A Christmas Carol

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A Christmas Carol

​​In a nutshell

A Christmas Carol is a novella written by Charles Dickens. It was first published in 1843. The central theme is the Christmas spirit and its main character is Ebenezer Scrooge. 

Plot summary

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is structured in five chapters.

Chapter 1

It's Christmas Eve in Victorian London and Ebenezer Scrooge's nephew Fred invites him to have dinner at his house on Christmas Day, but Scrooge refusesOn Christmas night, Scrooge is visited by his former business partner Jacob Marley. Jacob has been dead for seven years and appears as a ghost wrapped in chains to warn Scrooge that if he doesn't change his ways, a similar fate awaits him. Jacob Marley informs Scrooge that three ghosts will visit him that night.

Chapter 2

The first spirit that appears is the Ghost of Christmas Past. He visits Scrooge and walks him through his past memories, both happy and sad. Scrooge relives his isolated childhood in boarding schools and the kindness that Mr. Fezziwig, who was a business man, once showed him. A young Scrooge is shown to be having fun at Fezziwig's Christmas party, which is a stark contrast to the attitude that Present Day Scrooge shows towards Christmas.

Chapter 3

Scrooge is now visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present. This Ghost takes Scrooge to the streets of London where he sees Bob Cratchit, his clerk, and his young disabled son. Scrooge sees first-hand that the salary he pays Bob isn't enough for him to support is large family and take care of Tiny Tim. The Ghost tells Scrooge that if he doesn't change his ways, Tiny Tim will die. After this, the Ghost also shows Scrooge two poor children: Ignorance and Want. These children appear as a boy and a girl and they are in the present to show Scrooge his own ways: on one hand he is ignorant towards the world, society and love. Whereas, on the other hand he just wants money and he wants workhouses for the poor to work on instead of being in the street begging for money. Both Ignorance and Want are the embodiment of Scrooge's personality.

Chapter 4

The last spirit to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. This spirit is a figure shrouded in darkness that doesn't speak and only points. This Ghost shows Scrooge his own funeral taking place in the future. Only a few of Scrooge's business partners are there and some people are in fact happy that he died. The Ghost shows Scrooge another scene: Bob Cratchit and his family mourning the loss of Tiny Tim, Bob's disabled son. At the end of the spirit's visit, Scrooge sees his own neglected grave and vows to change his ways.

Chapter 5

Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning as a changed man. He sends Bob Cratchit a turkey for his Christmas dinner and ends up spending Christmas day with Fred's family. The next day he gives Bob Cratchit a raise.


​​Ebenezer Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge owns an accounting firm in London. He's greedy, coldhearted and unpleasant. He's visited by the ghost of his former business partner and three other ghosts that warn him to change his ways.

​​Bob cratchit

Bob is one of Scrooge's employees. His work conditions are poor but he doesn't complain. He is obedient, generous and sensitive. He also has a disabled son called Tiny Tim.


Fred is Ebenezer's nephew and his only living relative. He is generous, kind-hearted and loves Christmas. Fred believes that his uncle will change his ways and become a good man.

​​The ghost of christmas past

The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first spirit to appear. He is dressed in white and looks like a child and an old man at the same time. This Ghost shows Scrooge visions of his past to help him understand why he is the way he is. 

The ghost of christmas present

The Ghost of Christmas Present appears jolly and welcoming. He appears in Scrooge's room surrounded by a banquet. He takes Scrooge around town to show him the difference between the poor and the rich. He is also the spirit that reveals Ignorance and Want.

​​The ghost of christmas yet to come

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the last spirit to visit Scrooge. He is frightening, silent and points out a number of scenarios to Scrooge. When this ghost shows him his death, Scrooge promises to change his ways. 

Tiny tim

Tiny Tim is Bob Cratchit's disabled son. He walks with a crutch and his legs are supported by an iron frame. He is kind and thoughtful. When Scrooge first meets Tiny Tim he is on the verge of death, but after Scrooge's change of heart his destiny changed. 

Jacob marley

Jacob Marley is Scrooge's ex-business partner. He appears as a ghost wrapped in heavy chains to warn Scrooge about his behaviour: if he doesn't change his ways, his fate will be the same. 


Ebenezer Scrooge \leftrightarrow Jacob Marley

Former business partners.

Ebenezer Scrooge \leftrightarrow Bob Cratchit

Boss and employee.

Ebenezer Scrooge \leftrightarrow Fred

Uncle and nephew.

Ebenezer Scrooge \leftrightarrow The Ghost of Christmas Past \leftrightarrow The Ghost of Christmas Present \leftrightarrow The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

The ghosts show Scrooge why he is a bitter person and why he should change his ways. They lead him through his past, present and future. 

Bob Cratchit \leftrightarrow Tiny Tim

Father and son.


Wealth and poverty

Bob Cratchit and his family symbolise the hard-working poor who, despite the unpleasant work environment and pay, still smile and have a kind heart. Ebenezer Scrooge is the symbol of the rich and greedy. He doesn't have any regard for those in need around him. The poor children that the Ghost of Christmas Present showed Scrooge, Ignorance and Want, also symbolise the rich who ignore others around them and only want what's best for themselves. 


Redemption is the act of being saved or saving someone else from sin. The Ghosts show Scrooge his actions in the past, present and future to make him change his ways in order to avoid a lonely and horrifying future. By realising all the mistakes he made, Ebenezer Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning a changed man. 


Time is one of the themes in the novella. Scrooge is old and is running out of time to make himself a better man. The same goes for Tiny Tim, whose health is deteriorating rapidly. For both of them to be saved, Scrooge must act quickly. The names of the three Ghosts also reference time and they make Scrooge relive his entire life.

Key quotations





Ebenezer Scrooge: "If they would rather die they had better do it and decrease the surplus population."
Wealth and poverty
This quote show Scrooge's disregard for poor people. He says that if poor people wish to die that should do it so that the population decreases, which shows that Scrooge has no sympathy for the poor. 

Ebenezer Scrooge: "Bah, humbug!"
Ebenezer Scrooge first says this quote when his nephew Fred wishes him a merry Christmas. Scrooge uses this expression throughout the story as a symbol of disregard, disgust and dislike for anything. 

Ebenezer Scrooge: "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all 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!"

Ebenezer Scrooge says this quote. In the end he realises the true meaning of the Christmas spirit and promises to always honour it. The spirits of the three ghosts will always stay with him to help him remember who he was (past), who he is (present) and the person he wants to become (future).

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