Outline (Plot Summary)

  • Created by: Ntrampova
  • Created on: 09-05-19 15:53

Outline The story

Visit by Jacob Marley's Spirit

  • In the tale, Scrooge is visited by the spirit of Jacob Marley, his former business partner who warns him about the error of his ways.

Visit By the Spirits

  • Scrooge is visited by further spirits who show him scenes from the past, present and future. These visions help Scrooge to realise that he needs to change his ways. He wakes up on Christmas morning as a better man.
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Stave 1: Introducing Scrooge and Jacob Marley

Srooge's character 

  • At the start of Stave 1, we learn a lot about Scrooge’s character and how he has treated people in the past. This introduction to Scrooge helps the reader to really understand his character and his selfish attitude before the story starts – this helps to build an image of the man and emphasise his horrible nature before we see him change later on.  Jacob Marley   Scrooge and the cold

Jacob Marley 

  • We learn that Jacob Marley (Scrooge’s old business partner) is “dead to begin with”. The author also reveals that Scrooge had been Marley’s only friend, his “sole mourner”. Dickens uses the start of the novella to emphasise that Jacob Marley died before the story began. The adjective “sole” shows that Scrooge and Marley were each other's only friends. Dickens immediately establishes Scrooge as a man with no living friends and hints that Jacob Marley will play an important role later on. 
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Stave 1: Introducing Scrooge and Jacob Marley

Scrooge and the cold

  •  Scrooge is described as being cold and sharp, with physical features as “hard and sharp as flint”. His appearance represents his personality – he is unfriendly (hard) and dismissive (sharp). Scrooge’s office is always cold – he doesn’t even put the heat on in the winter. “No warmth could warm, nor wintry weather chill him.” The author suggests that heating the office would be useless anyway, as Scrooge is so unfeeling and cold-hearted that he would not even be able to feel the heat from the fire. 

Reactions to Scrooge

  • We learn that everybody who ever meets Scrooge avoids any contact or discussion with him. Even beggars do not dare to approach him – they know that he will refuse to help them. However, before the reader can feel too much sympathy for this lonesome character, the narrator informs us that this fear and dislike of Scrooge “was the very thing he liked” – he enjoys the fact that people dislike him and that they are too scared of him to ask him for help.
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Stave 1: Scrooge's Attitudes to Christmas and the

Attitude to Fred 

  • Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, enters, wishing his uncle a merry Christmas. Scrooge responds with “Bah! Humbug!” and exclaims that he does not know how Fred can be so happy when he is so poor. 

Scrooge's attitude to marriage 

  • Fred invites Scrooge to dinner with him and his wife on Christmas Day. Scrooge asks Fred why he got married – when Fred tells him it was because he fell in love, Scrooge growls at him, as if he thinks the whole idea is “ridiculous”. Fed up with his cheery nephew, Scrooge continually attempts to ignore him and tries to dismiss him by repeating “good afternoon!” 
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Stave 1: Scrooge's Attitudes to Christmas and the

Scrooge's attitude to the poor

  • Two gentlemen enter the house and tell Scrooge that they are collecting money for the “poor and destitute, who suffer greatly”. Scrooge responds by asking the men “are there no prisons?” He asks if the workhouses are still being used and if the Poor Law is still in effect. Scrooge does not feel that anyone needs to worry about poor people because they have options – he does not care about what these options would mean for people (i.e. leaving their families to enter workhouses and to live and work in horrific conditions for very little pay).

Scrooge's attitude to business 

  • The gentlemen reply that some people “would rather die” than go to the workhouses. Scrooge replies that they should just hurry up and die then, and “decrease the surplus population”. He goes on to tell the men that the poor are “not my business” and that “it’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s”. Scrooge dismisses the men and they leave. 
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Stave 1: Scrooge's Attitudes to Christmas and the

Scrooge's attitude to working over Christmas

  • Scrooge begrudgingly allows Cratchit the day off for Christmas, but states that he must get to work earlier than usual the day after Christmas Day. Cratchit is happy it is Christmas and runs home to play games with his family. Scrooge is alone – he has a “melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern” before reading the paper, looking over his banking book, and going home.

