Follow TV Tropes


Literature / A Christmas Carol

Go To
"Bah, humbug!"

A Christmas Carol note  is a novella written by Charles Dickens and first published in 1843, which few contemporary people have actually read but pretty much everyone knows the story of. But just for the record...

Ebenezer Scrooge is a hard-hearted, crotchety old moneylender living in Victorian London, hesitant to close shop for Christmas Day and only reluctantly talked into it by Bob Cratchit, his overworked and underpaid clerk. At home that evening, Scrooge is haunted by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley. Though seven years dead, Marley appears wrapped in chains and weighted down with lock-boxes that symbolize his own obsession with money in life. Marley warns Scrooge that his chains will be even heavier if he doesn't change his ways, and that Scrooge's only hope for redemption lies in heeding the advice of three other ghosts who will be calling on him later 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 drove him to become the man he is today. These include visions of Scrooge's early life at boarding school and encounters with his sister Fan, his jolly first employer Fezziwig, and his fiancée Belle, all of whom left Scrooge's life for one reason or another around Christmas.

Next is the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows Scrooge some folks who have retained their Christmas spirit in spite of suffering worse than he has, including Bob Cratchit. Despite the troubles of Bob's family (especially Bob's sickly youngest son, "Tiny Tim"), they still find a place for happiness in their lives.

Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge bleak visions of the future: Tiny Tim will succumb to his illness, and Scrooge himself will die alone and unmourned. A horrified Scrooge begs the Ghost to spare mercy on him, and vows to better himself to prevent this outcome.

When Scrooge awakens, he's back in his normal world and it's Christmas morning. He makes good on his resolution to change his ways, and becomes a respected and generous figure in London.

Christmas as we now know it is largely thanks to the enormous popularity of this story, which took what had become, in Anglo-Saxon Protestant countries, a relatively minor and disparaged holiday (due to Puritanical and/or anti-Catholic sentiments) and elevated it in the public consciousness. Prior to 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. It's really not all that much of an exaggeration to say that Dickens's little book basically saved Christmas, at least in the Anglosphere.note 

Possibly the most widely-adapted story of all time, and one which has inspired lots of Adaptation Expansion (explaining events and Back Story the book didn't cover). In the television era, countless shows have done at least one episode that thrusts a character into their own Christmas Carol-type 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 called The Man Who Invented Christmas, starring Dan Stevens as Dickens.

The copyright on the original story expired (as has the copyright on anything published before 1923), so you can read it on Wikisource (and from other sources) for free.

The website (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.

    open/close all folders 

Year of release and actor playing Scrooge in parentheses.

A Christmas Carol provides examples of:

