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.
- The Ghost of Christmas Present – Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” Part V (winstonscrooge.wordpress.com)
- The Ghost of Christmas Past – Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” Part IV (winstonscrooge.wordpress.com)
- The Fourth Christmas Ghost (ekumphrey.wordpress.com)
- BlogFestivus: Future Shock (shoutsfromtheabyss.wordpress.com)
- How all those Christmas ghosts provide much-needed therapy (theglobeandmail.com)
- A Christmas Carol 2013, part four (treatmentofvisions.com)
- Essential Fiction Prescription: Scrooge & the Ghost of Christmas Future (thegirlbehindthecounter.com)