A Christmas Carol

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The Ghost of Christmas Past Character Analysis

A strange combination of young and old, he has the innocence of an infant, but is seen as if through a veil of time, as if he is very elderly. He wears white robes and glows bright like a candle. At the end of his tour with Scrooge, this light is extinguished with a cap, making it clear that he is "reborn" and dies again every Christmas. He shows Scrooge the scenes of Christmas past.

The Ghost of Christmas Past Quotes in A Christmas Carol

The A Christmas Carol quotes below are all either spoken by The Ghost of Christmas Past or refer to The Ghost of Christmas Past. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of A Christmas Carol published in 2003.
Stave 2 Quotes

It was a strange figure-like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions.

Related Characters: The Ghost of Christmas Past
Related Symbols: Images of Age and Youth
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

When the ghost of Marley leaves, it tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts. The first one arrives as the clock strikes one o' clock, and tells him it is the Ghost of Christmas Past--not all Christmases past, but all of Scrooges'. 

This quote describes the ghost's appearance, which is both aged and youthful. The incongruity of its appearance--a child-like face and demeanor, but stooped and small like an old man--speaks to the tension between memories of the past and the time that has actually passed since Scrooge's childhood. The contrast between old and young within the same ghost shows the tactic by which he will attempt to educate Scrooge on the true meaning of Christmas and empathizing with his fellow men: he will show Scrooge how, over time, his fondness for the company of others was worn down by the trials of life. At one point, deep in the past, Scrooge did approach life with the optimistic joy of a child. The Ghost of Christmas Past will attempt to bring old Scrooge into the mindset he held as a young child, and show him how his current attitude is part circumstance and part pessimism--and he is now being given the chance to amend his ways. 

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'The school is not quite deserted,' said the Ghost. 'A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.'
Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.

Related Characters: The Ghost of Christmas Past (speaker), Ebenezer Scrooge
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

The Ghost of Christmas Past first brings Scrooge to his old boarding school, which he attended as a child. Though it is mostly deserted because the students went home for the holidays, young Scrooge remains behind for unclear reasons. In this quote, Scrooge weeps at the lonely memory. 

Thus far in the story, Scrooge has been a mean and unfeeling character, immune to the woes of others. This sudden onset of tears reveals Scrooge's hidden softer side, and shows his capacity for empathy, inspired by his younger self. The first stop on teaching Scrooge the error of his ways is showing him his own trials and tribulations--Scrooge, like everyone else, has a past full of both struggles and happiness, that has served to shape him into the man he is today. His meanness is not spontaneous or voluntary, just like other people's poverty is not due to laziness or a lack of morals. Opening up Scrooge to the realities of his past is the first step in teaching him the true meaning of generosity, charity, and of the Christmas spirit. 

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The Ghost of Christmas Past Character Timeline in A Christmas Carol

The timeline below shows where the character The Ghost of Christmas Past appears in A Christmas Carol. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Stave 2
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...soon – the curtains at his window are drawn by the hand of a strange new ghost . (full context)
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
This new ghost appears as if through “some supernatural medium”, giving his aged features child-like proportions. He has... (full context)
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
The ghost introduces itself, in a low, faraway voice, as the Ghost of Christmas Past . Scrooge’s past, in particular. Scrooge gets an urge to shy away from the ghost’s... (full context)
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
The ghost of Christmas Past leads Scrooge to the window. Scrooge tries to resist, thinking he will fall out of... (full context)
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
The ghost of Christmas Past brings forth other visions. Scrooge is now older, alone for another Christmas holiday, but this... (full context)
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
...go to their beds. Scrooge has been watching this display in a frenzy of excitement. The ghost of Christmas Past makes a comment that it is a small thing to be so grateful about, and... (full context)
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The ghost of Christmas Past announces that he is running out of time and the vision changes again – now... (full context)
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...At hearing this, Scrooge demands to be removed from the scene. He tries to seize the ghost of Christmas Past . The ghost puts up little resistance so he takes the extinguisher cap and tries... (full context)