Literature / A Christmas Carol

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Scrooge_5212.jpg
Ebenezer Scrooge in a decidedly non-festive mood.

"Bah! Humbug!"
Ebenezer Scrooge

A Christmas Carol is a novella by Charles Dickens, first published in 1843, that few people have read but everyone knows the story of. But for the record...

Ebenezer Scrooge, a hard-hearted, crotchety old moneylender living in Victorian London, is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley. Though seven years dead, Jacob Marley, wrapped in chains and weighted down with lock-boxes that symbolize his obsession with money, warns Scrooge that his chains will be even heavier if he doesn't change his ways, and that his only hope for redemption is in heeding the advice of three spirits who will be visiting him that night.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first to arrive, and shows Scrooge (and the reader) the ups and downs of the life that had driven Scrooge to become the man he is today. Next is the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows Scrooge that folks who have suffered worse than he has (including Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's overworked and underpaid clerk, and his family, especially Bob's sickly son Tiny Tim) still find a place for happiness in their lives. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge's future: Tiny Tim will succumb to his illness, and Scrooge himself will die alone and virtually unmourned.

When Scrooge awakens to find it's still Christmas day, he makes good on his resolution to change his ways, and becomes a respected and generous figure.

Christmas as we know it is largely the result of the book's wild popularity, having taken what had become, in Anglo-Saxon Protestant countries, a relatively minor and disparaged holiday (due to Puritanical and/or anti-Catholic sentiments) and elevating it in the public consciousness. Before its release, many Protestant churches preached against the drunken debauchery associated with the holiday, and it was even illegal to celebrate Christmas in some parts of the US. Dickens' book basically saved Christmas.

Possibly the most widely-adapted story of all time, resulting in lots of Adaptation Expansion (explaining events and Back Story the book didn't cover). As the era of television wore on, countless shows did at least one episode thrusting a character into their own Christmas Carol-like scenario, with varying levels of quality. In fact, versions with pre-existing characters are so common that they have led to the creation of the Yet Another Christmas Carol trope. It's possibly also the source of the Pensieve Flashback.

In 2017, a movie about the creation of the book came out starring Dan Stevens as Dickens called The Man Who Invented Christmas.

You can read the original story on Wikisource for free.

The website JimHillMedia.com (which focuses on Disney news and rumors) did a whopping 40-part series in 2007 called "Scrooge U" which examined many adaptations of this story, both famous and obscure, live-action and animated, serious and parodistic, with all kinds of alternate settings.

The British Film Institute has posted the earliest surviving (though in-complete) film version of the story on YouTube; for its time it was a very modern undertaking, special-effects wise (1901). The earliest surviving complete film adaption is the Thomas Edison version of 1910.

Not to be confused with actual Christmas Carols.

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    Adaptations Include 

Year of release and actor playing Scrooge in parentheses.


This book provides examples of:

  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: What Scrooge thinks Marley is at first.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Scrooge, at the end of his spiritual journey. Of course, his cold and uncaring haughtiness has already been irreparably shattered.
  • All Just a Dream: Or so Scrooge would like to think, at any rate. Though it's really left up to the reader as to whether it was really All Just a Dream, or if what transpired was very real, or even if it was some strange mix between the two.
  • Ambiguous Gender: The Ghost of Christmas Past, who is also of Vague Age. Some adaptations make it a child to settle the confusion (it's harder to tell whether someone is male or female if it's a kid), while others make it explicitly a man or a woman. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is an ambiguous case too, being voiceless and completely shrouded in its black cloak.
  • Ambition Is Evil: When Belle calls off their engagement, telling him that a "golden" idol has displaced her in his heart, the young Scrooge attempts to defend himself by invoking (and mocking) the trope:
    "This is the even-handed dealing of the world. There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!"
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: One family reacts to Scrooge's death in the alternate future this way, because Scrooge was their lender, and they anticipated either a kinder replacement or at least enough time during the transition to scrape together the money they needed.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The Ghost of Christmas Present throwing Scrooge's "Are there no prisons?" line back at him might count as this, but right at the start of the book Scrooge replies to Fred's "Merry Christmas" by asking "What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough", to which Fred responds "What reason have you to be so dismal? You're rich enough". This is the first time Scrooge is lost for words, and can only reiterate his famous "humbug!". Finding out the answer to this question is the whole role of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
  • Babies Ever After: Scrooge is shown that Belle married another and had many children.
  • Bad Future: The vision shown by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. At first this seems like the trope is Inverted: It's a bad future only for Scrooge, because his death is shown to make the world a happier place! But because Scrooge continued his miserly ways in this future, it means Cratchit still wasn't paid enough money to provide Tiny Tim the medical treatment he needed, and Tiny Tim dies.
    • Even then, Bob Cratchit mentions that Scrooge's nephew Fred has offered to help him out with a good job, since Fred has just come into some good fortune - which we rapidly learn must be Scrooge's inheritance, as his only living relative.
  • Benevolent Boss:
    • Fezziwig, Scrooge's first employer, gave his employees ample money, time off, and held fantastic parties.
    • By the end of it all, Scrooge becomes one too.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Scrooge was this to Fan before her death.
  • Big Fun: The Ghost of Christmas Present is the largest and most jovial of the three spirits.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the beginning Charles Dickens speaks directly to the reader to impress upon them that Jacob Marley was Dead to Begin With. He explains this one fact is absolutely crucial to the story, and therefore warrants extensive Word of God confirmation, from death certificate to door-nail.
    "This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate."
    • Dickens continues to do this throughout the book, at one point telling the reader that "I am standing, in the spirit, at your elbow."
  • Canon Welding: When Marley shows Scrooge the wandering ghosts, Scrooge notices "one old ghost in a white waistcoat," who he realizes is an old friend of his, crying at being unable to assist an unwed mother. Dickens meant this ghost to be "the gentleman in the white waistcoat" from Oliver Twist, a character who is very harsh to Oliver and denies him food.
  • Catchphrase: Scrooge's iconic "Humbug," sometimes prefaced with "Bah!"
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: "He tried to say 'Humbug!' but stopped at the first syllable."
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: The day after Christmas, Scrooge pretends to be his old grouchy self and scolds Bob for coming in late.
    Scrooge: And therefore, and therefore, I am about to raise your salary!
  • Christmas Carolers: Scrooge chases one off without even opening his office door.
  • Creepy Child: Possibly Creepy Twins, though it's never specified. The Ghost of Christmas Present keeps a silent, wraith-like boy and girl — Ignorance and Want, respectively — under his cloak, telling Scrooge that they are mankind's children, born of poverty.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge an incredibly disturbing future. However, this is in the efforts to avoid that future. This also applies to the other ghosts, including the otherwise jovial Ghost of Christmas Present, who pulls no punches in throwing Scrooge's own words back at him.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A famous example: the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is deeply frightening, resembles the Grim Reaper in his heartless pallor, is cold, pitiless, and silent as the grave, and shows what is by far the most horrible of Scrooge's visions, but is just as kindhearted as the rest of the spirits and shows him the grim truth only so that he may finally realize what it means and change it for the better. Lampshaded by Scrooge himself, who states that whilst he fears this ghost more than any of the others, he knows it is acting for his benefit and so follows it without question.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Scrooge has one with Jacob Marley, where Marley informs Scrooge of just what awaits him if he keeps being such a crotchety old miser.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Thanks to the sign above his door, some people call Scrooge by Marley's name as well as his own. Scrooge answers to both names, as it's all the same to him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Scrooge, to Fred:
    Scrooge: You're quite a powerful speaker, sir. I wonder you don't go into Parliament.
    • A short while later, after Fred leaves, and Bob Cratchit wishes him a merry Christmas:
    Scrooge: There's another fellow, my clerk with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas; I'll retire to Bedlam.
    • And when Marley's ghost visits Scrooge in his home:
    Scrooge: Seven years dead, and traveling all the time?
    Marley: The whole time; no rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.
    Scrooge: You travel fast?
    Marley: On the wings of the wind.
    Scrooge: You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years.
