The timeless classic, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is a family favorite in many homes during the holidays. Since its first publishing in 1843, A Christmas Carol has been played out on the theatrical stage, cinematic big screen, and live operas! Even with its paranormal elements of ghosts and a wicked miser named Scrooge, children are keen audiences of the Dickens classic. But, if there is one thing that might be a bit scary for little ones, it is the presence of the three ghosts who visit Scrooge. So, who are the ghosts that visit Scrooge?
What ghosts visit Scrooge?
Without going into a synopsis of the novel itself, let’s jump right into understanding who the three ghosts are that visit Scrooge. After all, the ghosts, or as Dickens more aptly called them, the “Spirits” are more than mere extras in the story. They are, in fact, central characters in the story.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
The first spirit to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Past. According to Dickens, the Ghost of Christmas Past wears a white robe and is radiating near-blinding white light. It is unclear if the ghost is male or female, and we are not told how old s/he is. What we do know is that the ghost takes Scrooge on a blast to the past whereupon he revisits events and decisions from the past which, according to the ghost, molded Scrooge into a nasty miser.
Of course, Scrooge was not pleased to see such things and begged the ghost to show him no more, to which the ghost responded:
“These are the shadows of things that have been. That they are what they are, do not blame me!”The Ghost of Christmas Past
The Ghost of Christmas Present
The second ghost to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Present. This visitation is particularly painful for Scrooge, because the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge what people are saying about Scrooge behind his back.
Regarding what the Ghost of Christmas Present looks like, Dickens explains that the ghost is male and is wearing a fur-lined green robe. The ghost also is wearing a holly wreath on his head and is carrying a torch. He also has an empty scabbard at his side which symbolizes peace on Earth.
Because the Ghost of Christmas Present represents the fleeting moment of the “present,” he explains to Scrooge that he will only be around for a “very brief” time. He vanishes at the stroke of midnight, having rapidly aged during the time of his brief visit.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
The final ghost to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Why Dickens chose to name it the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come instead of the Ghost of Christmas Future, is a question many have. Perhaps Dickens can answer it if he visits you as a ghost.
Anyway, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the scariest of the three ghosts. Unlike the Ghost of Christmas Present, which was peaceful and cheerful, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is full of gloom and doom.
“The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand.”Dickens, A Christmas Carol
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’s purpose is to show Scrooge what his fate will be if he doesn’t change his ways. It is during this visit that Scrooge is also shown the untimely death of Tiny Tim, which, if Scrooge changes his attitude toward the Crotchett family, can be avoided. This, of course, eventually happens when the next morning, Christmas morning, Scrooge blesses the Crotchett family with a feast and an increase in wealth.