  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: What Scrooge thinks Marley is at first.
    Marley: Why do you doubt your senses?
    Scrooge: Because a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Unlike many adaptations, which portray the scene as a sobering moment, Scrooge doesn't seem too bothered about being the answer to Fred's guessing game during his time with the Ghost of Christmas Present. He's had so much fun watching the party that he only wishes he could thank them for toasting to his health.
  • Affluent Ascetic: It's made clear that Scrooge could live very comfortably if he wanted to, but his obsession with hoarding money and spending as little as possible means that his home is quite spartan.
  • An Aesop:
    • Greed and selfishness will never bring happiness and will ultimately led you lead to a path of loneliness and misery.
    • Keeping your contracts isn't the only, or even the most important, measure of morality; you have an affirmative obligation to help others.
    • It's never too late to change.
    • No amount of personal wealth gives you the right to decide who does or doesn't have value.
    • Actions have consequences
  • 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 That Glitters: Ebenezer Scrooge spurns the warmth of his fellow man, both refusing to give and receive kindness, instead focusing on the acquisition of wealth. Despite his vast fortune, he spends almost none of it on comforts, keeping both his home and his office bitterly cold. Scrooge eventually learns from the spirit of his now-deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, the consequences of his greed - specifically that he will spend eternity bound in chains and lockboxes, condemned to wander the earth and never rest.
  • 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:
    Scrooge: 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 anticipate either a kinder replacement or at least enough time during the transition to scrape together the money they need.
    • Their situation was that they would have the full amount of the debt to Scrooge, but a day or two after the deadline. Without an extension, which Scrooge would not likely have granted, they were financially ruined. The wife even has a bit of guilt about rejoicing at the death of someone, even Scrooge in this case.
    • While Fred isn't exactly rejoicing, he inherits Scrooge's wealth and Bob Cratchit mentions that he is going to help him.
  • 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.
  • Artifact Title: An in-universe example. Scrooge continues to call his business "Scrooge and Marley" even though Marley's been dead for years because he thinks it would be a waste of money to change the name.
  • 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.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • When Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come if his death will elicit any emotion from anybody, the Ghost confirms by showing a family's emotional reaction. That emotion is happiness.
    • Earlier, Scrooge states to the charity workers that he “wish to be left alone.” The shadows of his future reveal that in death, he will be left alone.
  • Benevolent Boss:
    • Fezziwig, Scrooge's first employer, gave his employees ample money and time off, and held fantastic parties.
    • By the end of it all, Scrooge becomes one too as he wants to help Bob and his family as well as raising his salary.
  • Berate and Switch: Ebenezer Scrooge makes use of this, when Bob Cratchit comes in the day after Christmas:
    Scrooge: Hallo! What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?
    Bob Cratchit: I'm very sorry, sir. I am behind my time.
    Scrooge: You are? Yes, I think you are. Step this way, if you please.
    Bob Cratchit: It's only once a year, sir. It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.
    Scrooge: Now, I'll tell you what, my friend. I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore... and therefore, I am going to raise your salary! A merry Christmas, Bob! A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this afternoon, over a smoking bowl of Christmas bishop, Bob! Make up your fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another 'I', Bob Cratchit!
  • Berserk Button: A few:
    • Scrooge has the most famous one by being angered every time Christmas is mentioned.
    • Marley gets really pissed off when Scrooge innocently says his old partner was a "good man of business".
    • The Ghost of Christmas Past doesn't take it kindly when Scrooge asks him to cover up with the cap it holds to put the brightness out.
    • Young Scrooge mildly loses his temper when Belle tells him he was another man when they first met.
    • The Ghost of Christmas Present doesn't like it when Scrooge confronts him on having the bakers used to cool food for the poor on Sundays.
    • Mrs Cratchit confronts her husband when he announced Mr Scrooge the 'founder of the feast' and she had a point as they are on low income thanks to him.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: The Ghost of Christmas Present initially comes across as a very jolly fellow. He offers a seemingly-endless buffet, invites Scrooge to get to know him, and appears ready for a laugh at any moment. However, once he and Scrooge observe the Crachits, Present becomes downright nasty towards Scrooge (justifiably so) and giving repeated ironic echoes. Of the three spirits, Present is the one that comes across as downright angry at the kind of person Scrooge is.
  • Big Fun:
    • The Ghost of Christmas Present is the largest and most jovial of the three spirits.
    • Fezziwig is sometimes portrayed as portly, and all versions of him throw great Christmas parties.
  • Bizarre Dream Rationalization: Scrooge initially assumes his visit from Marley is a bad dream caused by indigestion.
    There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!
  • 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. invoked
      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.
  • Clingy Child: The Ghost of Christmas Present counsels the miser Scrooge. Near the end of his hour, this ghost pulls aside his robes to reveal two sullied and surly children clinging to his legs. "The boy is Ignorance. The girl is Want. Beware them both, but especially the boy."
  • Comically Missing the Point: Despite Marley's ghost telling Scrooge he is being punished for his selfishness by being fettered in chains and traveling without rest forever, Scrooge argues he was a "good man of business". This causes Marley to scream in anguish and sarcastically reply that "mankind was [his] business"; that is, what Marley should have most concerned himself with when he lived.
    Marley: Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!
  • 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 effort 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.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: When Ebenezer declines Fred's invitation to attend a Christmas party and Fred urges him not to be cross, Scrooge gives the following response:
    Scrooge: If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips, should be boiled in his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!
  • 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 a conversation with the ghost of 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.
  • Dead to Begin With: The Trope Namer is the first line of the book.
    Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Scrooge, to Fred, in response to Fred's detailed assertion that Christmas may not make him richer, but certainly does him good:
      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.
    • Some versions have Belle married to Dick Wilkins, Scrooge's fellow apprentice at Fezziwig's, doubly twisting the knife when he sees how happy she is in the life that he could have shared.
  • 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. Belle calls Scrooge out on it during a vision by the Ghost of Christmas Past, saying she has "seen [his] nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses [him]". Belle even says that Scrooge fears the world around him, and tries to hide it by gaining as much money as he can.
  • 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.
  • Egocentrically Religious: Discussed. Scrooge notes to the Ghost of Christmas Present that it seems like the spirit wants people to suffer by closing bakeries on Sundays. The spirit is quick to correct Scrooge that he wants no such thing, and that people invoke the name of God all the time to do things that benefit them. And when they do, that's on the men who invoke God's name, not God himself. note 
    Scrooge: Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family.
    Ghost of Christmas Present: There are some upon this earth of yours 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.
  • 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 blindmen’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.
  • Exact Words: After witnessing the underworld dealings in the future, Scrooge asks the Ghost to show him some emotion associated with the recently-deceased man. The Ghost then shows him a young couple who are happy that the man in question is dead, as it gives them time to pay off their debts. Scrooge has to clarify that he wanted to see tenderness associated with death, leading to the Cratchit family mourning the death of Tiny Tim.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: The visions encompassing several decades notwithstanding, the story begins just before 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.
    Scrooge: The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can.
  • Fat and Skinny: The charity collectors are sometimes depicted as this, even though the original book describes them both as portly.
  • Fashion Hurts: Peter Cratchit's collar isn't comfortable, but he's still proud to be wearing it.
  • Flying Dutchman: Jacob Marley shows up to give a warning to Scrooge that if he doesn't reform himself and find redemption, then Scrooge will spend the rest of eternity Walking the Earth as a ghost like Marley, weighed down by the avarice and greed that he kept in life, unable to interact with anyone and unable to help those who suffer. Marley doesn't get a happy ending, either; he notes in his conversation to Scrooge that it's too late for Marley himself to find redemption, but there may be hope yet for Scrooge. After Marley's warning, he flies out of Scrooge's window to show a similar gaggle of ghosts, desperately wailing for someone to help a starving mother and her baby, but completely unable to do anything but lament her fate and their own.
  • A Foggy Day in London Town: Heavy fog shrouds London on Christmas Eve, pouring in through cracks in the buildings and making it hard for Scrooge to find his way to his own front door. When Scrooge wakes up on Christmas Day a changed man, the narration makes a point of noting that the fog has lifted and the day is bright and clear.
