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What Does the Ghost of Christmas Past's Light Symbolize in "A Christmas Carol"?


Charles Dickens’ enduring holiday tale “A Christmas Carol” features three ghosts who visit Ebenezer Scrooge, a crotchety man who detests the yuletide holiday. Each ghost represents a different time of his life, and their appearance further symbolizes their purpose. A “bright clear jet of light” bursts from the head of the Ghost of Christmas Past, symbolizing torturous revelation and self-discovery.

Revelation

The events of the past “are but shadows,” according to the Ghost of Christmas Past. The ghost illuminates Scrooge’s dark past by taking him back to various scenes in his life where he must witness how his stinginess with money and obsession with profit causes him to “weigh everything by Gain.” One painful vision shows Scrooge parting with a former lover over money.

Torture

Confronting the shadows of his past is agonizing for Scrooge. “Show me no more! Why do you delight to torture me?” Scrooge cries at the ghost. The Ghost of Christmas Past holds a cap in its hand, and from the beginning Scrooge desires it to cover the light with its cap. Finally, when he can take no more confrontation with his past, he struggles with the spirit to extinguish its light with the cap.

About the Author

Nadine Smith has been writing since 2010. She teaches college writing and ESL courses and has several years experience tutoring all ages in English, ESL and literature. Nadine holds a Master of Arts in English language and literature from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she led seminars as a teaching assistant.

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