A Christmas Carol

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A Christmas Carol is a Charles Dickens story about the transformation of bitter, miserly capitalist confronted by three "ghosts" one fateful Christmas Eve.

First published as "my little Christmas book," as Dickens described it, and priced low enough for the masses while intended to be successful enough to pay off some debt, the book was an instant best-seller when published on December 19, 1843 and became one of the most enduring and best-loved stories of Christmas ever written. The plot line has been featured in numerous books and movies, often incorporating modern events while telling the story of a miser who is changed after seeing visions of the future.

Plot summary

The setting of the story is Christmas Eve, 1843.

A Christmas Carol is essentially the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a master of money exchange who built up his own wealth through years of work, but at the same time built up his own tightfisted, miserly ways as well. He refuses to join his nephew, Fred (his only relative) for Christmas dinner, refuses to contribute to charitable solicitors seeking donations for the poor (he would rather have the poor and destitute go to the prisons and workhouses provided by his taxes and live there, and if they die then the "surplus population" is decreased), and begrudgingly gives his poor, overworked assistant Bob Cratchit Christmas Day off with pay (solely to keep the custom of the day, considering it being "pickpocketed").

But things change when Scrooge's dead business partner, Jacob Marley, returns from beyond, bearing the ponderous chains of guilt, and warns Scrooge that he will face similar consequences worsened by seven more years (the story is set seven years to the day of Marley's death on Christmas Eve, 1836) unless he changes from within. Scrooge will be given the chance to repent by the visitation of three spirits (the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future).

First, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge back to his unhappy childhood, his unfeeling father, the loss of his sister giving birth to Fred, and the breakup of his engagement to Belle due to his move of money. It sets in place how Scrooge became the unkind miser that he was.

Next, the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the conditions his miserly ways have on Bob Cratchit and his family. Though they are poor the family is quite happy, but deeply concerned about the health of the youngest child, Tiny Tim. The Ghost informs Scrooge that if things do not change Tiny Tim will die (implying that his condition is not fatal[1], but Cratchit's meager salary will not provide the care he needs), then on two separate occasions uses Scrooge's comments to the charitable solicitors against him.

Finally the Ghost of Christmas Future shows the death of a person disliked by the city: several men will attend his funeral – only if lunch is provided, a couple rejoices that the man's death gives them more time to repay the debt, and three criminals steal and sell the deceased's belongings. The Cratchits are shown mourning the death of Tiny Tim. The Ghost then takes Scrooge to an unkempt grave with a solitary name on the headstone: SCROOGE, implying that the deceased was Scrooge himself and that nobody will mourn his passing.

The visitations have the desired effect: Scrooge anonymously buys a large turkey and has it delivered to the Cratchit family, meets the solicitors and gives them a large amount (he considered it repayment for several back years), and attends Christmas dinner with Fred. The next day he agrees to raise Cratchit's salary and ultimately becomes a second father to Tiny Tim, making sure he gets the care he needs.

Notes

  1. Speculation about the disease which Tiny Tim had has centered on either rickets or renal tubular acidosis, both of which were fatal if untreated but easily treatable during Dickens' lifetime.

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