  • Food as Bribe: Discussed. When a group of gentlemen are wondering aloud who in London would even bother to attend Scrooge's funeral in vision of the future where Scrooge dies, one of them says he might attend if a free lunch is provided.
  • Food Porn: The Christmas Day feasts are described in as much mouth-watering detail as possible. And the Ghost of Christmas Present sits on a throne made of food.
  • Four Is Death: Scrooge is visited by four ghosts: Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and the Future Yet to Come. In the fourth act, Ebenezer witnesses ominous signs of a deceased man whose possessions have been plundered by the charwoman, laundress, and the undertaker at old Joe's dingy pawn shop. Scrooge mentions that the dead man's fate might be his own. Later, when he visits the cemetery, he discovers that the name on the tombstone is his own. Ebenezer pleads with the Spirit for another chance to make amends, which is granted when he awakens from the nightmare.
    • In the fourth act, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come brings Scrooge into a time where Tiny Tim Cratchit passed away after the shadows of a crutch without an owner, and a vacant seat foretold by the Ghost of Christmas Present have been unchanged. Bob promises to visit Tiny Tim's grave each Sunday in remembrance.
  • 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.
  • Friendly Ghost: The ghosts of Christmases Past and Present for example, seeing how they're always happy, cheery and polite towards Scrooge. Averted with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who while benevolent like the other ghosts, is downright terrifying.
  • The Fundamentalist: Briefly discussed between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, as Dickens wanted to criticize the (still-operating!) Lord's Day Observance Society's push to close down bakeries entirely on Sundays, which would subsequently deprive poor families a hot meal. The Ghost takes offense when Scrooge asks why he and his kind would advocate for such cruelty, saying that it's not Heaven that wants to do such cruelty, but people who are convinced of their own superiority and hoping to rub everyone else's nose in it.
    "Spirit," said Scrooge, after a moment's thought, "I wonder you, of all beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people's opportunities of innocent enjoyment."
    "I!" cried the Spirit.
    "You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day?" said Scrooge. "And it comes to the same thing."
    "I seek!" exclaimed the Spirit.
    "Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family," said Scrooge.
    "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."
  • 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, until he sees Belle herself as an older woman.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: An odd example, as it's only euphemistic in modern times, while when it was written the meaning was quite clear. When Bob Crachit apologizes to Scrooge for being late at work, Bob mentions he was making himself "very merry" the previous day. In today's terms, it's a vague way of saying he was celebrating Christmas too hard and accidentally slept in. At the time it was written, the meaning clearly was Bob drank too much on Christmas and the ensuing hangover caused him to oversleep.
  • Good Feels Good: Scrooge is a much happier man when he opens his heart to others after pulling a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Good is Not Nice: All four ghosts are harsh in their own ways towards Scrooge, but it's to force him to confront the errors of his ways and make him pull a Heel–Face Turn.
    • Marley: The ghost of Scrooge's former business partner delivers a very stark warning about what awaits Scrooge if he doesn't clean up his act. Scrooge even begs of Marley to "speak comfort" to him, but Marley insists that there's nothing comforting coming if Scrooge doesn't change.
    • Past: Scrooge is shown visions of the past that make it clear that he could have had a better life if only he'd looked at things a little bit differently, and that his greed has consumed him. Scrooge outright calls viewing these past events "torture" and begs it to stop towards the end, but the spirit presses on.
    • Present: The spirit gives a few Ironic Echoes by throwing Scrooge's words about poor people back in his face, showing how happy people are with less money (including the Cratchit family), and that Scrooge could do something about it if only he chose to.
    • Yet to Come: Besides the spirit's form invoking the image of The Grim Reaper, the final spirit shows that Scrooge will die alone, unmourned, and unloved. Many people are happy that he's dead, and Tiny Tim's early death is because Scrooge is such a miser that he won't give Bob Cratchit a fair salary, implying that Tiny Tim's blood is on Scrooge's hands.
  • 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. It's mentioned that all Scrooge can see of the spirit is a single pale hand; other than that, the ghost is a tall creature in a completely concealing robe.
  • The Grinch: Scrooge is the Trope Codifier of a man who hates Christmas, even though most adaptations of the story play up this trait more than the original work. Even then, the story deconstructs the idea long before the Grinch existed. The narrative takes pains to examine why Scrooge is always so consistently miserable around Christmas time by showing many a Freudian Excuse for the man, while also calling out this explanation for what a petty and shallow reason it is to be so sour to everyone else.

