Scrooge wakes up the following night, ready to be greeted by the second spirit. He does not wish to be taken by surprise this time and opens the curtains. He is prepared for the ghost to take any shape. But when the clock strikes one and he is still alone, he becomes nervous. But soon a reddish light appears. At first the light scares Scrooge more than any ghost could have, but he realizes the obvious, that the light must be coming from elsewhere—and as it turns out it is coming from the adjoining room. As he approaches it, he hears the booming voice of the second spirit calling for him.
Scrooge, as a man of business, a man who is cold and relies solely on his mind (not feelings) to be prepared for all business situations, tries to be prepared again. But the ghosts do not follow a protocol, and when things don't go as planned Scrooge becomes nervous.
The room next-door has been transformed into a festive cavern, full to the brim with food and greenery. Amid all this sits the second spirit, who lifts up a glowing torch as Scrooge enters and introduces himself as the Ghost of Christmas Present. His eyes are kind, but Scrooge is scared to look in them. The ghost is dressed in a green robe with a wreath of holly round his head – he is the personification of Christmas.
The Ghost of Christmas Present is the archetypal Father Christmas figure. He sits amid a festive scene like a Christmas card, full of plenty. Yet there is a kind of sadness in the richness of the scene—this is the sort of amazing feast Scrooge could afford with his wealth, and yet Scrooge chooses darkness instead.
The Ghost of Christmas Present is surprised that Scrooge has not met a spirit like him before, because he has more than eighteen hundred brothers. Scrooge apologizes. He tells the ghost that he learned a valuable lesson from the previous spirit and to show him whatever he needs to. The ghost asks Scrooge to touch his robe. The instant Scrooge does, they are transported out of the room into the cold Christmas street, where many neighbors are scraping and shoveling the snow from their roofs, and talking to each other merrily, despite the gloomy weather.
The ghost's comment about his brothers refers to each of the Christmases that has occurred since the birth of Christ—essentially the ghost is commenting on how Scrooge seems never to have really encountered a true Christmas.Scrooge, meanwhile, has stopped resisting the lessons of the spirits and now invites the spirit to teach him what he wants. He is polite and apologetic to the spirit and tells him that the previous spirit’s lesson is “working now”, which suggests that he is finding some value to these visions, even though they are painful. His definition of “profit” is beginning to change.
The street and shop fronts are a glorious display of foods, towering, brightly colored. Smells of figs and spices fill the air. Everybody is rushing about buying things for the season and the shopkeepers are too busy making merry to worry about getting the right prices. Then the church bells ring and the flocks of people go off to church. As the people pass, the Ghost of Christmas Present is entranced by them, and sprinkles incense from his torch on their food, which has a magical effect of making any disagreements vanish. He tells Scrooge that the incense is a particular flavor, and is best given to a poor dinner.
This street is the stereotypical image of Christmas, full of treats and spices and happy, musical voices. The church bells join in and remind us that Christmas is also a time for Christian reflection and prayer. The kindness of the spirit and the way he favors the poor with his incense shows both how strong the virtues of Christmastime are in the poor population but also how those poor are neglected by the charity of the living.
They travel on, toward the outskirts of the city. the Ghost of Christmas Present has a magic ability to fit into any space, despite his giant size, and as they enter Bob Cratchit’s tiny lodgings, this is especially wondrous. The ghost sprinkles some of his incense. They see Mrs. Cratchit, in an old dress but making it merry with ribbons, and the many Cratchit children, all helping to ready the house for Christmas dinner.
The ghost’s special power to fit into any room symbolizes how Christmas can be found in any situation—rich or poor, big room or small. Though Cratchit’s means are small, he manages to fill his home with the spirit of Christmas, making it seem large and glorious, compared to Scrooge’s bleak, dark rooms. Compare how Mrs. Cratchit decorates her old dress with ribbons, while Scrooge leaves his house bare.
