Category Archives: A Christmas Carol

The Spiral Dynamics of “A Christmas Carol”

[T]he wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.

marley's ghostIn Stave One of “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens makes this observation in reference to him not knowing why the phrase “dead as a door-nail” aptly describes the extent to which Jacob Marley is actually dead. From a Spiral Dynamics viewpoint, this observation expresses a very Stage Blue sentiment. That is, it not only expresses reverence for the wisdom of ancestors but it also connects reverence for this wisdom to the Country’s well being. Of course, the term country could easily be replaced with tribe, race, religion or culture. In Stage Blue, these identities are of primary importance as is the belief that one’s identity is supreme and the beliefs and values of the identity are true. This naturally implies that other identities are inferior and the beliefs of other identities are false.

Of course, Charles Dickens lived in 19th century England during the industrial revolution. This was a time when the country in which he lived was transitioning from Spiral Dynamics Stage Blue to Stage Orange. You might say that it had one foot firmly in each stage. Religion at the time still had great influence over the culture, the white race was supreme in England and increasingly so around the world. At the same time Stage Orange capitalism, scientism and liberalism were taking on a larger role. The Stage Green doubt of white supremacy had not yet formed in the European consciousness or in the consciousness of Europe’s daughters (North America, South Africa, Australia etc.). But Stage Green does play a role in the story.

Indeed, the Stage Green sentiments of compassion for one’s fellow man are certainly strong themes in the story. In Stave One, the ghost of Jacob Marley rejects capitalism’s negative effects on the poor and disenfranchised by exclaiming:

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

In Stave Three, the most outwardly judgmental of the three spirits who visit Scrooge after Marley’s ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Present, chastises Scrooge for thinking that the religious authorities correctly represented divine Truth in all aspects:

“There are some upon this earth of yours … who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived.”

The “us” to which the spirit refers are spirits and the divine in general. Later, the same spirit chastises Scrooge’s political beliefs as to the government social policies of his day:

“Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

GCPHere we see a rejection of Stage Blue religion and Stage Orange capitalism. However, it is probably safe to assume that the “common welfare” to which the Marley’s ghost refers applied more strictly to his own country and not so much to mankind as a whole. In the same respect, the Ghost of Christmas Present’s criticism (in Dickens’ mind) probably assumed the supremacy of white Europeans and the truth of Christianity. Whereas, to our more modern sentiments (generally speaking) which have been more heavily influenced by Stage Green would interpret the ghosts’ references to have a more universal application. In this respect we can see the still strong influence of Stage Blue in the telling of the story.

When we speak of applying the principles of Spiral Dynamics to cultures we are necessarily speaking in general terms. The culture from which Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” was one transitioning from Blue to Orange with some influence of Green. By contrast, our culture at present can be described largely as transitioning from from Orange to Green with a waning influence of Blue. Within this larger dynamic, each individual can be described as embodying different stages in different amounts. Moreover, there are pockets of people who are influenced by various stages to greater and lesser degrees. For example, modern day San Francisco is more heavily Stage Green than is say Houston, Texas generally speaking.

A recent blog post on the (very Stage Blue) Orthosphere entitled “The Modern Cosmopolitan Cult Tends to the Cult of Moloch” is a very clear example of a Stage Blue mindset describing the Stage Orange and Green culture in which we live. The post argues that modern Stage Green notions of toleration effectively cannot tolerate Stage Blue notions of intolerance. From the Stage Blue perspective there is no higher stage than Stage Blue. Stage Orange and Green are errors. In fact, the entire Spiral Dynamics model is an error and salvation lies in a return to Stage Blue. Obviously, a Stage Blue person would not employ this terminology to describe this idea.

According to the Spiral Dynamics model, however, it is impossible to revert back to a prior stage except in extremely traumatic circumstances and this reversion tends to be temporary in nature. No, each stage is a necessary precursor to the stage that follows. Each stage solves the problems of the previous stage and creates problems that must, in turn, be solved by the next stage. From this perspective, we can see that the story of “A Christmas Carol” describes Ebeneezer Scrooge’s transition from Stage Orange to Stage Green. From a larger perspective, “A Christmas Carol” is an interesting time capsule within the larger Spiral Dynamic.