  • HA HA HA—No: 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 have many children, despite being poor. It's also shown that they're happy together in spite of their poverty, though Mrs. Cratchit does give a backhanded toast to Scrooge.
    • Fred and his wife invite Scrooge to Christmas dinner, in spite of how miserly and bitter Scrooge is to them. After Scrooge's Heel–Face Turn, Scrooge apologizes to both of them for his bad attitude, but Fred says "there's nothing to forgive" and he's welcomed into their home with open arms.
    • The Fezziwigs are both an old couple, but being together makes them dance like people half their age during their office's Christmas party. Mrs. Fezziwig is described by the narrator as "[Mr. Fezziwig's] partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it".
    • Belle and her husband, who is not Scrooge. Some adaptations of the story make this husband Scrooge's old friend from Fezziwig's apprenticeship, Dick Wilkins, just to further twist the knife.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • When the Ghost of Christmas Present is showing Fred's Christmas, there is 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 means 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 teetotalism, 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. ("Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for this is thy dominion! But of the loved, revered, and honoured head, thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand was open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm, and tender; and the pulse a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!") 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. (Mark 9:36, "And He took a child, and set him in the midst of them.") The implication seems to be that the otherwise voiceless Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is talking inside Scrooge's head.
  • Heartfelt Apology: Part of Scrooge's Heel–Face Turn involves him apologizing to everyone he was a jerk to — Bob Cratchit, Fred and his wife, the charity collectors.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Scrooge has a change of heart after being haunted by the three spirits.
  • History Repeats: Jacob Marley died on Christmas Eve, and if Scrooge doesn't reform, so will he.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Scrooge has several faults before his Heel–Face Turn, but being a Corrupt Corporate Executive isn't one of them. It is stated how good his word is when it is mentioned he was one of those who signed Jacob Marley's death certificate. So he's not dishonest; he's just heartless.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted by four ghosts over the course of the night, including the ghost of his dead partner. Unsurprisingly given the title and the story itself, these visitations all occur on Christmas Eve.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: 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, revisiting Scrooge's disdainful replies after being asked for a charitable contribution. 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 who are roaming the streets of London — now they're forced to witness firsthand the misery of the poor whom they scorned to help in life.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come shows how much better or worse the circumstances may be for Scrooge's neighbors and acquaintances, showing the possible consequences of what may happen if Scrooge's life doesn't change for the better.
  • 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: invokedScrooge 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 can't go there [to prison or to a workhouse]; and many would rather die.
    Scrooge: If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
  • Last Disrespects: The businessmen discussing the circumstances of Scrooge's death.
    "It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral, for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it."
    "I don’t mind going if lunch is provided."
  • Lemony Narrator: As with a lot of Dickens books, the narrator refers to himself multiple times, despite not being a character in the story. Take, for instance, this little digression at the beginning:
    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 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.
  • Meaningful Name: The word "scrooge" was originally slang for "to squeeze", as in Scrooge's tight-fistedness.
  • A Million is a Statistic: The visit to the Cratchits' Christmas is a lesson in why thinking this way is so cruel. Scrooge had earlier claimed that the best thing the "surplus population" can do is die and stop sponging off society. Present gets Scrooge to see that the surplus is made of good, innocent people who can't be more productive because they've have been dealt a bad hand by people like him.
  • 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.
    [T]he figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever.
  • Mistaken for Bad Vision: One of the first signs that something's going on is when Scrooge sees his door knocker temporarily turn into a face; he blames it on his poor eyesight and heads inside.
  • Money Is Not Power: Marley died a rich man but it did him no good terrible afterlife where he can do nothing but see the tired masses suffer. He and the other ghosts warn Scrooge that his hoarded wealth won't save him from a lonely and miserable death.
  • Monochrome Apparition: Having appeared on Scrooge's doorknocker, Marley's face is said to have a "livid" note  colour.
  • 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.
  • Murder by Inaction: Played with. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows that Tiny Tim will die without medical treatment. While whatever Tim has isn't necessarily fatal, Scrooge refusing to pay Bob Cratchit a fair salary means that Tiny Tim will die an early death, and Scrooge realizes in the visions of the future that the boy's blood is on his hands.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Scrooge gets this quite a bit through the visions from the spirits, but what really breaks him is seeing the Empty Chair Memorial for Tiny Tim in the future. Scrooge realizes that the boy's early demise is indirectly his fault by Scrooge's staunch refusal to pay a fair share.
  • 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 but Skin and Bones: The children Ignorance and Want.
    Scrooge: Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask, but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?
    Ghost of Christmas Present: It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it. Look here. [reveals the children]
  • 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 Scrooge 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. But then, a lot of Victorian businesses (particularly those catering to the rich) regularly served customers on credit, and would have had debtors. 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 Crazy Night: A lot happens to Scrooge between the moment when Marley appears to him and the moment he wakes up on Christmas Day. He's rather confused by this, but then assumes it happened that way because the ghosts arranged for it.
  • 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Bob Cratchit is stunned to see the newly reformed Scrooge to say the least.
  • 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. In some modern adaptations, characters at the analogous party play Charades.
  • 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, Scrooge is surprised to see that his companion is rapidly getting older. The spirit explains to Scrooge that his lifespan is only as long as Christmas itself note  and ends that night.
  • Pungeon Master:
    • When Jacob Marley's ghost shows up, Scrooge tries to lighten the mood to mask his fears:
      Scrooge: There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!
    • When Marley mentions that his ghost has been wandering the earth, he is not amused by Scrooge's levity, and rattles his chains with a ghostly wail:
      Scrooge: Seven years dead, and wandering the earth?
      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.
    • Scrooge refers to Bob Cratchit as his "fifteen-bob-a-week" clerk ("bob" being another word for "shilling").
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: How Fred feels about Scrooge's antisocial behavior.
    Fred: His offenses carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him. [...] Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself, always.