  • Deliberately Painful Clothing: Marley's ghost wears heavy chains as penance for his sins in life.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Scrooge does not end up with Belle. The fact she dumped him around Christmastime helped contribute to his hatred of the holiday.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Scrooge mocks Marley as being an Acid Reflux Nightmare, then threatens to invoke the trope on himself by swallowing a toothpick whole. Marley promptly scares the daylights out of him with a marrow-chilling howl.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Belle dumps Scrooge while she's in mourning.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: With money, not alcohol.
  • Dying Alone: Scrooge's fate in the visions of Christmas to come. No one cares that he's dead; some even celebrate it. And he's only put in a grave as a matter of formality.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Scrooge vowing to change his ways and become a good man earns him a second chance at life, and it's so implied that he did manage to avoid the same fate the Jacob Marley did.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Ghost of Christmas Past comes quite close to this. It has no defined form, no obvious gender and keeps changing in appearance. It calls quite close to the description of angels, who themselves were examples of this trope.
  • Empty Chair Memorial: The Ghost of Christmas Present foresees Tiny Tim's empty chair and his crutch tucked into a corner by next year's Christmas if things do not change from their current course of events. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come does him one better and shows Scrooge the empty chair, along with Tim's grieving family.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: They can detect it in Scrooge, anyway. "Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, 'No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!'"
  • Evil Uncle: Subverted with Scrooge. He's not necessarily evil, but he's truly a bitter man towards everyone, including his only living relative Fred. He gets better in the end.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: The visions encompassing several decades notwithstanding, the story takes place between close of business on December 24th, and ends shortly after opening on December 26th. Lampshaded by Scrooge, who assumes that Christmas Past took the whole night and that Christmas Present is the next night and is shocked when he realizes that he's woken up on Christmas Day.
    "The spirits did it all in one night!"
  • Fashion Hurts: Peter Cratchit's collar isn't comfortable, but he's still proud to be wearing it.
  • Flying Dutchman: Marley. He doesn't get a happy ending either.
  • A Foggy Day in London Town: The fog is mentioned several times in the novel.
  • Food Porn: The Christmas Day feasts are described in as much mouth-watering detail as possible.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Seeing how many of Scrooge's unpleasant memories happened at Christmas time, as shown in the Christmas Past sequence, it's little wonder he's so down on the holiday.
    • It's implied he spurns his nephew because the lad reminds him of his dead sister.
  • Fridge Horror: In-universe, when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come leads him to a graveyard, Scrooge realizes it resembles the Grim Reaper and becomes newly fearful of it.
  • Future Loser: Sort of. Scrooge isn't remembered with any fondness in the future shown to him by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Well, yes, being a white corpse wrapped in a sheet while people on the streets either laugh at your death or are glad that you are dead is a pretty scary thought.
  • Generation Xerox: Scrooge at first mistakes Belle's daughter for her.
  • Good Feels Good: Scrooge is a much happier man when he opens his heart to others.
  • Good Is Not Nice: The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come is the most famous example, but all three ghosts are fairly harsh on Scrooge - particularly Present, who is incredibly sardonic.
  • Ghostly Gape: Marley's ghost wears a bandage around his head to keep his jaw from hanging down, unhinged, and at one point takes it off in order to frighten Scrooge even more.
  • The Grim Reaper: The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come's appearance suggests that he may be associated with this.
  • The Grinch: Scrooge is the Trope Codifier, even though most adaptations of the story play up this trait more than the original work.
  • Grumpy Bear: Scrooge spends most of the story in a dour mood about Christmas, contrary to everyone else in Dickens' Victorian London making merry.
  • HA HA HA – No: Amusingly inverted at the end of the story. Scrooge pretends he is about to blast Bob for being late, then suddenly announces that he's going to raise his salary, then laughs and shouts "Merry Christmas"!
  • Hanging Up on the Grim Reaper: The story employs this for Scrooge, who is first visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley who warns him of his impending doom. He doesn't take it seriously and so is later visited by three ghosts of Christmas; the last one, in particular, makes him beg for a longer life so that he can enact the moral learnt from the three.
  • Happily Married: Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit, Fred and his wife, The Fezziwigs, and Belle and her husband.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • When the Ghost of Christmas Present was showing Fred's Christmas, there was this line of narration: "Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become so gay and light of heart,..."
    • Scrooge "had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle." By that, Dickens meant that Scrooge did not have any future interaction or communication with ghosts after his reformation. Meanwhile, "Total Abstinence Principle" was a phrase commonly associated with teetotaling, i.e. never drinking any alcohol or "spirits". (Yes, Dickens is indulging in a pun.)
  • Hearing Voices: There's a whole paragraph, during the scene where the Ghost of Christmas Future is showing Scrooge the body on the bed, which is basically a meditation on death.note  This is followed in the next paragraph with the narration saying "No voice pronounced these words in Scrooge's ears, and yet he heard them when he looked upon the bed." Later, as they approach the Cratchit house, Scrooge hears a Bible verse out of nowhere.note  The implication seems to be that the otherwise voiceless Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is talking inside Scrooge's head.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Scrooge. But everybody already knows that.
  • History Repeats: Jacob Marley died on Christmas Eve, and if Scrooge doesn't reform, so will he.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Scrooge had several faults before his Heel–Face Turn, but being a Corrupt Corporate Executive wasn't one of them. It was stated how good his word was when it was mentioned he was one of those who signed Jacob Marley's death certificate. So he's not dishonest; he's just heartless.
  • Humanoid Abomination:
    • If its physical description is to be believed, the Ghost of Christmas Past certainly qualifies. It looks human, but it's impossible to tell if it's old or young, male or female - and it flickers like a candle flame, so that it looks like it has multiple heads or other limbs.
    • Scrooge himself is described in such terms early on, as the cold within him froze his features, made his eyes red and his lips blue, and made external heat and cold have no effect on him whatsoever.
  • Humans Are Good: It is Christmastime of course, so this is the time of year that gets the best out of everyone. Scrooge becomes a much better person after his Heel–Face Turn.
  • I Gave My Word: Belle can see that Scrooge doesn't love her any more and that he intends to stick by their engagement only because he sees it as a contract he's bound to. She decides it's better for them both if she releases him from the obligation.
  • I Hate Past Me: Upon witnessing them firsthand, Scrooge is decidedly not proud of his past self's actions.
  • Ill Boy: Tiny Tim. Though the cause of his illness is never specified, tuberculosis, polio, or renal tubercular acidosis seem like good candidates. Rickets is another one. Medical papers on Tiny Tim are numerous.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Fred, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim compete to see who best exemplifies this. Fred is always jovial, Bob is a good man caught with a terrible boss, and Tiny Tim is purely innocent in every respect.
  • Infant Immortality: Double Subversion. Christmas Present considers it a serious likelihood that Tiny Tim will die, and Christmas Yet To Come shows Scrooge the future in which this happens, complete with the full emotional repercussions on the Cratchit family. However, thanks to Scrooge's Heel–Face Turn, Tiny Tim does not die after all.
  • Informed Poverty: Scrooge considers his nephew Fred to be "poor"; in reality Fred, while not wealthy lives a comfortable middle-class life and makes at least enough to afford a live-in housemaid. This shows us how stingy Scrooge is.
  • Intangible Time Travel: Actually, just shadows of things that had been, are, and will be happening.
  • Ironic Echo: Used twice, both times by the Ghost of Christmas Present to Scrooge. The relevant parts are bolded below.
    Scrooge: Oh, no, kind Spirit! say [Tiny Tim] will be spared.
    Ghost: If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
    • Later, when Ignorance and Want step out from under the Ghost of Christmas Present's robe:
    Scrooge: Have they no refuge or resource?
    Ghost: Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?
  • Ironic Hell: Jacob Marley is forever chained to moneyboxes and safes, symbolizing his greed - all his wealth in life is now beyond useless to him. Scrooge sees other ghosts of rich men he knew, roaming the streets of London - now they're forced to witness firsthand the misery of the poor whom they scorned to help in life.
  • I've Come Too Far: Once Scrooge stops defending his wretched behavior he begins insisting that it's too late for him to change and to make things right. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come convinces him that he has to try anyway, no matter how hopeless it seems.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Belle reasons that Scrooge would only be miserable and filled with regret if he married a poor girl like her, so she breaks off their engagement.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Worn by exactly whom you think, although Scrooge notes that the trope is older than that and ghosts in haunted houses are often said to drag chains. Dickens adds the twist that Marley's chains are made from the moneyboxes and ledgers that symbolize his selfish ways. Marley is also dressed in the clothes he was wearing when he died, but has the added accessory of a scarf that was bound around his jaw to keep it shut in the coffin.
  • Jacob Marley Warning: Another Trope Namer. Jacob Marley represents what could happen to Scrooge if he doesn't mend his ways.
  • Jerkass: Scrooge at the start of the story, oh so much. Morphing into Jerkass Woobie as more of his background is revealed.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As uncaring and callous as Scrooge is he isn't evil, he's simply a good person who has forgotten what it means to be good. When he's reminded of how much fun he had working for Fezziwig he instantly realizes how horribly he treats Bob Cratchit and wants to make amends for it. And spending just a few moments in the presence of Tiny Tim is enough to make Scrooge horrified at the idea of him dying.
  • Kick the Dog: Much of the first chapter is largely an exercise in showing how mean and bitter Scrooge is, but his line about letting the poor die off is particularly thoughtless and cruel.
  • Kill the Poor: Although he doesn't advocate outright killing the poor, Ebenezer Scrooge does advocate the poor offing themselves...
    Solicitor for the Poor: Many would rather die than go there [to prison or to a workhouse].
    Scrooge: If they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.
  • Lemony Narrator: As with a lot of Dickens' books. Take, for instance, this little digression at the beginning of the story:
    "Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for."
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Tiny Tim's illness is not necessarily fatal, it is just that the Cratchits are too poor to afford treatment, which is why he dies in the alternate future. So when Scrooge has his change of heart and increases Bob's salary, Tim doesn't succumb to his illness.
  • Lonely at the Top: The firm of Scrooge & Marley has been just Scrooge for the last seven years (Scrooge has been too cheap to change the sign), and Scrooge lives alone in a big, mostly empty and dark house.
  • Lonely Funeral: The opening notes that Scrooge was the sole mourner at Marley's funeral seven years before, and he he wasn't too broken up about it as he did a lot of business that day. Nobody mourns Scrooge’s future death at all.
  • Long Title: The full title is A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. But when was the last time anyone called it that?
  • Married to the Job: Belle accuses Scrooge of being this.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The Ghost of Christmas Present had more than 1,800 siblings (presumably all deceased), each representing a year of Christmas. On the mortal level, Scrooge's former fiancée's house is overflowing with children, and the Cratchits have more children than the narrator can be bothered to name.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The question is left open whether Scrooge's visitation by spirits was real or All Just a Dream.
  • Meaningful Name: The word "scrooge" was originally slang for "to squeeze", as in Scrooge's tight-fistedness.
  • Mind Screw: The Ghost of Christmas Past's physical appearance, which was allegedly so confusing that the book's original illustrator didn't even attempt to draw it.
  • Mood Whiplash: The story goes from bleak and depressing, to scary, to cheerful, to sad, to cheerful again, to scary and sad, to extremely sad, to scary again. It then lastly ends on a cheerful note.
