom rose above the howling of the wind upon the barren waste, was singing them a Christmas song—it had been a very old song when he was a boy—and from time to time they all joined in the chorus. So surely as they raised their voices, the old man got quite blithe and loud; and so surely as they stopped, his vigour sank again. (3.91)

    Here's yet another image of a home rather than just a dwelling place being carved out from unlikely circumstances. Rather than being dismayed by the "bleak moor", this "old man and woman" have raised four generations of a family. Also, check out how the well-oiled machine thing works here, too: the old man sings with "vigor" as long as the others join in also, but his voice gets quiet when they stop. Either they all function as one or they don't function at all.

    Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course—and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah! (3.59)

    The Cratchit home is a well-oiled machine where everyone knows his or her place and function, even if it all seems a little chaotic to outside eyes. For example, the kids that put out chairs and then shut themselves up in order not to ask for a piece of goose out of turn—clearly that's something that's happened before and been frowned on, so they are now all set to self-police.

    Stave 5

    As he stood there, waiting his arrival, the knocker caught his eye.

    "I shall love it, as long as I live!" cried Scrooge, patting it with his hand. "I scarcely ever looked at it before. What an honest expression it has in its face! It's a wonderful knocker!" (5.30-31)

    Is this the beginning of Scrooge investing his house with the emotional qualities of a home? We certainly hope so.


    "Why bless my soul!" cried Fred, "who's that?"

    "It's I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?"

    Let him in! It is a mercy he didn't shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. (5.57-59)

    Scrooge ends up with several homes instead of none: Fred's, Bob Cratchit's, and his own. He really is fully ensconced in humanity once again. Huzzah.

  • Time

    Stave 1

    At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat. (1.71)

    The only thing Cratchit has any control over is how he spends his time away from work, which is why every second of this time counts for him.

    Stave 2

    When Scrooge awoke, it was so dark, that looking out of bed, he could scarcely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque walls of his chamber. He was endeavouring to pierce the darkness with his ferret eyes, when the chimes of a neighbouring church struck the four quarters. So he listened for the hour.

    To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up to twelve; then stopped. Twelve! It was past two when he went to bed. The clock was wrong. An icicle must have got into the works. Twelve! (2.1-2)

    Okay, so here's a question (and it's kind of a doozy): do the ghosts make time go backwards?


    You wouldn't believe how those two fellows went at it! They charged into the street with the shutters—one, two, three—had 'em up in their places—four, five, six—barred 'em and pinned 'em—seven, eight, nine—and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

    "Hilli-ho!" cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with wonderful agility. "Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room here! Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer!"

    Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. (2.90-92)

    See, Scrooge? This is how to spend your time. There isn't a wasted moment in the rush to set the Fezziwig place up for the party. The text even counts out the seconds as Ebenezer and Dick bustle around, and we are treated a bunch of colloquialisms having to do with time going lickety-split: "in a minute," "before a man can say Jack Robinson," and comparing the apprentices to "race horses charging" to the hunting party cry of "Hilly-ho!".

    Stave 3

    It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together. It was strange, too, that while Scrooge remained unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost grew older, clearly older. Scrooge had observed this change, but never spoke of it, until they left a children's Twelfth Night party, when, looking at the Spirit as they stood together in an open place, he noticed that its hair was grey.

    "Are spirits' lives so short?" asked Scrooge.

    "My life upon this globe is very brief," replied the Ghost. "It ends to-night […] at midnight. Hark! The time is drawing near."

    The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that moment. (3.131-136)

    Okay, so let's get this straight. For the ghost, biological time is rushing forward at breakneck speed as it gets older and older as Christmas passes. Meanwhile, human time within the vision is advancing normally. And at the same time, real time is going backwards because Scrooge will wake up earlier than when he fell asleep. Whew.

    Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; and, consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came. All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the clock proclaimed the hour; and which, being only light, was more alarming than a dozen ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it meant, or would be at; and was sometimes apprehensive that he might be at that very moment an interesting case of spontaneous combustion, without having the consolation of knowing it. (3.3)

    Again, we get the text counting out the time. But instead of it bringing a rush of fun, like at Fezziwig's house, now the counting highlights Scrooge's fear and dread of time passing.

    Stave 4
    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "Spectre," said Scrooge, "something informs me that our parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not how." (4.141)

    Scrooge is now operating on ghost time. Sweet.

    Stave 5
    Ebenezer Scrooge

    "I don't know what day of the month it is!" said Scrooge. "I don't know how long I've been among the Spirits. I don't know anything. I'm quite a baby. Never mind. I don't care. I'd rather be a baby. Hallo! Whoop! Hallo here!"