  • Redemption Earns 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.
  • Redemption Quest: The whole story was Scrooge's, going from revisiting his Dark and Troubled Past, learning empathy from those working under him, and grasping the consequences of his actions, culminating in his Heel–Face Turn.
  • "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."
    Christmas Present: 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!
  • Releasing from the Promise: Belle releases Ebenezer from his promise to marry her.
  • 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.
    Woman: It's the best he had, and a fine one too. They'd have wasted it, if it hadn't been for me.
    Old Joe: What do you call wasting of it?
    Woman: [laughs] Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure. Somebody was fool enough to do it, but I took it off again.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Scrooge was not born a horrible greedy person. It was his past experiences of losing a girlfriend, a sister, and a partner, and being sent from his family to boarding school on Christmas Day that helped make him who he is.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come effectively looks like the Grim Reaper.
  • Rule of Three: Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come.
  • Saved by the Church Bell: The book famously ends with Scrooge waking up to church bells ringing, letting him know that his haunted night is over and Christmas day has come at last. After the horrid vision of the future he's seen, Scrooge is overjoyed and takes the opportunity to turn his life into something as beautiful as the holiday knell.
  • 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 aren't shown in any detail, but it's shown by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that this fate awaits them if Scrooge doesn't mend his ways. When Scrooge pulls a Heel–Face Turn, both Scrooge and Tim live to tell the tale.
  • 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.
  • 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, and lead him to a terrible fate after death. Changing his mind vastly improves the quality of his life.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Scrooge tells his nephew that celebrating Christmas is for fools 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 more ridiculous 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? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough.
    Fred: Come then; what right have you to be dismal? What reason 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 Jerkass 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 Jerkass.
  • 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 Scrooge 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.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Scrooge goes from being a hard-hearted, crotchety curmudgeon to a man who cares about others, raises Bob Cratchit's pay, and saves Tiny Tim from dying.
  • Tough Love: All of the ghosts want to help Scrooge, but The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come especially doesn’t pull any punches.
  • 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 fiancée 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 after 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.
    "Hallo!" growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice as near as he could feign it. "What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?"
    "I'm very sorry, sir," said Bob. "I am behind my time."
    "You are?" repeated Scrooge. "Yes. I think you are. Step this way, if you please."
    "It's only once a year, sir," pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. "It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir."
    "Now, I'll tell you what, my friend," said Scrooge, "I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore," he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again: "and therefore I am about to raise your salary!"
  • 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" on the Christmas party.

