The Structural Elements of the Plot of "A Christmas Carol"

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" follows the Christmas Eve transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge from a miserly, bitter man to someone filled with the Christmas spirit. The classic tale follows basic plot structure -- exposition, rising action, climax and resolution -- in delivering a tale that has been retold multiple times in a variety of formats.


The exposition of a story introduces the characters, setting and a general idea of the conflict. In "A Christmas Carol," the exposition occurs when Dickens introduces the reader to main character Ebenezer Scrooge. Readers learn that Scrooge's business partner Marley has died. To introduce the conflict, Dickens describes Scrooge's hostile attitude toward his nephew, his ill feelings about marriage and his disdain for charity.

Rising Action

In literary works, rising action includes increased conflict for the main character. Dickens' main character meets Marley's ghost and is warned about the consequences of his behavior and is told he will encounter three ghosts. As part of the rising action, the first and second ghosts who visit Scrooge allow him to see his past Christmases and the present Christmas. Scrooge revisits his lonely past Christmases, and the reader learns the source of his bitterness toward the holiday. In his journey around the current Christmas season, he sees those whom he has hurt.


The climax is the point of the story in which the central conflict is at its height. In "A Christmas Carol," Scrooge reaches his most desperate point when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears. During this visitation, Scrooge sees a future where people celebrate his death and no one attends his funeral. This event becomes the impetus for Scrooge's desire to change.


In literary works, the resolution occurs when the result of the central conflict causes change, usually in the main character. Scrooge's desperation after seeing the lonely end of his life changes his perception of family and the Christmas spirit in the ending of "A Christmas Carol." He decides to make charitable contributions and attend his nephew's Christmas dinner as part of the story's resolution.

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