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Loving Thy Neighbor and Ebenezer Scrooge

NeighborIt should not surprise me that my neighbor reads Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and takes the position that Scrooge was better off before his conversion. He feels the problem in the story truly lies with Scrooge’s liberal neighbors who judge him negatively for his conservative values. My neighbor feels that they are hypocritically disobeying the Second Commandment to love thy neighbor when they judge Scrooge in this manner. I cannot entirely dismiss my neighbor’s point of view. Often times “judgment” does not come from a place of love and compassion. Frequently judgment of others results from the ego trying to mitigate the pain of its own shame. In this sense judgment is the ego telling itself, “Look! I am better than him.” Accordingly, to the extent Scrooge’s liberal neighbors did judge him in this way they certainly were not acting in accordance with the Second Commandment.

However, not all of Scrooge’s neighbors judged him in this manner. Certainly, Scrooge’s nephew did not judge him this way. Fred made a special point of inviting Scrooge to dinner despite his uncle’s abusive behavior. Fred did judge Scrooge in the sense that he made clear that he disagreed with Scrooge’s perspective on Christmas. But in my reading of the story this judgment came from a place of compassion. Fred truly wanted to connect with his uncle and not to put himself above uncle for the purpose of gratifying his ego.

It could be argued that Dickens himself is judging Scrooge in the egocentric sense. Certainly the following paragraph exudes this type of energy:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone. Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster…

Now, if I know my neighbor (and I think I have had enough experience with him to know him well enough although he does possess the ability to surprise me often enough) I can anticipate how he would react to that description. I suspect he would say that this is Dickens’ description and Dickens is the same type of judgmental, hypocritical liberal as are Scrooge’s neighbors. Assuming this actually reflects my neighbor’s potential reaction, it is interesting how he can project such a consistently schizophrenic view of the world into every situation. To him, even the author of a story (the creator of a universe in a sense) is unaware of his own warped, destructive and self-annihilating view of the world. It is as if there is a real story about Scrooge that exists elsewhere and Dickens’ version is a contrived piece of propaganda serving some nefarious purpose. If I am correct, my neighbor sees the story “A Christmas Carol” itself as a humbug in the fullest sense of the word.

I would argue, however, that the story is not written from an egocentric, judgmental perspective but from a compassionate one. True, in the opening scenes we see him acting abusively towards his clerk, his nephew, the two solicitors and the young caroler. When the first of the three spirits displays scenes from his past we see that he seemingly valued money more than the love of his fiancé. All these exhibits display the negative aspects of Scrooge’s value system. But then we also see the reasons why this behavior came about. We hear of Scrooge’s neglectful upbringing by an abusive father who blamed him for Scrooge’s mother’s death. We also see glimpses of Scrooge’s good nature; his gratitude for Fessiwig’s kindness and his compassion for Tiny Tim. We see his remorse for pushing away his fiancé and his fear of dying an unredeemed man. All these examples are to show that Dickens wrote this story from a place of compassion for Scrooge. As readers we pick up on this energy and root for Scrooge despite his negative behavior.

Therefore, I cannot agree with my neighbor’s assessment that Scrooge was better off as a bitter, lonely, old man. Nor can I agree with my neighbor that all of Scrooge’s neighbors were hypocritical, judgmental liberals who hated Scrooge for his conservative values. Nor can I agree with my neighbor’s shame-based, egocentric judgment of the “liberals” he seems to despise. His judgment does not come from a place of compassion and in my assessment is in violation of the Second Commandment. I now must examine my conscience to determine where my judgment of my neighbor comes from.


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The Solipsism of Scrooge

ScroogeThere is a great deal of evidence in Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol” to suggest that Ebenezer Scrooge lives within a solipsistic universe. Solipsism is the theory that the self is all that can be known to exist and possibly all that does exist. If Scrooge did in fact live in a solipsistic universe then the world he perceived himself to live in including all the other people inhabiting that world would be merely creations of his own mind. They would therefore have no real form or substance of their own. In his solipsistic universe only Scrooge would exist. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the idea I am going to relate. For the purpose of understanding I submit the following exhibits into evidence.