  • Moral Guardians: Discussed Trope. Scrooge associates the Ghost of Christmas Present with the sort of blue-nosed Moral Guardians who want bake shops closed on Sunday. The Ghost gets pissed and angrily dismisses any connection between angels like himself and the Moral Guardians.
    "There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us."
  • Most Wonderful Sound: An in-universe example; the narrator considers Fred's laughter to be this:
    "If you should happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man more blest in a laugh than Scrooge's nephew, all I can say is, I should like to know him too. Introduce him to me, and I'll cultivate his acquaintance."
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Marley was one when he was alive. Scrooge is at least honest with people's money, but he's such an old miserly jerk that everyone presumes he's morally corrupt.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: When Fred invites Scrooge to Christmas dinner.
    "Scrooge said that he would see him—Yes, indeed, he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first."
  • Neologism: The term "scrooge" has become slang for a miser, especially a bitter one.
  • Nice Guy: There are so many good people in this story. Bob Cratchit, his son Tiny Tim, Scrooge's nephew Fred, Scrooge's deceased sister Fan, his former love Belle, and his beloved boss Fezziwig just to name a few.
  • No Name Given: Dickens names four of Bob Cratchit's children—Peter, Belinda, Martha, and of course Tim—but a younger son and daughter are mentioned but not named. Fred's wife also is not named.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, who is completely shrouded, his true form always just out of sight. It makes sense in that he's the embodiment of a man's blindness toward his own future.
    • Erroneously expecting the Ghost of Christmas Present to come to his bedside on the second night at 1 o'clock, it's stated that nothing between a baby and a rhinoceros would have surprised him much. When nothing happens, he freaks out. (It turns out the Ghost was actually waiting for him in Scrooge's living room.)
  • Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation: The book never specifies exactly what Scrooge's business is. He's referred to as being hard on his debtors, which implies that he's a moneylender. His business is also called a "counting house", which is an old British phrase corresponding to "accountant". On the other hand, it's mentioned that he's well known on "'Change," that is, the merchandise/stock exchange in London. And he did his apprenticeship with Fezziwig, who was apparently a wholesaler of unspecified goods.
  • One Mario Limit: Any fictional character from after this story's publication named Ebenezer will be a reference to Ebenezer Scrooge.
  • The One That Got Away: Belle dumped Scrooge after it became clear that he wasn't in love with her anymore, just seeing her as one more promise he had to fulfill.
  • Opinion-Changing Dream: Before four ghosts visit him in his dream Scrooge is a mean person who hates Christmas and helping the needy. After the dream his opinion is changed completely and he becomes a good person.
  • Parlor Games: The guests at Fred's party play some, including Blind Man's Buff and Twenty Questions.
  • Pensieve Flashback: Probably the Trope Maker. In the span of one night, Scrooge sees not just his past, but the present, and what will be. The spirits show him visions in which he is fully immersed, but he remains invisible to the people in the visions.
  • Proportional Aging: As Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present are out and about watching people celebrate the day, Scrooge is surprised to see that his companion is rapidly getting older. The spirit explains to Scrooge that his lifespan is only a day and ends that night.
  • Redemption Equals Life: Scrooge changing his ways and becoming a better person not only saved him from dying the terrible death in the future he was shown but also ultimately saved his soul as well.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After delivering his Ironic Echo to Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Present takes him to task for presuming he has the right to refer to some people as a "surplus population."
    "Man, if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God. To hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust."
  • Right on the Tick: Subverted. The spirits are supposed to come on three consecutive nights, at specified times. They arrive at the specific time, but all the visitations somehow happen in one night.
  • Robbing the Dead: The Future spirit shows Scrooge a scene where his possessions are callously sold off just after his death. One old lady actually stripped a nice shirt off of Scrooge's corpse.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Scrooge was not born a horrible greedy person. It was his past experiences of losing a girlfriend, a sister, a partner, and being sent from his family to boarding school on Christmas Day help made him who he is.
  • Rule of Three: Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come.
  • Saving Christmas: Surprisingly, this book did just that. In England and other English-Influenced Countries, December 25th wasn't celebrated as Christmas, or it was merely glanced over. Although Prince Albert married Queen Victoria in 1840 and brought over many German Customs for Christmas, the majority of the English Population ignored the holiday since the times of Lord Protectorate Oliver Cromwell, viewing it as too Catholic. With this Novella, Christmas immediately regained influence and prestige in England. The Commercialization of Christmas can also be attributed to this Novella, as the theme of giving to others, especially the less fortunate, was very visible in the book, and was what Scrooge learned to do at the end. Not only that, but the book (and consequently Dickens himself) is commonly credited with inventing the phrase "Merry Christmas", which hadn't been used commonly up to that point. He didn't, but he revived it.
  • Second Love: Scrooge is shown a vision of the man Belle married after she broke off their engagement.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Scrooge and Tiny Tim's deaths are seen, and then averted.
  • Scare 'em Straight: Both Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come do this.
  • The Scrooge: The Trope Namer (even before this site). Although Scrooge has money, and is always making more, he's stingy in his home life and ungenerous to others.
  • Secret Test of Character: When Bob Cratchit comes in to work late on the day after Christmas, he tells Mr. Scrooge that he is overdue for work, and Scrooge starts off gruffly, and just when it appears that Bob Cratchit will be experiencing a George Jetson Job Security situation, Scrooge tells him that he is overdue... for a raise and promotion to Scrooge's business partner.
  • The Silent Bob: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He never speaks, but can get his point across to Scrooge nonetheless. He may be able to communicate telepathically; see Hearing Voices above.
  • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Scrooge learns this lesson thanks to the three ghosts. Being uncaring for his fellow man will doom Scrooge to being bitterly unhappy with what time he has left. Changing his mind vastly improves the quality of his life.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Scrooge says celebrating Christmas is for fools to his nephew at the beginning of the book.
  • Silly Rabbit, Romance Is for Kids!: He adds that falling in love is "the only thing in the world sillier than a merry Christmas."
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Most of the story lays somewhere in the middle until the end where it becomes one of the most idealistic stories in classic literature.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Occurs when Fred invites Ebenezer to a Christmas party:
    Ebenezer: What right have you to be merry? You're poor enough.
    Fred: Come then; what right have you to be dismal? What right have you to be morose? You're rich enough.
  • The Social Darwinist: Scrooge is your typical Malthusian aristocrat of the time. Suffice to say that another of Dickens's fictional followers of Malthus, Filer in "The Chimes", says the poor "have no earthly right or business to be born. And that we know they haven't. We reduced it to a mathematical certainty long ago!" Scrooge's battlefield is more market than campaign.
  • The Speechless: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come doesn't say a word, but may be able to communicate telepathically.
  • Start of Darkness: The visions of Christmases past show Scrooge's descent into miserliness, from being unwanted by his father to Scrooge’s own Greed driving away the girl he loved.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: It’s implied that Belle’s daughter looks like a younger version of her.
  • Suicide Dare: Charles Dickens uses this to firmly establish Scrooge as a Jerk Ass at the beginning. When told that many of the poor would rather die than go to the hellish workhouses, Scrooge replies, "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." An alternative (though hardly much better) interpretation is that rather than actually daring them to actually commit suicide, he's just so callous that he thinks that since they're likely to die of various poverty-related issues anyway, they should basically just lie down in the street and let it happen sooner rather than later. Or, alternately still, he's calling their bluff to show they wouldn't really "rather die" and thus the workhouse isn't really a Fate Worse than Death. Basically, however you parse it, the guy's a Jerk Ass.
  • Temporal Mutability: Scrooge desperately asks the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, "Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?" The Ghost does not answer; the closing narration confirms that he was able to change his destiny.
  • Time Passes Montage: Broadly the entire visit to the past, but most especially the moment in the schoolroom when Scrooge sees his entire childhood pass in moments.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Marley tells Scrooge to expect the spirits on three successive nights, and Scrooge apparently sleeps through entire days to facilitate this, but when he wakes up for the final time he finds they did it all in one night.
  • Trauma Conga Line:
    • Scrooge lost his mother at a young age, had a Friendless Background at a boarding school, his sister died in childbirth and his fiancee broke up with him at Christmas. It's also stated that his father was distant to him, leaving him at school over the holidays.
    • Belle lost both her parents and broke it off with Scrooge while in mourning for them, realising he did not truly love her anymore.
  • Troll: Post-ghosts, Ebenezer trolls Bob by pretending to be his old strict self. Just for fun.
  • Truth in Television: By the standards of his time Scrooge wasn't a particularly harsh employer aside from the pittance he paid in wages. Many people worked right through Christmas—note that when "reformed," Scrooge expects to find a poultry shop open on Christmas Day itself, and is not disappointed note . At one point, Dickens uses a conversation between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present for an Author Tract about blue laws prohibiting bakeries from being open on Sundays.
  • Trying Not to Cry: Mrs. Cratchit wants to show a strong face for her husband when he comes back from arranging Tim's burial and hides her tears by claiming that the color of the fabric she's sewing hurts her eyes.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: The Ghost of Christmas Past comments that Old Fezziwig has spent "a few pounds of your mortal money."
  • Undisclosed Funds: When Scrooge encounters the Portly Gentleman on Christmas Day, he pledges a contribution to his charity by whispering an amount in his ear. We readers don't know how much he just donated, but it's sizable enough that the man is dumbfounded.
  • Unfinished Business: Ghosts of people who did not take care of the poor in this life are doomed to wander the earth observing all the people they could have helped, but lacking the power to do anything.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: The main focus on Scrooge's childhood is on his loneliness rather than any acts of kindness, but he deeply loved his sister and seems to have been very fond of Dick Wilkins.
  • Vague Age: Scrooge is drawn, usually depicted, and/or played as an old man, but by modern standards he's probably only middle-aged, though in the early Victorian era being middle-aged was considered to be old anyway. One early stage adaptation in Dickens' lifetime gave his age as 57.
  • Victorian London: That being the time and place it was written and set in.
  • Villain Protagonist: Scrooge prior to his Heel–Face Turn. He is a selfish, crotchety miser who underpays Bob Cratchit to the point where he can't afford the treatment to cure his Inspirationally Disadvantaged son, refuses to give money to an organization providing services to the poor, after which he delivers a speech advocating the poor offing themselves since they deserve nothing better than prisons and workhouses, and only reluctantly gives Bob the day off on Christmas. No wonder he was set to walk the earth fettered with more chains than Jacob Marley had before his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Wealth's in a Name: An odd inversion. Scrooge became such a renowned rich miser out-of-universe that his name became a term for a rich miser.
  • White and Grey Morality: Everybody seems to be a nice, normal person while Ebenezer Scrooge is grumpy and indifferent, until the end.
  • Workaholic: Scrooge is so adamant about working that he only reluctantly gives Bob the day off.
  • Writer on Board: Quite a bit, and not only for the social commentary. Dickens infused most of his own childhood into the Christmas Past story, particularly an extended discussion on the Arabian Nights and the importance of fantasy in childhood. Uniquely, the story would be much poorer without Dickens getting on board.


