A Christmas Carol



A Christmas Carol is a moral tale about the spirit of giving and being kind to one another.

  • On Christmas Eve, Scrooge makes his clerk, Bob Cratchit, work in the cold.
  • He refuses an invitation to his nephew Fred's Christmas party and will not give money to the charity collectors.
  • At home, he is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Marley.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Past wakes Scrooge and shows him moments from his childhood, his apprenticeship and his failed engagement.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present takes him to the Cratchit's home, where he is saddened by the ill, but kind, Tiny Tim. He is also shown how Fred celebrates Christmas with friends and how others celebrate Christmas together.
  • The final ghost is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come who terrifies Scrooge with visions of his death.
  • Scrooge awakens on Christmas Day and is delighted to find he has the chance to repent of his miserly ways. He buys a turkey for the Cratchits and attends his nephew's party.
  • Scrooge becomes like a second father to Tiny Tim and gains a reputation for knowing how to celebrate Christmas.
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  • Scrooge - the protagonist (the main character) of the novel
  • The story is about how his experience changes him

CONTEXT - Many wealthy Victorians believed that the poor were lazy and had no sympathy for them. We see this attitude in Scrooge when the charity men ask him for money: "...I can't afford to make idle people merry."

  • In chapter 1, Scrooge is introduced as "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!"

- exclamation suggests that even the narrator is overwhelmed by how outrageously unpleasant Scrooge is

the list of adjectives emphasises how awful he is. Each adjective is also connected with the hands - he holds tightly to everything he has

  • Personification - The coldness of his nature is compared to the coldness of the winter weather: "The cold within him froze his old features."
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  • " 'Your lip is trembling,' said the ghost. 'And what is that upon your cheek?' " (stave 2) - cries when he sees how unhappy he was as a lonely boy - the first time he shows any emotion in the novel - structure - starting to change

Theme - Redemption - Scrooge's past suggests that people aren't necessarily born bad - and that even someone like Scrooge can have goodness inside of them

  • In chapter 3, Scrooge asks the ghost about Tiny Tim's fate - the ghost tells him that Tim would die - when Scrooge protests the ghost quotes his own words back at him, "If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Hearing this, Scrooge is "overcome with penitence and grief", (structure) marking a great change in his character as he shows a selfless interest in another person and recognises his previous selfishness and lack of care.

CONTEXT - Many children wouldn't survive until adulthood. This would be the outcome to Tiny Tim if Scrooge didn't change is ways.

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  • Scrooge is frightened by the future yet to come in stave 5, he says, " Spirit!' he said, 'this is a fearful place. In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. Let us go!' "

Theme - Redemption - Scrooge is scared by the visions of the future because he thinks they mean he's "past all hope". Dickens suggests that it's never too late to change.

Scrooge is determined to change his future but the phantom disappears without reassuring him or telling him anything.

As the drama builds, and Scrooge is "holding up his hands in a last prayer", the action suddenly stops, and the spirit transforms into a bedpost.

Writer's techniques - the chapter ends on a cliff-hanger - the reader doesn't know for certain if Scrooge will be able to change his future and save himself. This adds tension to the story. 

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  • In stave 5, Scrooge finds himself back in his own bed, and he repeats his promise to "live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!" - exclamation mark creates excited mood and shows his eagerness to change

Theme - social responsibility - At the beginning of the story, Scrooge represents the uncaring, rich people of Victorian society. By the end, he represents how Dickens feels the well-off should act towards the poor.

Theme - the Christmas Spirit - Scrooge applies everything he's learnt from the ghosts about the spirit - he celebrates the day with love, generosity and kindness:

  • Scrooge is selfless - he doesn't ask for thanks from the charity collector, and he sends the turkey to Bob anonymously. He's being charitable because it's the right thing to do, not because he wants any credit for it.
  • Scrooge meets one of the charity collectors in the street, and donates a large amount of money to their cause; he says that it's "very kind" of them to do the work they do.
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  • Scrooge goes to Fred's house, and despite his previous behaviour, Scrooge is welcomed and Fred shakes his hand enthusiastically, and they celebrate Christmas with "wonderful unanimity" ('unanimity' means unity or agreement)

Dickens uses the acceptance of Fred and his family to illustrate that family love is unconditional, and can be the source of "won-der-ful happiness!" - breaks in quote creates an excited tone

Theme - family - Scrooge has become a part of two families - he becomes a "second father" to Tiny Tim. He's realised that having a family is important to him

Structure/form - final line of novel - "And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Everyone!" - happy mood, reflects the lightheartedness of right at the start of the story with Dickens' use of a fairy tale convention - happy ending

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Marley's main role in the novel is to warn Scrooge about what will happen after he dies - unless he changes.

Marley and Scrooge have similar personalities - they're "two kindred spirits", who are obsessed with money and don't care about other people.

Marley's appearance is disturbing - e.g. when the ghost removes the bandage from his head, its "lower jaw dropped down upon its breast" - this reflects the frightening nature of his message, and makes it seem more important

Theme - Redemption - Scrooge is lucky - Marley implies that most people are already doomed to their fates, but Scrooge will get one last chance at redemption.

  • Marley is acting selflessly - he's helping a friend, even though he has no hope of redemption himself.

You could say this foreshadows how Scrooge acts selflessly once he's changed by stave 5.

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  • Dickens characterises the three ghosts very differently, which adds interest and variety to the story.