Exhibit A – Solitary as an Oyster

Scrooge himself felt very alone in the world. Dickens describes him as “solitary as an oyster” and that “… the very thing he liked [was to] edge his way along the crowded paths of life warning all human sympathy to keep its distance…” He lived alone in a dark, empty, “gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had little business to be …” hidden behind other houses. I have read many books on dream interpretation that interpret a house in a dream to represent the human mind. If it was Dickens’ intent to have Scrooge’s house represent his mind I think the metaphor is apt. Finally, Scrooge pushed all other people aside as if they were truly “surplus population” and not entirely real to him. We see this when his nephew comes to his office to invite him to dinner, when the two solicitors visit and when the child sings a carol on the steps of his office. We also see it quite clearly in the way he treats his clerk, Bob Cratchit.

Exhibit B – Bah Humbug

Scrooge’s go to catch phrase is “Bah Humbug.” In my last post we discussed how the actual definition of “Humbug” is “language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive…” It is this deception that lies at the heart of the solipsistic universe. In other words, the other people in Scrooge’s world are not separate beings but rather creations of Scrooge’s mind. The fact that they appear to be separate on the surface level is the deception. Scrooge sees his universe as a humbug because the truth of it is not how it actually appears. In a sense there are two minds at work; one that is of the universe and lives within it (i.e, his ego) and one that is aware of the falseness of the universe (i.e., his true self).

Exhibit C – Jacob Marley

Marley’s ghost tells Scrooge that the purpose of his visit is to warn Scrooge that he has a chance to escape Marley’s fate. Scrooge sees that Marley is fettered with a ponderously long and heavy chain. Marley tells Scrooge he wears the chain he forged through his neglect of his fellow man and that Scrooge’s chain was as heavy as Marley’s chain currently appears to be seven Christmases ago. Scrooge is not aware of his own chain but the implication is clear that he will become painfully aware of the chain once he dies.

When Marley first appears, Scrooge explicitly states that he does not believe Marley is real and that he assumes Marley is a creation of his own imagination. There is then a dialog where Marley’s ghost attempts to convince Scrooge that he is real. Scrooge argues that Marley is probably the byproduct of poor digestion. This is not particularly convincing but it illustrates the point that Scrooge assumes himself to live in an (at least somewhat) solipsistic universe. Marley finally frightens Scrooge into admitting he believed in Marley. But what exactly does this mean that Scrooge “believed” in Marley? I think the only logical answer to this question is that when Scrooge says he believes in Marley he means to say he believes Marley is a separate person and therefore repudiates his own belief that he lives in a solipsistic universe. Perhaps this is repudiation is necessary in order for Scrooge to believe the redeeming power of the apparition. Perhaps this belief is necessary for his redemption.

But even if Scrooge is forced to admit that he does not live in a solipsistic universe this does not necessarily prove that his universe is more than just his mind. Consider the question, why was there no ghost that appeared to Marley before he died? Why does Scrooge deserve this chance at redemption and not Marley? It could be argued that Scrooge actually deserves redemption less than Marley given the relative sizes of their respective chains. The fact that Marley appears for Scrooge’s sake but no ghost appeared for Marley’s sake appears to be evidence that Scrooge does in fact live in a solipsistic universe.

Exhibit D – Your Past

The final piece of evidence I will present to support the argument that Scrooge lives in a solipsistic universe is what the Ghost of Christmas Past says to Scrooge when he makes his introduction. When he tells Scrooge who he is, Scrooge replies, “Long past?” to which the ghost counter-replies, “No. Your past.” The ghost is in effect telling Scrooge that his whole reason for being is for Scrooge’s benefit. In a sense the ghost would not have a reason for being if Scrooge did not exist. This only makes sense if Scrooge lives in a solipsistic universe. One can assume the subsequent ghosts exist for the same reason.