Adaptations provide examples of:

  • Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin: Scroogical has the Ghost of Christmas Past attempt to use a magical orb to spirit Scrooge around... but he ends up pushing it out of his hands and it smashes on the floor.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • In the book, the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to see the Christmas celebrations of an isolated group of miners, a pair of lighthouse keepers, and the crew of a ship at sea. These scenes are rarely included in film or television adaptations, though Scrooge (1935), the 1971 animated short, the 1999 Patrick Stewart TV version and the 2001 version have them, Scrooge has the miners while the 1982 animation has the lighthouse.
    • Another scene from the book that is rarely included in adaptions is the scene where Christmas Future shows Scrooge the family that was in debt to him celebrating his death. The 1977, 1999 and 2009 version include it, however, and the Albert Finney version takes that aspect Up to Eleven with the coffin-dancing "Thank You Very Much" song.
    • Christmas Past is often portrayed by a woman in adaptations, possibly due to the Ambiguous Gender nature in the original text. If the adaptation plays up the gender-neutral nature of the spirit, it will usually be played by a woman anyway, though others will go for it being played by a child or man instead.
    • Another common change used is having Scrooge visit the Cratchits on Christmas Day to reveal his change of heart to them, when in the original story he spent the entire day at Fred's and Bob did not learn about his attitude change until the day after. Some versions work in ways to justify this - in the 1938 version Scrooge had previously fired Bob the day before, so he went to the Cratchits' home to rehire him, while in Mickey's Christmas Carol Bob originally only had half a day off so Scrooge was visiting him before he attempted to head to the office later on.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • One of the most common changes kept in, that was not in the original work, is Scrooge meeting or dancing with Belle at Fezziwig's ball. In the novel Belle is only introduced in the next scene which is their breakup.
    • Scrooge's past and Jacob Marley's death are often expanded on, with novels dedicated to the pair and several stage adaptations and films delving into how their partnership began and ended.
    • Scrooge (1970), its stage version, a concert adaptation, and a pantomime have Jacob Marley reappear to welcome Scrooge to Hell should he not change, the latter even having a song-and-dance number.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Scrooge's fiancee has had her name changed from Belle to Alice, Emily, Claire, and Isobel, among other names.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Since Scrooge is even worse in the present day than Jacob Marley was at the time of his death, some adaptations show how Marley realized the error of his ways on his deathbed, show how he procured the chance to save his friend, or show him to have had a little heart compared to Scrooge. Scrooge's Long Night has one of his friendliest portrayals, having him be generous in life with no need to wear chains.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Scroogical has the Ghost of Christmas Present double as a broker for God and the devil, who makes a bet with Marley over Scrooge's redemption and is furious when Scrooge proves he's able to change.
    • Some adaptations go this way with Marley, particularly pre-death. Jacob T. Marley shows how he was indirectly responsible for Scrooge's sister Fan dying and corrupted Scrooge to be worse than he was, and only realized what he'd done after it was too late to fix it.
    • Some adaptations make the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come more villainous, especially in works where an established villain plays it. Others have it be the Grim Reaper that will collect Scrooge's soul.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Ignorance and Want are left out of many of the more family friendly versions. It is very rare to find an animated version featuring it, with the 1971, 1982, 2001 and 2009 versions being some of the exceptions. Some of the lighter live action versions also exclude it, such as the Muppets' Christmas Carol and the 1938 film with Reginald Owen.
    • Marley's Ghost takes this Up to Eleven - it's so short, the other ghosts don't appear, and it falls to Marley to show Scrooge the past, present and future.
    • The Magoo version removed Scrooge's sister and nephew. This actually serves to make Scrooge even more sympathetic, as he really is all alone in the world.
    • Many adaptations reduce the Cratchits' six children (Tiny Tim, Martha, Peter, Belinda, and an unnamed boy and girl) to just five, four or three, with some completely excising the children except Tim.
    • Several other bits from the story are usually left out of adaptations, such as the crowd of spirits similar to Marley that Marley shows Scrooge in the street outside (Scrooge recognizes a couple of deceased business acquaintances), the ghost driving a horse and carriage before Marley appears, Scrooge remembering the storybook characters he loved in the Past sequence, or the Ghost of Christmas Present sprinkling magical Christmas cheer from his torch.
  • Affectionate Parody:
    • There is a Seussified version where everybody speaks in rhyme.
    • Scrooge's Long Night is a family-friendly version that's heavily comedic with frequent audience participation.
    • The Yet Another Christmas Carol trope lists scores of shows that have all done their own affectionate parody retellings of the story.
  • Age Lift:
    • The 2001 Animated Adaptation depicts Scrooge as middle-aged to young, rather than elderly.
    • In the book Scrooge's sister Fan is younger than he is, but some adaptations make her older, so as to attribute their father's neglect of young Ebenezer to his blaming the boy for his mother's Death by Childbirth.
  • Anachronism Stew: Adaptations of A Christmas Carol almost universally portray Scrooge and his employees using quill pens, which were virtually extinct by the 1840s, with steel pens being standard from the 1820s onward. Notably, the book makes no mention of quills at all.
  • Ascended Extra: Some adaptations give Jacob Marley, Belle, Bob Cratchit, Fred, or Tiny Tim larger roles than in the book.
  • Audience Participation: Several live adaptations have characters requesting input from the audience to varying degrees, with the Flanagan Collective's dinner theatre version having the audience be all three Christmas Spirits.
  • Catch-Phrase: In "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol", there's Tiny Tim's fondness for "Razzleberry dressing".
  • Chain Pain: Some stage productions, particularly the Alan Menken musical version, have Jacob Marley and the other chained souls tie Scrooge up, strangle him with the chains, or let him see firsthand how heavy they are to emphasize their points.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Jacob T. Marley has Scrooge's unbelief in ghosts be so strong Marley has to really work to make him accept he's there before he's closed off, and the Ghost of Christmas Past looks insubstantial to him because of this rather than it being part of its normal appearance.
