A Christmas Carol

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A Christmas Carol Stave 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The last ghost approaches, but is shrouded in a black garment so that all Scrooge can see of it is an outstretched hand and a mass of black. This figure fills him with greater dread than the other ghosts. It does not speak to him and beckons mysteriously with its hand. Scrooge guesses aloud that it is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and the ghost replies with a slight movement of its head. Though he fears the ghost, Scrooge urges it desperately to show him what it has for him.
The spirits have so far been quite benevolent – glowing, ruddy, childlike and gentle, they have guided Scrooge through their visions firmly but somewhat sympathetically. But this last spirit brings the moral lesson home. Reminiscent of the Grim Reaper, he shows Scrooge that the unknown, unseen fate that he is heading for is really something to fear deeply.
Themes
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Scrooge follows the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and suddenly they are in the midst of a street, busy with trade. Scrooge stops by a group of businessmen and hears them gossip about the long-awaited death of one of their contemporaries, whom they say is bound to have a cheap funeral. One gentleman comments that he will only go to the funeral if lunch is provided.
Christmas Yet to Come is a sad, immoral place, full of people who have the same miserly values as Scrooge has shown in his life—they don't care about the man who has died; they care only about they can profit from it. And that they think this way says a great deal about the dead man, as well, of course.
Themes
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
Scrooge looks questioningly to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, but it just moves on to another group. Scrooge recognizes these men. This time the men merely mention the death of the mysterious man, and don’t seem to care at all. Scrooge puzzles through what he has heard. He knows that he is hearing these comments for a reason, but he can’t figure out whose death they are discussing. He waits to see himself appear in the vision, as he did in the scenes of Christmas past, but when they arrive at the corner where Scrooge usually stands, another man has taken his place. Scrooge hopes that this is because his future self has taken a new turn in life.
Scrooge has been in such a small, selfish world that he doesn’t even realize that these businessmen are talking about him. He is disturbed by their callous lack of care for the dead man, but doesn’t realize that they are echoing his own cruel phrases and opinions. This might remind you of the little child Ignorance that stepped out from under the Ghost of Christmas Present’s robe – Scrooge is, in a sense, protecting himself with his ignorance. But he is also hurting both himself and the world.
Themes
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Scrooge realizes the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is looking at him again, and feels a new surge of terror. The ghost leads him to an infamous part of town, full of misery and crime. Here, in a grimy rag-and-bone den, they find an old man trying to keep warm in his meager lodgings. He is soon joined by three others and the group start to laugh together. The old man, Joe, invites his friends into the parlor and the three men offer to trade him bundles of things they have come into possession of after a rich man’s death. They agree that it is no sin to take these things without permission, since their owner was so unkind in life.
The dead man was wealthy, a man who might of thought of himself as commanding respect throughout the town and especially over the poor whom he considered his inferiors. Yet here Scrooge sees that for all his wealth the man died alone, with no one to stand up for him, and that in fact he is afforded no respect at all by even the scavengers and dealers that he used to dismiss.
Themes
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Social Dissatisfaction and the Poor Laws Theme Icon
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The first opens the first bundle and finds a few small items of not much worth. Joe totals up the value for its owner. The next woman opens her bundle and reveals some silver and fabrics. The next reveals a pair of bed curtains and blankets, which the woman says she unwrapped from the dead corpse. It would have been wasted, she adds, by wrapping him in it. Scrooge listens, appalled.
The three bundles that the scavengers produce for Joe increase in magnitude. The final bundle has been taken from the corpse itself, leaving it to be buried like a pauper. But far from feeling guilty for this sin, the scavengers laugh uproariously. Christmas spirit is completely absent here.
Themes
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
Social Dissatisfaction and the Poor Laws Theme Icon
The room changes, and now in dim light, there is a bed and on top, a body, covered in a sheet. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come points ominously towards the head but Scrooge finds he can't make himself remove the cloth. The narrator recites a lesson about death—that the good-natured body cannot suffer from death and will instead “sow the world with life immortal.” This lesson is what Scrooge hears in his mind when he looks at the body, and imagines the wicked thoughts that have led him to being rich and not good. He considers the awful prospect of dying alone.
Through the story of this dead man, Scrooge finally realizes how his own lifestyle has set him up for a fate worse than death. There is a mere thin cloth between him and the sight of the dead body, and it causes him to remember the moral lesson that he has been denying for so long. But he is still thinking of himself, feeling sorry for himself, instead of feeling remorse for his cruelty to others.
Themes
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Scrooge assures the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that he is aware of the lesson he is being taught and begs to leave, but the spirit will not rest and seems to be staring at him. Scrooge begs him to show one person who is sorry for this dead man. They are instantly transported to the home of a young family. The husband comes home, burdened by bad news, but he says there is hope. He tells his wife that the man they are indebted to is dead. His wife can’t help but be thankful. They don’t know who will take over their debt but it’s very unlikely that he should be such an incredible miser as the last. The house becomes a little lighter and happier for the man’s death.