Martha, a daughter, arrives home late—she has been working and has brought the goose. Mrs. Cratchit is ecstatic to see her. But just as Martha has greeted them, they see Mr. Cratchit arrive, carrying the youngest of their children, Tiny Tim, and Martha goes to hide to surprise him. She doesn’t let the joke go on long, seeing her father’s upset face, and comes out to surprise him and is tightly hugged in return. Bob tells his wife, while Tim is being shown the pudding by his siblings, how much better their son’s health is becoming. Bob is tearful when he relates Tim’s wish that passers-by should see his crippled state and be reminded of the miracles of Jesus, who helped the sick.
It is not just the bread-winning father that supports this family – the eldest children are expected to work just as hard. The exploitation and premature growing-up of Victorian children was a real concern for Dickens, and something he focused on in his work. Yet, even so, this is clearly a family full of love and joy. Dickens makes Tiny Tim smaller and more fragile than the typical child to emphasize the disparity between his small means and his tremendous spirit.
Then Tim comes back into the room and the goose is brought out. All the trimmings are readied and placed around it, a prayer is said and then they carve the bird and are full of joy at the lovely smell and how lucky they are. When they have eaten every morsel, Mrs. Cratchit goes nervously to get the pudding. She brings back the flaming round pudding and they all agree it is her greatest success yet. Nobody mentions how small it is.
The Cratchits really appreciate their food. Even though it is by no means a feast, they all marvel at the sight of the goose and pudding, and congratulate Mrs. Cratchit as if it were the biggest they’d ever seen. We can see the moral of the story here, that you can be happy with nothing, if you are grateful and generous.
After dinner they have hot drinks by the fire and toast to Christmas. Tiny Tim sits next to his father and says heartily, “God bless us every one”. Scrooge eagerly asks the the Ghost of Christmas Present if Tim will survive. The spirit responds that if the future is unaltered, the boy will die. He condemns Scrooge, saying that he is less fit to live than poor children like Tim – he compares Scrooge to an insect on a leaf complaining about his brothers in the dust.
Tim really is a symbol of Jesus. Even though he is poor, he shows courage and huge generosity of spirit – he asks God to bless everybody, not just him and his family, showing that he is the opposite to the selfish Scrooge. Yet, at the same time, he is powerless to improve his situation and will die, because those that do have the power to change his fate, like Scrooge, choose not to do so.
Just then, Scrooge jumps—Bob Cratchit has said Scrooge's name, in a toast. Mrs. Cratchit says she doesn’t understand how her husband can act so grateful to that miser. She says that it's only on Christmas that someone so cruel can be toasted. But Bob responds that he forgives everything on Christmas and gently scolds her for talking negatively on Christmas day. She drinks the toast for her husband’s sake, and, after the thought of Scrooge has died away, the family is even merrier.
Bob Cratchit represents the ideal Christmas character. He has been mistreated by Scrooge for many years and has Scrooge to blame for his poverty and his constant state of cold, and yet he forgives his master and will not allow anyone to be blamed or talked badly about on Christmas.
They talk about employment, and Mr. Cratchit says that Scrooge might have work for Peter, the eldest. Martha Cratchit tells them about her hard work at the milliners, from which she is so tired that she might sleep all day tomorrow. Then they listen to Tiny Tim sing a song. And though they don’t have much, they seem contented, as if they don’t even need the Ghost of Christmas Present’s incense.
Dickens shows how the city’s poverty has caused a generation of lost childhoods – Peter and Martha work as hard as their father does, but though they’ve lost their innocence, Christmas makes them innocent again and music soothes their woes.
As Scrooge and the spirit wander on through the city, they see wonderful sights like this all over town. So many people are on their way to see family that Scrooge wonders if there is anybody inside at all. The Ghost of Christmas Present rejoices in this display. They are suddenly transported to a far different place, a deserted moor where the miners live—the ghost shows Scrooge where they sit beside a fire singing a song with their women and children. Next the ghost takes Scrooge even further afield, over the sea, wild and unfriendly, and finds two men celebrating Christmas in a lighthouse on a remote shore. Then, even further into the wild, they find the crew of a ship, humming together a Christmas tune. Scrooge is astonished at the kindness he finds in such a lonely place.