I think it is important that Scrooge’s universe is solipsistic because it explains both how and why his redemption takes effect. First of all, there must have been a repressed subconscious part of Scrooge that desired redemption. This subconscious part of him was his true self that had been suppressed by an overbearing ego. This ego had its genesis in Scrooge’s mother who died in childhood and his father who blamed him for his mother’s death. Scrooge “feared the world too much” and built up defenses against it by allowing his ego to take control. With the onset of advanced age his true self reached a point where either redemption happened now or it would never happen. Because Scrooge lived in an egocentric solipsistic universe his subconscious true self was able to send Marley and the three ghosts to ferry Scrooge through the redemption process.

This redemption process, however, was a transformation from solipsism to a world where the other had real form and substance. In a solipsistic universe, there is only the self. The “others” cohabitating this universe have no real existence. As such, they can be easily marginalized as “surplus population” and treated as lesser beings. But this is a lonely, dark, hostile and ultimately undesirable world to live in. When one lives in that world for too long he becomes like Scrooge; angry, bitter, afraid and distrustful of the other. Redemption can only happen when one frees himself from the shackles of the ego and migrates from its self contained, solipsistic universe into the real world in which the other exists with real form and substance. In order for the command to love thy neighbor to be meaningful, the neighbor must be real and other. Otherwise love of neighbor is merely a love for a phantom created by the mind.


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Humbug and the Spirit of Christmas

FredIn Stave I of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Fred debates the value of the spirit of Christmas with his uncle Ebenezer Scrooge. The debate takes place in the evening on a dark, cold Christmas Eve in his uncle’s office. Fred invites his uncle to dine with him on Christmas Day and his uncle declines calling Christmas a “humbug.” I have always thought the term “humbug” meant something frivolous or devoid of meaning. It turns out the definition is a little more specific than this. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary “humbug” is defined as “language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people.” If this is the definition of humbug Charles Dickens intended it casts a slightly different shade on why Ebenezer Scrooge chose this word to describe Christmas.

Throughout the novella Scrooge retorts “humbug” to various things he encounters. For example, when Marley’s ghost appears in his room he utters “humbug.” It seems clear that by “humbug” he means that he does not believe what he sees to be actually real. But according to the definition of the word it would seem that he does not believe what he sees because he feels that someone or something is trying to deceive him. In the same respect he tells his nephew that “Christmas is a humbug” which I therefore take to mean that he does not believe in Christmas because he sees it as some sort of grand deception. Given his material preoccupation I assume he sees Christmas as a deception by the people who profit from the economic activity associated with the holiday. But perhaps he also senses a more spiritual deception going on. This would explain all the ghostly activity to come later that night.

In reaction to his uncle’s branding of Christmas a humbug, Fred begins to defend the holiday’s good name by saying:

… I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that…

Here he pays a winking acknowledgement to the reason for Christmas (i.e., Christ’s incarnation) but does so in a way to suggest that this is not the thrust behind this story (i.e., A Christmas Carol). I do not believe this is a Fox News “War on Christmas” type of thing. It is merely to say that the story Dickens is telling, although set within a Christian context is not about Christianity per se. Rather, it is the story of one man’s spiritual redemption from himself. In a sense Scrooge in this story has pulled the wool over his own eyes. He is perpetrating a humbug on himself, so to speak.

Fred further describes Christmas as:

 … as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. 

I assume most people recognize the childlike spirit of the season he describes. I remember feeling this more intensely when I was younger. Essentially, there is something about the Christmas season that makes people want to be nicer to each other, to relax their egocentric judgment and to pay less attention to false excuses for division such as politics, race and indeed religion.

Children are not as fixated on these things. They only come to value them when they are taught to value them by adults. Jesus himself said, “… Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (MT 18:3). Perhaps this childlike spirit of Christmas is a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps this childlike spirit is revealed when one pulls back the various humbugs of adulthood.

Clearly Scrooge is the antithesis of the childlike spirit Fred describes. For one thing, he is old. I have often heard people react to “A Christmas Carol” by saying that even though Scrooge redeemed himself he must have been disappointed or regretful that his redemption did not happen earlier in life. But this observation misses the point, I think. It is precisely Scrooge’s age in spirit that required redeeming. He had to become more childlike to enter the kingdom of heaven. As such, his physical age is symbolic of his spiritual age which exudes all the traits of ego dominated adulthood.