Attitude to Christmas 

  • Scrooge complains that Christmas is just a time for wasting money and paying more bills – he thinks that anyone who celebrates Christmas is foolish and should be “buried with a stake of holly through his heart”. Fred tells Scrooge that Christmas is good because it is the one time in the year when people open up their hearts to one another – it is a “kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time”
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Stave 1: Scrooge is Spooked

Dickens introduces the supernatural in the first stave

Symbolism and pathetic fallacy

  •  Scrooge’s home is described as being “dreary” and “old” – his life, home and personality are lifeless and lack any sort of fun or vitality. Fog and frost hang in the air throughout the opening – this symbolises Scrooge’s lack of enjoyment in his life. Maybe Scrooge cannot see the enjoyment in his life because he is metaphorically trapped in the fog of his own unhappiness.
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Stave 1: Scrooge is Spooked

Ghostly images 

  • Upon reaching his front door, Scrooge looks at the door knocker – it seems to take the shape of Marley’s face. As he climbs the stairs, he sees another ghostly image: a hearse (a carriage which carries coffins) moving up the stairs next to him. Right from the start of the novella, Charles Dickens sows the seeds of the supernatural. He makes these ghostly images and ideas appear, which puts the readers on edge as they wonder what will happen next.

Gruel  Scrooge is rattled

  • - he “double-locked himself in, which was not his custom”. He sits in front of the fire and eats his meal: gruel. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is alone, eating gruel (which was quite tasteless and cheap), in front of “a very low fire indeed” on a freezing cold night. Dickens portrays Scrooge as a lonely man, obsessed with hoarding money and not spending it, even for his own comfort or enjoyment
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stave 1; Marley's Ghost

Marley's ghost appears to Scrooge to warn him about how he is living his life.

Ghost's entrance

  •  An old, disused bell suddenly starts moving and chiming loudly. Every bell in the house starts chiming as well. Then, just as suddenly, all of the bells stop. From the cellar, Scrooge hears a clanging noise, which sounds like somebody dragging chains. He remembers hearing stories about ghosts dragging chains but refuses to believe that these stories might be true. He grows pale as he watches a ghost start to pass through his closed door and into the room.

Identifies ghost

  • Scrooge realises that the ghost wearing chains is Jacob Marley (his old, dead partner). Marley’s ghost wears a long, heavy chain made of “cash boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel”.
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stave 1; Marley's Ghost

Marley's chain 

  • Marley’s ghost says: “I wear the chain I forged in life”. In life, he created the heavy burden (the chain) through his own actions and mistakes. This chain now weighs him down in death. He tells Scrooge that his own chain is “ponderous” (heavy) and that he keeps doing things in his life which are making his chain longer and heavier. He tells Scrooge that he is there to warn him and give him a chance to change his fate. Scrooge will be haunted by three ghosts.

Hundreds of ghosts

  • As he talks, Marley moves back to the window. Scrooge follows and sees hundreds of ghostly figures floating around, all with heavy chains wrapped around them, all seeming to moan and groan unhappily. Scrooge can see how these self-inflicted chains that people create in their lives seem to cause them pain and misery in death as well. As the ghosts all fade, Scrooge goes to bed.
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Stave 2: The Ghost of Christmas Past

The strangely child-like Ghost of Christmas past enters Scrooge's bedroom at 1am, as predicted by Marley's ghost.

Supernatural sign 

  • Scrooge wakes in the night. He listens to the clock striking and is astonished that it is striking midnight – he remembers that it was after 2am when he went to bed, and so he is confused about the time. Dickens uses the confusion in time here to show that something unusual and supernatural is about to happen.
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Stave 2: The Ghost of Christmas Past

Child-like ghost 

  • Just after the clock strikes 1am, light flashes into the room and the curtains on his bed are drawn aside and Scrooge comes face-to-face with the first ghost. The first ghost looks strangely child-like – it has white hair and gives off the impression of being wise, but it has unwrinkled, child-like skin. A bright, white light shines out of the top of the ghost’s head.

The cap metaphor

  • The ghost informs Scrooge that he is the Ghost of Christmas Past. Suddenly terrified, Scrooge asks the ghost to put his cap on to cover the bright light coming from its head: he “begged him to be covered”. The ghost responds that Scrooge has helped to create this cap that covers his light. Scrooge is metaphorically covering the light in his own life – he lives a dark, dull, lonely life
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Stave 2: The Ghost of Christmas Past

The significance of "fall" 

  • The ghost leads Scrooge from his bed towards the window. Scrooge realises what the ghost wants him to do and exclaims “I am a mortal and liable to fall”. Dickens may have used this line to show that mortal people make mistakes and “fall”, but that they (like Scrooge) can learn from their failures and use them to improve their lives. The ghost puts his hand on Scrooge’s heart and tells him he will not fall because the ghost will help him – again, the ghost is helping Scrooge to improve his life and, therefore, stop his “fall” from goodness
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Stave 2:Scrooge's Schoolhouse

  • Lonely in the schoolhouse The ghost tells Scrooge that, although it is Christmas, there is one person left in the schoolhouse: “a solitary child, neglected by his friends”. The ghost leads Scrooge into the schoolhouse, where he sees his young self in a “melancholy room”, reading alone in front of a “feeble fire”. Adult Scrooge watches his young self and begins to cry. It's interesting that the young, neglected Scrooge grows up to be a lonely, melancholy older man – the idea of loneliness and neglect seem to travel throughout his life.  