One of the things that the spirits are determined to teach Scrooge is the value of knowledge and conscience over ignorance. Scrooge has been living a closed-minded life, only really seeing his own troubles, but now the scope of his vision is widened rapidly and he is able to see the importance of Christmas spirit and its affect on the world. In turn he also sees how many poor, honest people surround him. These people are brought together by singing Christmas songs—on Christmas people always come together, even in the loneliest places—making Scrooge stand out as someone who has chosen to be alone.
Scrooge is interrupted in his vision by a hearty laugh. All of a sudden they are transported to his nephew’s house. There are few things better than a good laugh, says the narrator, and Fred’s is contagious. As Scrooge listens to the party, laughing together, he realizes that they are laughing at him. They are laughing at his saying “Humbug!” to Christmas. Fred’s wife, who is described as exceedingly pleasant-looking, thinks he should be ashamed of himself. Fred says that he doesn’t get anything from his wealth anyway, because he doesn’t do any good with it. Fred feels sorry for his Uncle, because he is missing many pleasant moments, and he decides to keep pestering him every year in the hope that one day, he’ll get to him. They all laugh again at this notion.
Fred’s home stands out from the cold and darkness of the winter streets. Inside, it is warm and filled with the warm sound of laughter. This is a foreign sound to Scrooge – it jars and surprises him. But all is not lost. This vision shows us that Scrooge does belong in the world of goodness and Christmas excitement. Even though Fred’s jokes are at Scrooge’s expense, the act of making those jokes still brings Scrooge as a presence into the party and show that he is considered to be part of the family, albeit an outside, quite comical part.
Scrooge’s niece plays a tune on the harp that Scrooge remembers fondly. It makes him feel sentimental, and he thinks that perhaps if he had heard it more often in his young life, things would have turned out differently. Then, the family plays games. First, is blind-man’s buff, which one of the guests uses as an opportunity to hug again and again the woman at the party whom he has a thing for.
Just as the story’s title and structure mimics a traditional hymn, this music hides a serious message. It sways Scrooge’s emotions and reminds him what it feels like to be sentimental and nostalgic. In addition to the transporting effect of the music, the game-playing creates an atmosphere of childhood, transporting Scrooge back to better times.
As Scrooge watches, he joins in the games, making unheard guesses and contributions. He begs the Ghost of Christmas Present to let him stay for one more game. It is called “Yes and No”. Fred thinks of something and the players have to guess what it is. After a barrage of questions, they find out that the thing is an animal, who grunts and growls. It turns out to be Uncle Scrooge. They all laugh hysterically, and say a toast to Scrooge for giving them so much fun.
Scrooge is part of the fun and joins in excitedly like a child. It reminds us of the poor young boy stuck in the school room with only his imagination to entertain him at Christmas time and brings out the long-hidden sympathetic side of miserable Uncle Scrooge.
Scrooge has been so enlivened by the evening that he is very sorry to go, but the spirit tells him they must journey on, and they visit many more Christmas scenes with the same happy endings, no matter what conditions the revelers are in. But as they travel, the Ghost of Christmas Present is noticeably aging. He says his brief life will be over at midnight.
Scrooge has forgotten his grumpy ways and has found himself happy and excited but he is reminded that this is not the reality, that he has not been joining in with Christmas, and that this happy vision cannot continue because time is running out.
As the bells chime and time passes, Scrooge notices something strange under the Ghost of Christmas Present’s robe. Two children creep out. They are miserable animals, so sick and shriveled that they look old instead of young. Scrooge asks the spirit if they are his. The spirit replies that they are Man’s. They represent Ignorance and Want. He tells Scrooge to beware them both, but mostly the boy, Ignorance. Scrooge asks if there is no refuge for these poor children, but the spirit answers with Scrooge’s own words, “Are there no workhouses?” As the bell strikes midnight, the ghost disappears and Scrooge sees another ghost coming towards him, a “solemn Phantom."
This image is probably the most symbolic and dramatic of the whole story. The vices of ignorance and want are personified by these two cowering children. The children are poor and ragged, showing how the vice that Scrooge has indulged in—Ignorance-- has a real effect on the children in the workhouses and on the streets.