Writer's Techniques - Dickens uses the appearance of the ghosts to reinforce the structure of the novel. Each ghost has its own chapter, which focuses on either Scrooge's past, present or future.

FORM - The ghosts exist outside the boundaries of human time, and they show Scrooge visions of the past, present and future. This gives the novel a magical, dream-like mood.

  • Scrooge learns from each of his encounters with the ghosts. They make him realise what the impact and consequences of his past and present behaviour could be.
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  • a contradictory figure, who's both strong and gentle at the same time
  • A "bright, clear jet" shines from its head - this light could symbolize the truth that can be found in memories
  • Its voice is "low" and as if "it were at a distance" - like it's speaking to Scrooge from somewhere far away, or long ago - emphasises the spirit's connection to Scrooge's distant past
  • The ghost helps the reader sympathise with Scrooge by showing us that parts of his childhood were miserable, and that he wasn't always so cold and unfeeling.


  • questioning - "Is that so much that deserves this praise?" - makes Scrooge what he's realised about visions of his past
  • The memory of Belle is "torture" for Scrooge - he begs the ghost to let him leave, "But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms, and forced him to observe". Forceful - its actions may seem cruel but it helps Scrooge to learn
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  • A cheerful, jolly giant - compassionate
  • It restores the "good humour" of angry people so that they can enjoy Christmas
  • friendly - "Come on and know me better, man!"
  • Its scabbard has no sword in it, and it's rusted - reinforcing the fact that Christmas should be a time for peace, not fighting other people


  • The spirit cares about the poor and challenges Scrooge's previous harsh words about poverty - calling them "wicked"
  • Theme - social responsibility - The spirit speaks emotionally about the way that society ignores the problem of poverty. It argues that society denies the problems of ignorance and want, and suggests that ignoring these problems will eventually lead to a society's "Doom".
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  • is silent and ominous
  • mysterious appearance - the ghost is "shrouded in a deep black garment" - its mysterious appearance implies that the future cannot be known for sure
  • similar in appearance to the Grim Reaper, which Victorian readers would've recognised as a symbol of approaching death
  • frightening - "Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him"
  • mysterious - "it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery"
  • Silent and intimidating - points instead of speaking and won't answer Scrooge's questions. This adds to the sense of mystery surrounding it.
  • It's only when Scrooge begins to beg that the ghost shows any kind of reaction at all that the ghost's "kind hand trembled". This could suggest that the ghost pities Scrooge, reminding the reader that the ghosts are trying to help him.
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Theme - Family - unlike Scrooge who's rich but lonely, the Cratchit family are poor, but rich in love. The Cratchits' happiness shows that family and companionship is more likely to bring happiness than money.


  • Cheerful: "Bob was very cheerful with them"
  • Loving: "Bob...hugged his daughter to his heart's content"
  • Forgiving: "Mr Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!"
  • Theme - Family - Bob is very close to his children, especially Tim. This makes his grief at losing even sadder for the reader.

Writer's Techniques - The Cratchits are presented as a perfect, good family. Dickens idealises the Cratchits so that his middle and upper-class readers would be more likely to sympathise with them than if they were realistic and flawed.

  • The Cratchits all help out with the Christmas dinner, even the youngest children - they work together as a family

Writer's Techniques"Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigor..." (stave 3) - Dickens uses a long sentence, made up of several short clauses, to emphasise how busy the Cratchits are as they make the final preparations for dinner.

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Fan was Scrooge's sister - was affectionate, loving and full of laughter, the ghost and Scrooge agreed that "she had a large heart".

Has a strong bond with Scrooge - calls him "Dear, dear brother" and he calls her "quite a woman"

She had asked her father more than once to allow Scrooge to come home - her excitement shows how important it is for her to spend Christmas with Scrooge

Theme - Family - Fan is eventually able to change her father's mind - a parallel to the way that her son Fred insists on inviting Scrooge for Christmas every year until he changes his mind. Fan and Fred both want Scrooge to be a part of their family life.

Fan is dead by the time the main events of the novel take place - this makes the reader pity Scrooge for having lost the sister he once loved.

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Was a friendly, cheerful employer when he was a young apprentice - used as a contrast to the past Scrooge, but he's a model for the man that Scrooge later becomes

Makes his warehouse "snug, and warm, and dry, and bright" for a Christmas party for family and workers - contrasts with Scrooge's mean, dark office when he's an employer himself

Fezziwig and his wife dance vigorously at the party - he's a jovial, energetic figure.

Writer's techniques - Dickens writes that Fezziwig's calves shone "like moons" whilst he danced. This light-hearted simile makes the Fezziwigs' dancing seem humorous and playful

He has the power to make people's lives good or bad - and chooses to make them good. He doesn't spend lots of money on the party, but what he does spend is used to bring joy to others, which creates a great deal of happiness. Scrooge realises this, and begins to do the same in his own life.

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Was Scrooge's beautiful, wise fiancée

  • Releases Scrooge from their engagement because she sees he has begun to love money more than her
  • She says that "another idol has displaced me" (taken his place) and elaborates that he's "a golden one"

She's poor and knows that Scrooge, who weighs "everything by Gain", has become more reluctant to marry her.

This separation is a turning point in Scrooge's life. Belle ends up with a family and a home, which, despite being "not very large or handsome", is "full of comfort". In contrast, Scrooge chooses a lonely life devoted to money.

  • The characters from Scrooge's past show the reader how he used to be important to others and loved.
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