A Summary of 'A Christmas Carol'

Scene From A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens
Scene from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843. Bob Cratchett carrying Tiny Tim: He had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant. (Colorised black and white print).Artist Unknown.

 The Print Collector / Getty Images

Charles Dickens is one of the greatest novelists of the Victorian era. His novella A Christmas Carol is considered by many to be one of the great Christmas stories ever written. It's been popular since its first publication in 1843. Dozens of movies have been made of the story along with countless stage reproductions. Even the Muppets took a turn acting out this story for the silver screen with Micheal Caine starring in the 1992 movie. While the story does include an element of the paranormal it is a family friendly tale with a great moral.

Setting and Storyline

This short tale takes place on Christmas Eve when Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three spirits. Scrooge's name has become synonymous with not only greed but a hatred of Christmas cheer. He's portrayed at the start of the show as a man who only cares for money. His business partner Jacob Marley died years earlier and the closest things to a friend he has is his employee Bob Cratchit. Even though his nephew invites him to Christmas dinner, Scrooge refuses, preferring to be alone. 

That night Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Marley who warns him that he will be visited by three spirits. Marley's soul has been condemned to hell for his greed but he hopes the spirits will be able to save Scrooge. The first is the ghost of Christmas past who takes Scrooge on a journey through the Christmas's of his childhood first with his younger sister then with his first employer Fezziwig. His first employer is the exact opposite of Scrooge. He loves Christmas and people, Scrooge is reminded of how much fun he had during those years. 

The second spirit is the ghost of Christmas Present, who takes Scrooge on a tour of his nephew and Bob Cratchit's holiday. We learn that Bob has a sickly son named Tiny Tim and that Scrooge pays him so little the Cratchit family lives in near poverty. Even though the family has many reasons to be unhappy, Scrooge sees that their love and kindness towards each other brightens even the hardest of situations. As he grows to care for Tiny Time he is warned that the future does not look bright for the little boy. 

When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrives things take a bleak turn. Scrooge sees the world after his death. Not only does no one mourn his loss the world is a colder place seemingly because of him. Scrooge finally sees the errors of his ways and begs for the chance to set things right. He then wakes up and finds that only one night has passed. Full of Christmas cheer he buys Bob Cratchit a Christmas goose and becomes a more generous person. Tiny Tim is able to make a full recovery.  

Like most of Dickens work, there's an element of social critique in this holiday tale that is still relevant today. He used the story of a miserly old man and his miraculous transformation as an indictment of the Industrial Revolution and the money-grubbing tendencies that his main character Scrooge exemplifies. The stories strong condemnation of greed and the true meaning of Christmas is what has made it such a memorable tale. 

Study Guide

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Your Citation
Lombardi, Esther. "A Summary of 'A Christmas Carol'." ThoughtCo, Oct. 4, 2021, thoughtco.com/a-christmas-carol-summary-overview-739240. Lombardi, Esther. (2021, October 4). A Summary of 'A Christmas Carol'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-christmas-carol-summary-overview-739240 Lombardi, Esther. "A Summary of 'A Christmas Carol'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-christmas-carol-summary-overview-739240 (accessed June 9, 2023).