Background.

A Christmas Carol.
  • I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!‘ is a quotation from A Christmas Carol (Stave 4).
  • A Christmas Carol is a novella, or short story, written by Charles Dickens and first published in the Christmas of 1843. The allegorical tale tells the story of the transformation of the mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge through the visits of the spirit of his former business partner and three ghosts over the course of a Christmas Eve night. It remains a much-loved traditional Christmas tale.

Context.

This quotation is said by Ebenezer Scrooge to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come towards the end of Stave 4.

Scrooge resolves to be a changed man after witnessing what the three spirits have shown him that evening.



Illustration from Stave 4 of the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge tormented by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Symbolism in A Christmas Carol: Scrooge’s Death.

In Stave 4 of A Christmas Carol the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come reveals to Ebenezer Scrooge a vision of the body of a man plundered and bereft, unmatched, unwept, uncared for. His possessions are robbed because no one is there to care for his dead body. Even the bed curtains, sheets and clothes are taken from around his lying body. In an impoverished part of the city, people are profiting from his death, selling items they have stolen. Who’s the worse for the loss of a few things like these? Not a dead man, I suppose says a laundress who is selling items that belonged to Scrooge whilst a charwoman comments that he frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead! It is not just criminals that do not mourn his passing. We may sleep tonight with light hearts says a husband to his wife, both owing money to Scrooge but unhappy with his collection methods. A group of fellow businessmen have no sympathy for his passing. Old Scratch has got his own at last comments one. It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral, another jokes, for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it, although one, in his own meanness, might be persuaded to attend for free food, saying I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided. Even after death, Scrooge’s legacy is one of remaining alone and uncared for, his grave unattended to in a neglected churchyard. Later in the Stave, Scrooge realises this vision of death is that of his own after he reads upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name. He is frightened into asking for help, falling down in front of the Ghost, begging it to assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life! In this climax of the novella, the visions of his own death are a final wakening call that prompts Scrooge to seek redemption, telling the Ghost that I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.


Themes in A Christmas Carol: Christmas.

As reflected in the title the theme of Christmas is central to the novella A Christmas Carol. Christmas is a traditional Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. Occurring around the Winter Solstice (the longest night of the year) has led to traditions from other cultures and religions being incorporated over time including Pagan, Roman and Greek. Dickens incorporates a number of these traditions into A Christmas Carol, such as the bringing together of family and friends, feasting of food, gathering around a fire, the singing of carols, the figure of Saint Nicholas (also known as Santa Claus/Father Christmas), the giving of presents and attending church. At the start of the story we see the miserly misanthropic character Ebenezer Scrooge reject many of these traditions. He represents the opposite of human traits we associate with Christmas such as generosity and compassion. Through his transformation, towards the end of the story we can see Scrooge adopt the spirit of Christmas such as happiness, generosity and kindness.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in Stave 4 (The Last Of The Three Spirits) of A Christmas Carol:

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.

“Am I that man who lay upon the bed?” he cried, upon his knees.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

“No, Spirit! Oh no, no!”

The finger still was there.

“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope!”

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

“Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: “Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!

The kind hand trembled.

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

Characters.

Ebenezer Scrooge.

Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most famous characters created by Charles Dickens and arguably one of the most famous in English literature. The protagonist of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is a cold-hearted and mean-spirited accountant. His business partner, the equally mean Jacob Marley, died seven years previous and he lives alone, having never married. Through a visit one Christmas Eve by the ghost of Marley and three subsequent spirits, Scrooge is awakened to his meanness and the impact it has on others.

  • The term Scrooge has entered the English Language to represent a mean person, known as a literary neologism. Neologisms are relatively recent terms, words, or phrases in the process of entering common use. Other examples of Dickens’s neologisms include butterfingers (to mean a clumsy person) and doormat (a metaphor for taking advantage of a person).
  • In screen adaptations of A Christmas Carol, the character of Ebenezer Scrooge has been played by actors that include Alastair Sim (1951 film), Albert Finney (1970 musical film), Michael Hordern (1977 TV Movie), George C. Scott (1984 TV Movie), Michael Caine (1992 musical fantasy film), Patrick Stewart (1999 TV Movie) and Guy Pearce (2019 TV Mini-Series). Michael Hordern had previously appeared alongside Alastair Sim in the 1951 film (titled Scrooge), this time playing the character of Jacob Marley.

Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (often referred to as The Ghost Of Christmas Future) is a darker phantom than the other two ghosts and the spirit that Scrooge finds the most fearsome. It appears to him as a figure entirely muffled in a black hooded cloak, except for a single hand with which it points. Although the character never speaks in the story, Scrooge understands it, usually through assumptions from his previous experiences and rhetorical questions. It looks the way it does because it represents what the future holds for Scrooge if he does not change his ways. The Ghost shows Scrooge visions including one of the Cratchit household without Tiny Tim inside, and of Scrooge’s death, his body picked upon by thieves who show joy at his passing. The visions prove so horrific to Scrooge that he begs the ghost for them to stop.

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I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!