Charles Dickens describes Scrooge as “a greedy, old sinner who squeezes, wrenches, grasps, scrapes, clutches! As hard and sharp as flint, as secretive and self-contained as an oyster.” He operates out of a Cornhill warehouse and is well-known among the Royal Exchange merchants as a creditworthy individual. Despite his substantial personal riches, he underpays his clerk Bob Cratchit. He ruthlessly pursues his debtors while living cheaply and joylessly in the chambers of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. He particularly despises Christmas, which he associates with excessive spending. When two men approach him for a charitable donation on Christmas Eve, he sneers that the poor should utilize the treadmill or the workhouses or die to reduce the surplus population. He also turns down his nephew Fred’s invitation to Christmas dinner and calls him an idiot for doing anything at all.
Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost that night, who has been sentenced to roam the world eternally in chains as a punishment for his greed and inhumanity in life. Marley warns Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits who hope to persuade him to change his ways; if he does not, Scrooge will be forced to wear even heavier shackles in the hereafter.
The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge visions of his early life. According to these visions, Scrooge’s unloving father enrolled him in a boarding school where he remained alone for the Christmas season while his classmates returned home to their homes. Scrooge’s one happy childhood memory was when his adored sister Fan arrived to take him home one Christmas. After giving birth to Fred, she died. Scrooge then worked as an apprentice in the warehouse of Mr. Fezziwig, a merry and benevolent master. He proposed marriage to Belle, a young woman, but his desire for money progressively overshadowed his passion for Belle. Belle realized this and, hurt by his selfishness, left him for another guy one Christmas. Scrooge reacts to these recollections with a mix of nostalgia and severe remorse.
Next, the Ghost of Christmas Past appears. It demonstrates how Scrooge’s greed and selfishness have harmed others, particularly Cratchit, who cannot offer medical treatment to his dangerously ill son Tiny Tim due to Scrooge’s miserliness. Scrooge is appalled when the Spirit warns him that Tiny Tim will die within a year, and the Spirit retaliates Scrooge’s insensitive statements about the poor.
Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come reveals Scrooge the consequences of his greed and selfishness: a lonely death, unpaid servants stealing his possessions, debtors relieved at his end, and the Cratchit family saddened by Tiny Tim’s death.
Scrooge inquires of the Spirit if the future can still be altered, but the Spirit remains silent. Scrooge begs the Spirit for a second chance, pledging to change his ways, and then wakes up on Christmas Day in his bed. Scrooge is overjoyed, and he vows to be more giving and compassionate in the future; he accepts his nephew’s invitation to Christmas dinner, provides for Cratchit and his family, and contributes to the charity fund.
In the end, he is renowned as the personification of the Christmas spirit and Tiny Tim’s “second father.”