Lonely in the schoolhouse

  • Seeing Fan  Scrooge’s sister (Fan) comes into the schoolhouse and tells young Scrooge that she has come to take him home. Fan calls Ebenezer “dear, dear brother”, indicating that they had a close relationship. She tells her brother that their father is now much nicer – she wasn’t afraid to ask him if Ebenezer could come home! There is a suggestion of a distant parental relationship, where young Scrooge experienced some neglect from his father. 

Lonely in the schoolhouse 

  • Seeing Fan   Memories of Fan  Older Scrooge thinks about his younger sister – he recalls that she died, but did have a child: his nephew, Fred.
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Stave 2: Fezziwig's and Belle

As well as Scrooge's old schoolhouse, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to visit where he used to work and a past lover


  • The scene changes as the ghost leads Scrooge to another place from his past: to Fezziwig’s, where Scrooge was an apprentice when he was young. Dickens shows us a happy young Ebenezer who seems to have enjoyed Christmas. We see Fezziwig himself throwing a huge Christmas party, seeming to spare no expense (with luxurious foods and a lot of music and dancing) – he only seems to care about people enjoying themselves.
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stave 2: Feizziwig's and Belle

Seeing Belle 

  • Scrooge and the ghost move through time once more, coming to a scene where young Ebenezer is talking with Belle. Belle is breaking her engagement to Ebenezer. Belle tells him “another Idol has displaced me” – she believes that Ebenezer’s greed and desire to obtain more and more money has finally taken over him. She thinks he loves wealth more than he loves her.  

Belle's new life

  •  The older Scrooge is distressed at the memory of Belle ending their relationship – he tells the ghost: “Show me no more!” and tells it to take him home. The ghost takes him to one more place: Belle’s home – here, Belle is a middle-aged woman and is married. Scrooge watches Belle and her husband – they talk about young Ebenezer and Belle’s broken engagement. Belle’s husband says that Scrooge is “quite alone in the world”.
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stave 2: Feizziwig's and Belle

Distressed Scrooge returns home

  • Scrooge begs the ghost to take him home: “haunt me no longer!” He cannot bear to live through any more memories, or to relive the consequences of his actions (losing Belle). Scrooge grabs the ghost’s hat and pulls it down over his head, trying to extinguish the light which glows from its head – he tries and tries but cannot put out the light. Suddenly, Scrooge is back in his bedroom. Scrooge feels exhausted – he climbs into bed and goes back to sleep.
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Stave 3: The Cratchit's Home

The clock strikes 1am and wakes Scrooge from his sleep. A bright light shines onto Scrooge's bed, which Scrooge suspects is coming from the next room. He goes into the room and finds the next ghost waiting for him.

  • Room transformation
  •  The room had “undergone a surprising transformation”. The ceiling was covered in greenery (leaves, etc), with berries hanging from it. There was a huge feast heaped on the floor, forming a kind of throne. On the throne itself sat the second ghost – it had a “joyful air”. The Ghost of Christmas Present tells Scrooge to touch his robe and they are transported to the streets of the city on Christmas morning. Their first stop is Bob Cratchit's house.
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Stave 3: The Cratchit's Home

Cratchit's house

  • Mrs Cratchit and her daughters are wearing “ribbons” in their finest outfits, which are actually threadbare and old, but all they can afford. One of the boys is proud to wear his father’s old shirt. The Cratchits make an effort to get dressed up because it is Christmas Day. They are incredibly grateful for what they have. The Cratchits are enjoying preparing a Christmas meal with some treats – they usually would not be able to have any treats, but they save them for Christmas Day.

Cratchit's house

  • Tiny Tim  Scrooge watches as Tiny Tim (Bob’s son) struggles to walk – he uses a crutch to move around. We start to see Scrooge’s humanity coming out: ‘“Spirit,” said Scrooge with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live”’. He has watched the Cratchit family, seen the love they feel for one another, and does not want them to suffer any more. He feels compassion for them, which he does not appear to feel at the start of the novella.
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Stave 3: The Cratchit's Home

Tiny Tim's future

  • The ghost says that he sees a vacant seat with a crutch next to it next Christmas Day – “If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die”. Scrooge becomes distraught (incredibly upset) by this news and begs the ghost to change this outcome. The ghost repeats Scrooge’s own words from Stave 1 back to him: “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population”. Scrooge is ashamed of his own words and hangs his head. He is overcome with grief at both Tiny Tim’s future, and his own actions.