Fred continues:

And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!

Here he contrasts this childlike spirit of Christmas with the materialism with which it stands in opposition to. A childlike spirit is not cynical. It does not suspect a humbug around every corner. It is not greedy, grasping or full of ego. It is not mean spirited, judgmental or racist. Rather, the childlike spirit of Christmas is open hearted, compassionate, full of life, anticipation and excitement. It exposes the humbug of division and reveals the true fact that we are all “fellow passengers to the grave” and this earthly existence and our physical, skin deep appearances are not what is ultimately important.


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God Bless Us Everyone – Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” Part VII

In the final stave Scrooge is relieved to find himself alive in his bedroom on Christmas morning.  He has time to make amends for his prior acts.  As he frantically dresses he looks around the room and remembers the events of the previous night.  He laughs for the first time in many years and realizes he does not know what day or time it is.  As the church bells toll he opens the window and yells down to a boy on the street.

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John L...

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John Leech in 1843 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When asked the boy tells him it is Christmas Day.  He realizes the spirits had transacted their business all in one night despite what Marley had told him about when to expect the ghosts’ arrival.  This is a strange discrepancy, the significance of which has never been explained to my satisfaction.

He sends the boy off to get the prize turkey in order to send it anonymously to Bob Cratchit.  Scrooge is delighted by the boy.  This seems to be the culmination of a theme starting with the caroler Scrooge mistreated on Christmas Eve, Scrooge’s child self, Tiny Tim, and the children duo Ignorance and Want.   As Scrooge waits at the door he sees the knocker says he will love it forever.  The poulterer arrives, Scrooge pays for the turkey and sends him in a cab to Bob’s house.  Scrooge also pays the boy.

Scrooge then returns to his room, shaves happily and dresses himself in his best clothes.  He walks through the streets addressing everyone happily.  He meets the two men he had rebuffed on Christmas Eve seeking money for the poor.  He apologizes and tells them he will give them money.  He then goes to church and walks the streets.

In the afternoon Scrooge arrives at his nephew’s house. Fred welcomes him happily.  This scene has always been very powerful for me.  I always react emotionally when Fred welcomes Scrooge to his party.  It is the Biblical scene where the father welcomes home the prodigal son.  It is the scene where God welcomes us home after our struggles on Earth.

The next day Bob Cratchit arrives late to work.  “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?” Scrooge asks him pretending to be angry.  Bob confesses that he was “making rather merry” the day before.  I suppose this means he drank too much and overslept or was hung over.  But Scrooge tells him he will raise his salary and help his family and that they will discuss his affairs over a “smoking bowl of Christmas Bishop” (whatever that is).

Dickens tells us that Scrooge was as good as his word and Tiny Tim did not die.  He also mentions that some people laughed at Scrooge for changing.  In other words they tried to shame him for changing.  This certainly fits the pattern of shame-based people.  They fear change themselves and become jealous when they see other people change so they try to stop other people from changing by shaming them.  Scrooge, of course, was unaffected because through the intercession of Marley and the three ghosts he had surpassed this shame-based circle.  He was indeed a new man.

Were the three ghosts real?  That is, were they separate entities intervening in his life for his benefit or were they parts of his subconscious mind fed up with the status quo and affecting their own healing?  The fact that Marley had no one intervene on his own behalf suggests the latter.  This is certainly a topic that can be explored in greater depth.

Anyway, I think I am done with “A Christmas Carol” for now.

God bless us.  Everyone.

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The Ghost of Christmas Future – Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” Part VI

The Last of the Spirits, from Charles Dickens:...

The Last of the Spirits, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Ghost of Christmas Present disappears the Ghost of Christmas Future approaches.  This final ghost wears a black robe and does not speak.  Scrooge is afraid but states he desires to be a different person and believes that by adhering to the ghosts’ program he will, in fact, transform.

The ghost leads Scrooge into the city among the merchants.  A small group of businessmen talk about a dead man.  They do not seem to care about him except they are interested in who will inherit his money.  One man expects no one will go to the funeral.  Another man says he will attend the funeral if there is a lunch.