  • Composite Character: In the Christmas Episode of the Animated Adaptation of Back to the Future, Marty posed as a Christmas Spirit to trick Ebiffnezer Tannen. When Tannen asked if he was Past, Present or Yet to Come, Marty said he was all of them.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Scrooge in some versions.
    • Marley in one stage play version:
    Scrooge: (to the Ghost of Christmas Past) Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?
    Ghost of Christmas Past: I am.
    Marley: Does he take this to be a vision of his green grocer?
  • Death by Adaptation: Some adaptations move Scrooge's future death date to the night of the ghostly visits, meaning if he doesn't change he'll die that same night.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Some adaptations have Marley realize where he went wrong on his deathbed and appeal to Scrooge to change, only to be ignored, leading to his visit seven years later as a final chance to help Scrooge.
  • Disneyfication: Some lighter adaptations leave Ignorance and Want out, add animal companions, or play the ghosts for comedy.
  • Downer Ending: The musical prequel Ebenezer ends with Jacob Marley dead and doomed, and Scrooge rejecting everything and everyone with a "Bah, humbug!"
  • Dynamic Entry: Several versions of Jacob Marley enter dramatically through Scrooge's door, but the 1949 TV version has Marley bang on Scrooge's door to get his attention before crashing through it like the Kool-Aid Man.
  • Evil Mentor: Some adaptations have Marley teach Scrooge what he knew about business, corrupting him into being worse than he was.
  • Fan Sequel: Several fan sequels and prequels have been written, with some focusing on Jacob Marley while others focus on Scrooge, Tiny Tim, or other characters.
  • Fandom-Specific Plot: Many fanfics, and some adaptations, tend to revolve around freeing Jacob Marley of his chains or setting Scrooge up with Belle after his reformation, usually by having her husband die. Other common fics have Scrooge/Marley as a pairing, in life or after death.
  • Gender Flip: Many adaptations will do this for the characters, particularly the Scrooge character.
    • Susan Lucci in Ebbie.
    • Cicely Tyson in Mrs. Scrooge There is also a sibling Gender Flip and her brother dies in the Vietnam War.
    • Tori Spelling in A Carol Christmas.
    • Barbie in a Christmas Carol makes almost everyone a girl.
    • The 2009 Rod Espinosa comic has Eliza Scrooge, but is still set in the Victorian era, requiring a few other changes.
  • Genre Shift: Some adaptations switch genres depending on the story. The novel Scrooge: The Year After is a mystery novel, as Scrooge investigates how his sister Fan died.
  • Happily Ever Before: Inverted. A theatrical adaptation added Book Ends that showed Marley and the Spirits talking to an unseen figure, presumably God. This shows that rather than being sent back, Marley begged for a chance to help Scrooge, knowing no one else would. At the end, seeing his selflessness, the spirits ask permission to remove Marley's chains. God says no... He will do it Himself!
  • Hilarity Sues: The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge is a play set one year after the story, where Scrooge sues Jacob Marley and the ghosts for kidnapping and emotional distress.
  • Hollywood Atheist: In Scrooge and Marley starring Dean Jones, Scrooge is completely over-the-top in his disbelief to the point of kicking a Nativity like a football.
  • Hollywood Costuming: A lot of adaptations inaccurately depict period clothing during flashbacks of Scrooge’s past, which would logically be set in the late 18th/early 19th century, but the people are dressed 1840's style.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Soylent Scrooge is a radio parody inspired by Soylent Green and A Modest Proposal, where Scrooge and Marley run a factory where the poor are made into foodstuffs.
  • Informed Poverty: Several adaptations show the "poor as churchmice" Cratchits living in a house that actually looks like a pretty nice, middle-class home.
  • Ironic Hell: Jacob - A Denouement in One Act has Marley be sentenced to a lonely eternity in the counting house, endlessly counting the same stack of coins.
  • Large Ham: The Ghost of Christmas Present, since Christmas itself is supposed to be an obviously joyful time. Depending on the actor, Scrooge and/or Jacob Marley may be this as well, particularly after Scrooge's redemption.
  • The Musical: Countless musical versions exist. Among them are:
  • Pretty in Mink: For a touch of Costume Porn many of the adaptations will have at least one or two furs, like a muff or fur-trimmed cape. The most common is the fur-trimmed robe worn by the Ghost of Christmas Present.
  • Show Within a Show: The framing story of "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" is of Magoo playing Scrooge on Broadway. On stage, he plays the role straight; offstage, he the same old, nearsighted Magoo.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • One play adaptation stops the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come's Bad Future vision with Tiny Tim's death, removing the scene where Scrooge comes across his own headstone.
    • The retelling in Adventures from the Book of Virtues keeps Tiny Tim alive, but it's made clear that if the Bad Future comes to pass, he'll remain a cripple for the rest of his life.
    • In BKN's adaptation of the story, Tiny Tim lives to old age in the bad future, but becomes just as bitter as Scrooge.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Scrooge's sister is alternately named Fan, Fran, Fanny, etc.
  • Terrible Ticking: Some adaptations play up the ticking clock aspect to show Scrooge is getting on in his years and the limited amount of time he has to change.
  • True Meaning of Christmas: Varies depending on the adaptation. Some, like the 1951 version, plainly mention Jesus and the Nativity, along with other Biblical references. Others, like Scrooged, barely acknowledge it at all. Nearly all versions include the line "...who, upon Christmas Day, made lame beggars walk and blind men see." It's a more subtle reference, but its meaning is pretty clear.
  • Twice-Told Tale:
    • Louis Bayard's Mr. Timothy details the story and what follows from Tiny Tim's perspective.
    • The novel Jacob T. Marley details the original tale from Marley's perspective, with Marley having caused Scrooge's Start of Darkness and looking to make amends posthumously.
    • Chris Priestley's The Last Of The Spirits is about Ignorance and Want, imagining them as two homeless children named Sam and Lizzie who encounter Scrooge on Christmas Eve, with Sam deciding to kill him and being shown his own past, present, and future.
    • The novel The Life and Times of Bob Cratchit gives Bob backstory, detailing how he came to work at Scrooge and Marley's, how he got married, and other events before the story began.
  • The Voiceless: The common depiction of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Exceptions are when established characters in a show are playing that ghost.
  • Wham Shot: One of the most famous in history—Scrooge's grave. One stage adaptation changes it so he looks at his own dead body, instead of the grave.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: If it's not an adaptation it will be a Whole Plot Reference.
  • You Mean "Xmas": Scrooge's Long Night deliberately took out most references to Christmas so people who celebrate something else or not at all could still enjoy it, with the ghosts being the ghosts of non-specific holidays.

God bless us, every one!

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/AChristmasCarol