Tiny Tim's future 

  • Mr Cratchit's toast  Scrooge’s attention is drawn back to the family when he hears Bob Cratchit toasting his name: “Mr Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!” Mrs Cratchit thinks that this toast is completely ridiculous and starts ranting about how “unfeeling” Scrooge is. The family quietly drink their toast (to be polite) and are strangely quiet – just by saying Scrooge’s name, Bob Cratchit has taken some of the joy from the room. 
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Stave 3: The Cratchit's Home

Cratchit's vs Scrooge

  • Dickens notes that, although the family looked untidy, were “not well dressed” and had very little, “they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another”. This directly contrasts to Scrooge himself, who has everything except for family and people who care about him – he has lots of money and things but is very lonely and unhappy.
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Stave 3: Fred's Party; Ignorance and Want

Together, Scrooge and the ghost travel to several other Christmas parties – everyone is happy and enjoying spending Christmas with loved ones.

 Fred's party

  • They then visit Fred’s (his nephew’s) Christmas party. Fred and his family are talking about Scrooge and the silly idea he has about hating Christmas. Fred states that Scrooge’s “offences carry their own punishment… his wealth is of no use to him… Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself, always”. Fred feels sorry for Scrooge because he causes himself to suffer more and more by shutting people out and being obsessed with money. 

Ignorance and Want 

  • Finally, the ghost tells Scrooge that his time is growing short. He moves his robes aside to reveal two small children – their names are Ignorance and Want. The children are not happy and excited, as children should be – instead, these two children are suffering and unhappy. They look like “monsters”. The ghost tells Scrooge that “they are Man’s” – he presents Scrooge with the idea that the children (and therefore people in general, especially those who need help) are the responsibility of everyone.
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Stave 3: Fred's Party;Ignorance and Want

Scrooge's response 

  • Scrooge asks the ghost if there is anywhere the children can go – again, Scrooge has his own words from Stave 1 thrown back at him when the ghost responds, “Are there no prisons?” “Are there no workhouses?” The clock strikes midnight and the ghost disappears. Scrooge sees a hooded figure moving towards him
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Stave 4: A Rich Man's Death

As the hooded ghost moves towards Scrooge, he kneels on the floor in front of it. Scrooge asks it if it is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – it does not answer, just points.

Scrooge's request 

  • Scrooge begs the ghost to share the final lesson with him, saying that although he is terrified, he is eager to learn how to avoid the same fate as Jacob Marley. Scrooge wants to be able to fix some of the problems he has caused.

Profiting from death 

  • The ghost takes Scrooge to several places – at each one, they hear people discussing the death of a very rich man. No one seems particularly bothered by this man’s death. Some men say that the funeral will be cheap because they doubt anyone will go to it. They watch some people steal the rich man’s property. One woman brings out a set of bed curtains. The woman laughs as she pulls out more and more of the rich man’s belongings: “He frightened everyone away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead!” Scrooge tells the ghost that he knows this is a warning – that this is his fate if he does not change his ways. 
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Stave 4: A Rich Man's Death

Happiness over death

  • The scene changes as the ghost transports Scrooge to another place – the home of a poor family, where a man and wife are discussing how pleased they are about the rich man being dead because he was unforgiving and they could not afford to repay him what they owed. The man exclaims that they can “sleep tonight with light hearts” because the rich man is dead.
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Stave 4: The Cratchit's and Scrooge's Grave

The scene changes again, and Scrooge finds himself at the Cratchit household.

 The Cratchits

  • In contrast to how they were before, the family are “Quiet. Very quiet.” All of the joy and happiness seems to have been taken from this family. It is quickly revealed that Tiny Tim has died, leaving the whole family completely heartbroken.

 Scrooge's grave 

  • The ghost moves away from the house, directing Scrooge to the churchyard. The ghost points to a new grave. Scrooge hesitates and asks the ghost if the things he has shown him will definitely happen, or if he has a chance to change his future. The ghost does not speak, but continues to point to the grave. Scrooge approaches the grave and reads the headstone: EBENEZER SCROOGE.
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Stave 4: The Cratchit's and Scrooge's Grave

Scrooge's promise

  • Scrooge begs the ghost to give him a chance to change his future: “I am not the man I was”. He assures the ghost: “I will not shut out the lessons” that the three ghosts have taught him. He wants to change and, in turn, change his future. Scrooge clutches at the ghost’s hand as he continues to beg it to let him change his future. He promises to live better from now on. The ghost disappears and Scrooge, once more, finds himself in his own bedroom.
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Stave 5: Christmas Day

Scrooge, happy to find himself back in his room and not doomed to the future he saw, is very joyful. He declares: “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” and that “the Spirits of all Three shall strive within me”. 