The ghost then leads Scrooge to two other businessmen whom Scrooge recognizes and admires.   They have a very short interchange where one of them mentions a certain “Old Scratch” had died.  Scrooge assumes these two conversations are about the same man but at this point seems to be in denial about the dead man’s identity.

The ghost then leads Scrooge into a bad section of the city full of crime, filth and misery.  They stop at a junk shop.  Inside an old gray-haired man named Joe smokes a pipe.  Two old hags and an undertaker arrive at the same time and laugh.  They joke about a man who died alone whom nobody liked.  The three of them sell to Joe items they had stolen from the dead man’s house.  Scrooge listens in horror and tells the ghost that he understands that if he persists in his old ways that his fate will be the same as this “unhappy man.”

The scene changes to a bedroom.  The ghost points to a body lying under a sheet. Scrooge cannot take the sheet off of the body.   On some level he knows the body is his own but he persists in his denial.  He hears a cat behind a door and rats scurrying beneath the floor and knows what they will do to the body if given the chance.  Again, the ghost points to the sheet covering the body but Scrooge cannot remove it.

Scrooge pleads with the ghost to show him emotion connected with the dead man.  The ghost shows him an anxious woman.  Her careworn husband arrives home and she asks him what news he has for her.  The man replies that the news is bad, that the man to whom they own money has died.  She is visibly relieved upon hearing this news.  She feels guilty about feeling happy in relation to a death but happy nonetheless.

Scrooge is not satisfied with this scene and asks the ghost to show him “tenderness” connected with the man’s death.  The ghost shows Scrooge the house of Bob Cratchit.  The family is sad and quiet.  Bob arrives home and they try to comfort him.  He pretends to be cheerful but breaks down crying.  Tiny Tim has died.

Scrooge pleads with the ghost to tell him who the dead man is.  The ghost shows Scrooge his office but it is no longer the office of Scrooge and Marley.  Then the ghost leads him into a cemetery choked with weeds.  The ghost points to a tombstone.  Scrooge is afraid to look.  He knows it is his grave and that his is the dead man who died alone and unloved.  He pleads with the ghost

Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point … answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only? … Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead…  But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me. 

The ghost does not answer and continues to point to the tombstone.  It is obvious that Scrooge does not want to die alone and unloved.  This is interesting because before this evening he did not seem to care for the company of people at all.  It seems strange that such a person would be motivated by the fear of being unloved.  Perhaps Scrooge had buried this aspect of his personality under the psychological defense mechanisms he had constructed to protect himself from the abandonment he suffered during childhood.  Scrooge panics and drops these defenses.  He states that he will keep Christmas in his heart.  The transformation is complete.  The ghosts’ program was a success.  Suddenly the Ghost of Christmas Future transforms into a bedpost and Scrooge finds himself back in his bedroom.

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The Ghost of Christmas Present – Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” Part V

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...

Scrooge’s third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scrooge wakes again at 1:00 am and pulls back all the bed curtains to avoid being surprised as he was with the Ghost of Christmas Past.  He lies in bed for fifteen minutes waiting and feeling anxious.  At this point he becomes aware of light shining from under the door to an adjacent room.  He gets up to investigate and as he approaches the door a booming voice bids him enter.

The voice belongs to the Ghost of Christmas Present.  When Scrooge enters the room he is surprised to see it brightly lit, richly decorated and full of food.  The ghost is clothed in a robe with a crown of holly atop his head and sits on a throne made of various meat products.

You have never seen the like of me before,” says the ghost.  Scrooge has not.  The ghost tells Scrooge that he has more than 1800 brothers who have walked the earth before him.  This story, of course, takes place in the 1800’s.  It is a fairly obvious assumption that the ghost has had one brother a year walk the earth since the birth of Christ.  This is yet another indirect reference to Christianity.

Scrooge admits that he has changed since the Ghost of Christmas Past’s visit and has a certain level of faith in this transformational program the ghosts have set up for him.  He tells the Ghost of Christmas Present that he is in his hands essentially and goes forth with him.  Suddenly they are walking forth in the busy city streets of London.  It is a bright Christmas Morning.  There is an air of cheerfulness among the people.  Dickens goes at great length to describe an abundance of food.  People are carrying their dinners to the bakers and going to church.  As they mingle the Ghost sprinkles water on people making their mood alter for the better because different rules of civility apply on Christmas Day.