This vision goes from bad to worse. Scrooge seems to have a sense that the fate he is witnessing is his own—though as of yet he still hides behind a veneer of Ignorance—and becomes more and more distraught, but with the spirit’s lack of sympathy, there is nothing he can do but watch as his worst fears regarding the dead man are confirmed. Even the omnipotent ghost is unable to find a single scene that shows any sadness for the loss of this man. In fact, the world seems to be better off for him being gone
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
But Scrooge wishes to see some scrap of tenderness to dim even slightly the terrible image of the body lying alone in that house. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come takes him to Bob Cratchit’s house, where the Cratchits are unusually silent, waiting for Bob to come home. Mrs. Cratchit is sewing but stops because the color is making her eyes tired. As Scrooge enters with the spirit he hears a phrase as if in a dream, “And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them.” Scrooge realizes that Tiny Tim has died. Bob is due home but one of the children says he’s been walking slower recently, and they all agree that he used to go more quickly with Tiny Tim on his shoulders.
There is a huge difference between the body lying alone in the dark house and the body of Tiny Tim, kissed and adored in the Cratchit house. The Cratchits have picked a green, fragrant plot for the boy, and have promised to visit him every Sunday. The child is given religious significance, as a kind of savior. But the body of the miserly man is left alone, in a godless place. At the same time, Cratchit is crushed by Tiny Tim's death, and of course had someone just had some charity Tiny Tim wouldn't have had to die.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
At that moment, Bob enters, wrapped in his blanket. His family help him to tea and his children gather around him to comfort him. Bob is pleasant with everybody. He has been to see the place where Tim will be buried – he is pleased to find it green. He promised Tim he would walk there every Sunday. At the thought of his promise, he breaks down into tears. He goes upstairs to the room where Tim has been laid down on a bed. He composes himself, kisses Tim's little face, then goes downstairs again.
Mr. Cratchit shows bravery and cheerfulness even in the face of grief, but the loss of Tiny Tim leaves a huge gap in the Cratchit household. Tim was the unlikely leader of the holiday cheer and without him, the household has a different, solemn atmosphere. Fitting in with the story’s use of extremes and caricatures to make its point, it is the purest, kindest, smallest character that suffers most.
Themes
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Bob then tells his family of the beautiful kindness of Scrooge’s nephew, whom he met in the street. Fred noticed that Bob looked sad and gave him sincere condolences, and sent his love to his family and gave him his address, so that they could be in touch if they need anything. Bob thinks he might even be able to get Peter, the eldest, a job. One of the other children says that Peter will soon leave them and set up with a family of his own. Bob admits that this may be so, but that they will never forget this time together, and their first loss, of Tiny Tim, and how very good he was.
The effect of Tiny Tim’s life and loving nature is far reaching. It has left its mark on everybody. Even those who didn’t really know him have positive thoughts about him and have been left better off because of him, even though he offered nothing but his goodness. This shows how the best things are not affected by money or even death, they outlast us.
Themes
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon
Scrooge can tell that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is about to leave him. He wants to know finally who the dead man is. The ghost takes Scrooge to his office, but they seem to be passing through it. Scrooge asks to see himself inside his house, but the spirit points in another direction. He joins the spirit again at the iron gate of a churchyard, a wretched, lifeless place.
Scrooge seems to know deep down that he is the dead man that has been the subject of this vision but he clings onto his ignorance until the last moment.
Themes
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Social Dissatisfaction and the Poor Laws Theme Icon
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come keeps pointing, now it is clear that he is directing Scrooge to one grave in particular. Scrooge desperately asks whether the things the spirit has shown him can be changed or whether they are set in stone, but the spirit only points with more determination. Scrooge goes to the gravestone indicated by the spirit. It is neglected, and Scrooge's own name is inscribed on it. Scrooge cries out, knowing that he is the dead man on the bed, alone and unloved. He gets down on his knees before the spirit and begs him to reassure him that an altered life will produce an altered fate. He vows to honor Christmas and learn all his lessons. He catches the spirit’s hand, and squeezes, and the spirit floats down into the ground and disappears.
This is the climax of the story –finally, Scrooge is forced to discard his ignorance and fully face that the dead man is him. That this story he was seeing was not symbolic; it was his life, and he must now grapple with the certain understanding that his greed has led him inexorably to the horrible loneliness that he has witnessed in this vision of the future, to a death uncared about by anyone. Face with this vision, with this understanding, Scrooge begins to suddenly and dramatically repent.
Themes
Past, Present and Future – The Threat of Time Theme Icon
Greed, Generosity and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Christmas and Tradition Theme Icon