 Scrooge's transformation

  • As he quickly gets dressed, Scrooge starts shouting “Merry Christmas!” Scrooge announces: “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy”. Here, we see Scrooge’s personality completely change from his gloomy, melancholy attitude at the start of Stave 1. 

Pathetic fallacy 

  • Scrooge runs to the window and opens it. For the first time in the novella, there is “no fog” outside. This could suggest that the metaphorical fog which had blocked the joy and goodness from his life has now been cleared away, leaving room for life and fun to sweep in and make him happy.
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Stave 5: Christmas Day

"Fine fellow" 

  • He runs to the window and sees a boy outside: “What’s today, my fine fellow?” For the first time in the book, our older Ebenezer Scrooge speaks kindly to another human being. He uses the noun phrase “fine fellow”, suggesting that he sees this stranger as a fellow human being and is holding a nice, polite conversation with him. His attitude seems to have changed dramatically from Stave 1, where he chased the carol singer away with a ruler.

The turkey 

  • Scrooge asks the boy to run to the poulterers (a butcher who only sells poultry) and buy the biggest turkey they have. Scrooge asks him to take the turkey to Bob Cratchit’s house – he even says he will pay for a cab to take the boy there. Dickens describes how Scrooge pays for the turkey and the cab with a “chuckle” – he then pays the boy with a “chuckle”, sits down with a “chuckle” and then “chuckled till he cried”. The experiences with the Ghosts seem to have changed Scrooge dramatically – he suddenly wants to experience kindness, generosity and fun, instead of closing himself off to people. He enjoys being charitable by helping the Cratchit family.
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Stave 5: Christmas Day 2

Scrooge's interactions with the charitable men from Stave 1 and Fred show how greatly he has changed from the novella's opening. 

 Fred's party

  • Scrooge then goes to Fred’s house and has an excellent time – he enjoys a “wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!”

Embracing charity 

  • Scrooge dresses in his best clothes and goes outside: “Scrooge regarded everyone with a delighted smile”. He then sees one of the two men who had visited him the day before, asking for his help with their charity for the poor – he knows that the man will not be thinking kind things about him, but knows that he must rectify his mistakes. He calls the man “dear sir”, showing him some respect, and then takes him “by both his hands”. Through his actions, he is almost pleading with this man to allow Scrooge to make things right. He apologises to the man and offers him a huge sum of money for the poor.
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Stave 5: Cratchit

The next morning (Boxing Day), Scrooge arrives early at the office and waits for Bob Cratchit, whom he suspects will be late to work. Scrooge deliberately sits with a stern expression, making sure he will see Bob when he arrives. 

 Cratchit's salary 

  • When Cratchit does arrive (“eighteen minutes and a half behind his time”), Scrooge growls at him and confronts him about being late. Scrooge pretends to be furious at Cratchit for his lateness. Suddenly, he announces: “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!” Bob is confused and considers calling for people to come and take Scrooge away in a “strait-waistcoat”, as he thinks that Scrooge has gone mad.

Scrooge's transformation

  • Scrooge wishes Cratchit a Merry Christmas and promises to raise his salary and help to “assist your struggling family”. In contrast to Stave 1, where he would not allow Cratchit to add coal to the fire because he didn’t want the expense, at the end of Stave 5 he tells Cratchit to “make up the fires and buy another coal-scuttle”. 
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Stave 5: Cratchit

Scrooge's transformation - structure

  • In terms of structure, Scrooge’s personality seems to have completely swapped around since Stave 1 – the final Stave shows his redemption, where he realises the errors of his ways and knows how to make things right. In Stave 5, we see a complete contrast from his personality in Stave 1 – he goes out of his way to do the things he was so dead-set against earlier (such as giving to charity, treating other people as equals, and caring about others). 


  • The small summary at the end of Stave 5 details Scrooge’s actions over time (which shows the reader that this change is a permanent one, and that Scrooge meant what he said when he told the ghost that he would learn from their lessons).
  • “He was a second father” to Tiny Tim (who didn’t die young).
  • He lives a happy life.
  • He celebrates Christmas.
  • He is a good citizen.
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