  • 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.
    Scrooge: Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you.
  • Unexpected Kindness: After his Heel–Face Turn, Scrooge trolls Bob Cratchit by making him think he's going to fire him, only to reveal he's actually going to raise his salary.
  • 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, due in part to the industrial era work hazards which could considerably shorten a person's lifespan. 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.
  • Westminster Chimes: As Scrooge is awaiting the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Past at one o'clock a.m.:
    The quarter was so long, that he was more than once convinced he must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and missed the clock. At length it broke upon his listening ear.
    “Ding, dong!”
    “A quarter past,” said Scrooge, counting.
    “Ding, dong!”
    “Half-past!” said Scrooge.
    “Ding, dong!”
    “A quarter to it,” said Scrooge.
    “Ding, dong!”
    “The hour itself,” said Scrooge, triumphantly, “and nothing else!”
    He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy One.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: Everybody seems to be a nice, normal person while Ebenezer Scrooge is grumpy and indifferent, until the end when the ghosts give him a badly needed attitude adjustment.
  • 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.

A Christmas Carol's 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 animated film have them, the 1951 Scrooge has the miners while the 1982 animation has the lighthouse.
    • Several adaptations exclude Scrooge confronting his shrouded corpse. The exceptions are the 1935, 1938, 1971, 1982, 1984, 1999, 2001 and 2009 versions. Though some have him witnesses people robbing his corpse as in the 1977 tv film, 1997 animation and the 2004 musical. In the book, he sees people selling his possessions and then his shrouded corpse.
    • 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, 2001 and 2009 versions include it, however, and the Albert Finney version takes that aspect further 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. Some adaptations do keep it like the story where Belle isn't introduced until the breakup, such as the Mr. Magoo version and the 1997 animated version.
    • 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.
    • Some versions, such as Mickey's Christmas Carol, the 1999 version, and the 2009 version, have Scrooge thrown into his grave after he learns that it's his gravestone, usually to provide one last scare before he wakes up. The 1970 Scrooge film takes that further by not only featuring him getting thrown into his grave, but ending up falling all the way into Hell. And speaking of which...
    • 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.
    • Most versions have Bob timidly ask for Christmas off, even bringing up half-day or starting late. In the book, Scrooge himself is the one who asks if Bob is expecting the whole day off first.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Scrooge's fiancee has had her name changed from Belle to Alice, Emily, Claire, and Isobel, among other names.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Tiny Tim, who somehow has even more Incorruptible Pure Pureness in some adaptations than in the book. In the book, quite understandably, he's as enthusiastic about toasting Scrooge's health as his mother and siblings, with the narrator saying "he didn't care twopence for it". Many versions, including the Mickey and Muppet versions, decide that's just not saintly enough, and have him as the one Cratchit except Bob who drinks the toast sincerely.
  • 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.
    • Scrooge himself, though a Villain Protagonist; in the novel, he becomes sentimental immediately upon being shown his childhood, and soon regrets not giving anything to the boy who was singing carols earlier. In many adaptations, he shows less sign of repentance in the early stages of his journey, even up to the point of his visitation from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The scene where the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the Creepy Children Ignorance and Want living under the Ghost's robes is 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 Muppet Christmas Carol and the 1938 film with Reginald Owen.
    • Marley's Ghost Exaggerated - it's so short that 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 Scrooge chasing away a boy carolling in front of his office, Marley’s face appearing on the tiles of Scrooge's fireplace as well as his jaw falling down onto his chest when he unties the bandage around his head, 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, Belle married to another man and with children, Scrooge extinguishing The Ghost of Christmas Past with a giant candle snuffer or the Ghost of Christmas Present sprinkling magical Christmas cheer from his torch.
    • Almost none of the adaptations include the brief Author Tract about how unkind it is to close bakeries on Sunday, likely because the Blue Laws aren't really used anymore. The 2009 Disney production is the only known exception.
  • 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.
    • invokedThe Yet Another Christmas Carol trope lists scores of shows that have all done their own affectionate parody retellings of the story.
  • Age Lift:
    • Adaptations and the popular image of the story often do this with Ebenezer Scrooge in order to emphasize that this is his Last Chance to become a good man, casting him as a geriatric grumpy old man, while an close read of the book puts him at most in the mid-to-late fifties (his nephew, whom Scrooge is distant to because he reminds him too much of his beloved sister who died young, possibly in child-birth, is in his mid-twenties). He is also stated to be spry enough to live long enough to become "almost an second father to Tiny Tim".
    • 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.
  • Catchphrase: 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.
    • In the 2021 Nottingham Playhouse production staring Nicholas Farrell and Mark Gatiss, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is revealed to be Jacob Marley

  • 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.
  • 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: Some 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:
    • The Stingiest Man in Town (A 1956 TV production adapted into a Rankin/Bass Productions animated special in 1978)
    • Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962)
    • Scrooge (1970) with Albert Finney; later became a successful stage musical.
    • The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
    • An animated direct to video film in 1997 starring Tim Curry had 8 original songs.
    • The 2004 TV movie starring Kelsey Grammer, which was an adaptation of a stage musical production that ran at Madison Square Garden from 1994-2003; music by Alan Menken.
    • Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (2022), starring Luke Evans contains 11 original songs.
    • The Dallas Theater Center's annual production of the show, using traditional carols.
  • 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.
    • Both versions of The Stingiest Man in Town do the opposite; there is no mention of Tiny Tim at all in the future segment.
    • 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 he 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!