A Description of the Ghosts in "A Christmas Carol"

human skull with chain and smoke

Charles Dickens wrote the classic "A Christmas Carol" in 1843. The central character is a greedy businessman, Ebenezer Scrooge, who hates Christmas. Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley, and three ghosts that represent different stages of Scrooge's life. All the apparitions warn Scrooge that he must change his greedy ways or suffer a horrible fate.

Here are the 4 ghosts that visit Scrooge:

Jacob Marley

Marley is the first ghost to confront Scrooge. He is transparent but has heavy, locked chains wrapped around his body. He informs Scrooge that ​he cannot rest in peace.​ He is cursed to roam the Earth in chains because he mistreated the poor and hoarded his money during his lifetime. Marley warns Scrooge that his fate could become like Marley's. He also notifies Scrooge that three more ghosts are scheduled to visit him.

Ghost of Christmas Past

Dickens does not use gender pronouns to describe the Ghost of Christmas Past. He refers to the ghost as “it.” Dickens describes the ghost as having long white hair and a face with no wrinkles. The ghost wears a white tunic and holds a branch of fresh green holly in its hand. On top of its head is a bright flame.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge on a journey to show him specific scenes from his past, including his lonely boarding school days during Christmas and the time when his fiance leaves him. The scenes show how Scrooge increasingly becomes obsessed with his fortunes and grows to despise Christmas.

Ghost of Christmas Present

The Ghost of Christmas Present is next. This ghost has long, dark brown curls and wears a green robe bordered with white fur. He is large in size and wears a wreath of holly with icicles.

The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge out on the city's streets to see the common people celebrating Christmas.

The ghost sees a vision of Tiny Tim's crutch in a fireplace corner. He tells Scrooge that if changes are not made in the present, the boy will die. ​Tiny Tim is the son of Scrooge's employee, Bob Cratchit.​ Since Scrooge does not pay Cratchit a sufficient income, Cratchit struggles to financially support his family and care for his ill child.

Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, or the Ghost of the Future, is the last ghost to visit Scrooge. Dickens describes this ghost as clad in a black garment that conceals its face and body. The only body part visible to Scrooge is an outstretched hand. Scrooge fears this ghost who does not talk.

The ghost points out different future scenes to Scrooge, including Bob Cratchit's family mourning the death of Tiny Tim.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come also ​foreshadows Scrooge's death​ by pointing out Scrooge's own grave.

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