Scrooge asks the ghost why he sprinkles water on the people’s food.  The ghost tells him it is his own blessing that applies to any kindly given dinner and to a poor one most of all, because it needs it most.  Scrooge then asks the ghost why he would close all the bakers shops on Sunday denying people a dinner on perhaps the only day of the week when they can dine at all.  The ghost takes issue with this question and denies that it is his doing.  He then states:

There are some upon this earth of yours … who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.

This statement (one of a few lectures to Scrooge made by this ghost) may solve the riddle as to why Dickens only indirectly references Christianity within the spiritual universe existing in this story.  I would guess he sees Christianity as good and true in its essence but perhaps corrupted in its practice for the most part.

Next the Ghost blesses Bob Cratchit’s house.  We see Mrs. Cratchit preparing the Christmas dinner.  Peter, the eldest son wears a shirt with a giant collar handed down to him from his father.  There are two young children as well.  Martha, the eldest sister arrives home from her factory job.  The family conspires to hide her from Bob when he arrives home from church with Tiny Tim.  Dickens does not explain why only Bob and Tiny Tim go to church by themselves.  Bob is upset when he hears that Martha is not coming but she soon reveals herself and sets things straight.  Bob tells his wife that Tiny Tim was as good as gold in church and that he gets philosophical telling him that it was good that he was a cripple because it would remind people of the man who made lame beggars walk and blind men see (another indirect reference to Christianity).  The dinner is prepared, table set and grace said.  The goose arrives and then the pudding.  They then settle around the hearth drinking some Christmas mixture.  Bob says, “A Merry Christmas to us all” and Tiny Tim replies, “God bless us every one.

Scrooge is interested in the smallest, weakest member of the family.  He asks the ghost if Tiny Tim will live.  The ghost tells him he sees a vacant seat and a crutch without an owner.  Much like his compassion for his own child self, Scrooge feels compassion for Tiny Tim.  The ghost uses Scrooge’s own words against him and remarks judgmentally that if Tiny Tim is going to die he should do it and decrease the surplus population and then continues with another lecture:

… if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! To hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.                                                                                                                                                                                         

The scene shifts from the ghost to Bob Cratchit toasting Scrooge as “the founder of the feast.”  His family does not agree and lets him know it, but Bob persists remarking that it is Christmas Day and different rules of civility apply.  The family reluctantly toasts Scrooge and in a few minutes the good mood returns to this poor but happy family.

Outside the Cratchit house people are out visiting.  Then the ghost takes Scrooge on a journey visiting various peoples celebrating Christmas.  They see miners, men isolated in a remote lighthouse battered by storm, and men on a ship at sea.  Each celebrated Christmas with a warm heart despite their rough environment.  Once again Dickens makes an indirect reference to Christianity mentioning its “mighty Founder [who] was a child himself.

And then they were in Fred’s house at the dinner party Scrooge was invited to.  They laugh at Scrooge and how he disdains Christmas.  Fred mocks him too but then reveals that he pities his uncle and intends to keep inviting him to dinner.  Later they play games and Scrooge becomes involved and does not want to leave.  Eventually, the ghost removes Scrooge and they continue their travels.

At some point Scrooge notices that the ghost has grown old.  He tells Scrooge that his life on the earth will end at midnight.  Scrooge sees a hand protruding from the ghost’s robe.  Upon Scrooge’s inquiry the ghost reveals two retched children hiding under his robe.  The boy is “Ignorance” and the girl is “Want,” the ghost tells him.  They are the result of greedy men designing social structures that leave people behind.  If ignored, these children will eventually bring about the doom of mankind.

Have they no refuge or resource?” asks Scrooge.

Are there no prisons?” mocks the ghost using Scrooge’s words against him.  “Are there no workhouses?”

The Ghost of Christmas Present then disappears as the clock strikes midnight.


Filed under A Christmas Carol