    He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell. Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious! (5.10-11)

    And those bells from the church bring us back full circle. Don't forget that the visitations of the ghosts were also announced by the ringing of bells, too. We've gone from supernatural bells to real world ones, as the narration yet again counts the moments of time that pass.

    Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

    "I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!" Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. "The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!" (5.1-2)

    Scrooge now finally has the correct relationship with the time. Win! He realizes that it is a finite quantity that he has to spend appropriately rather than hoard or waste. It's all about being generous with your time, so you can reap those rewards.

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    Stave 2

    "Home, for good and all. Home, for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home's like Heaven! He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you. And you're to be a man!" said the child, opening her eyes, "and are never to come back here; but first, we're to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world." (2.70)

    There's something weird about the way this backstory just totally skips over the "dad's not crazy anymore!" explanation here, no? So does this mean that their dad was irrationally blaming little Ebenezer for something and now no longer does? Or is the idea that the kids immediately forgive their dad once he becomes "kinder than he used to be" (which, yikes, nice understatement there)?

    Stave 3

    "His wealth is of no use to him. He don't do any good with it. He don't make himself comfortable with it. He hasn't the satisfaction of thinking—ha, ha, ha!—that he is ever going to benefit US with it.


    "I am sorry for him; I couldn't be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims! Himself, always." (3.106,108)

    This is the pretty much the clearest summary of why Scrooge is held up by the novel as the saddest, most in need of compassion of all the characters—he is just hurting himself and his psyche by his forced isolation. Sure, Tiny Tim has health issues, but he also has insight and the love of his family. In a weird way, he's much better off than Scrooge, at least, according to the text.

    "It should be Christmas Day, I am sure," said she, "on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge. You know he is, Robert! Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow!"

    "My dear," was Bob's mild answer, "Christmas Day."

    "I'll drink his health for your sake and the Day's," said Mrs. Cratchit, "not for his. Long life to him! A merry Christmas and a happy new year! He'll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!"

    The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of their proceedings which had no heartiness. Tiny Tim drank it last of all, but he didn't care twopence for it. Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party, which was not dispelled for full five minutes. (3.79-83)

    This might be the most psychologically realistic of the novella's ways of showing how people react to Scrooge. Here, the Cratchits run into a conflict between what they ought to be feeling (deference to Mr. Cratchit who is the head of the family and pities Scrooge; general good will because it's Christmas; a sense of Scrooge as a fellow human being), and what they do actually feel—that the man is an Ogre and they have no desire to toast him.

    Stave 4

    "It's likely to be a very cheap funeral," said the same speaker; "for upon my life I don't know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?"

    "I don't mind going if a lunch is provided," observed the gentleman with the excrescence on his nose. "But I must be fed, if I make one."


    He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men of business: very wealthy, and of great importance. He had made a point always of standing well in their esteem: in a business point of view, that is; strictly in a business point of view. (4.20-21,30)

    The anonymous business crowd of course completely lacks compassion for Scrooge. And yet, even they are shown to be buddies here. If the situation were reversed and one of them were dead, Scrooge wouldn't be one of the guys hanging out here chitchatting. Also, you gotta love the contrast between a businessperson in good standing and a human being. Looks like the two don't have much to do with each other.

    "Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!" (4.162)

    Do we really think that the ghosts have feelings and are motivated to change the rules on Scrooge's behalf? It seems clear that they've been pretty convinced that he could change before they start in with the visions—otherwise, why bother? They could be having a lie down in their ghosty beds. Is it important for Scrooge to think that he has changed the phantom's mind here? Why or why not?

    "He is past relenting," said her husband. "He is dead."

    She was a mild and patient creature if her face spoke truth; but she was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she said so, with clasped hands. She prayed forgiveness the next moment, and was sorry; but the first was the emotion of her heart.


    […] it was a happier house for this man's death! The only emotion that the Ghost could show him, caused by the event, was one of pleasure. (4.98-99,103)

    Ooh, the ironic twist—that's what you get when you don't specify the kind of emotion you want the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to show you. Scrooge's death brings a feeling of relief to this family, because he won't come banging on their door, demanding they pay up on their old loans anymore.

    Stave 5

    Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. (5.70)

    Scrooge has become a model of forgiveness. Ta-da!

    "I would gladly think otherwise if I could," she answered, "Heaven knows! When I have learned a Truth like this, I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl—you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were." (2.128)

    It's funny that however earnest this speech of self-sacrifice from Scrooge's ex-fiancée is meant to be (and it's pretty clear that she really is supposed to be trying to do the right thing here by freeing him from the engagement contract with total understanding), all of it can be read in a hilarious passive-aggressive tone. Which would of course make it wildly vindictive and non-forgiving, and therefore all the more entertaining.