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Literature / A Christmas Carol

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"Bah! Humbug!"

"Marley was dead: to begin with."

A Christmas Carol note  is a novella written by Charles Dickens and first published in 1843, which not many 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. Our story opens on Christmas Eve, by chance the seventh anniversary of the death of Scrooge's partner in the firm, Jacob Marley. Scrooge believes Christmas to be a foolish waste of time and money, and mocks anyone who believes in making merry, particularly his nephew Fred, his only living relation, and his overworked and underpaid clerk Bob Cratchit. After closing up the office and taking his evening meal at a tavern, Scrooge returns home, where, late in the night, Marley's ghost pays him a call. Though seven years dead, Marley appears wrapped in chains and weighted down with lock-boxes symbolizing his own obsession with money in life. Marley warns Scrooge that a similar fate waits for him, with an even longer and heavier chain, if he doesn't change his ways, and that his only hope for redemption lies in heeding the advice of three other ghosts that are scheduled to appear to him one at a time over the following nights.

After seeing Marley disappear amid a crowd of phantoms which it seems are visible only to Scrooge, the stress of the events gets the better of Scrooge, and he ends up falling asleep. He then wakes up at midnight, even though he went to bed after 2 a.m., and puzzles over what night it actually is until minutes before the first of the three is scheduled to arrive. The Ghost of Christmas Past then appears as promised, and shows Scrooge (and the reader) the ups and downs of his life, which drove him to become the man he is today. These include visions of Scrooge's early life at a boarding school, and encounters with his younger sister Fan, his jolly first employer Fezziwig, and his fiancée Belle, each of whom left Scrooge's life for one reason or another around Christmas.

After Scrooge attempts to 'put out' the Ghost of Christmas Past with his cap, Scrooge goes back to sleep before awaking again to meet the Ghost of Christmas Present. The Ghost shows Scrooge more visions, this time of folks who have retained their Christmas spirit in spite of suffering worse than he has, including Bob Cratchit. In spite of the troubles of Bob and his family (especially Bob's sickly youngest son, "Tiny Tim"), they still find a place for happiness in their lives. The ghost also shows him a glimpse of the celebration his nephew Fred has in his absence – Scrooge having rejected Fred's offer to dine with him, his wife, and their friends – and Scrooge sees not only the fun that he's been missing, but how his nephew wishes for a closer relationship with the brother his departed mother Fan so loved.

After a warning about the future of humanity should it produce more like Scrooge's kind, the Ghost of Christmas Present passes away and disappears, leaving Scrooge alone in a dismal alley – in time to meet the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. This ghost, who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Grim Reaper, shows Scrooge bleak visions of the future: Tiny Tim will succumb to his illness, while Scrooge himself will die alone and unmourned. A horrified Scrooge implores the ghost to spare mercy on him, and vows to better himself to prevent this outcome. He grasps the Ghost's hand, but the Ghost throws him off, and Scrooge watches as the Ghost changes its shape, transforming into...

...a bedpost. Scrooge is back in his own bed. The world is back to normal, and morning light streams into his room from the window. Scrooge discovers that, even though he received three nights' worth of ghostly guidance, he has returned on Christmas morning. Overjoyed, he makes good on his resolution to change his ways, and becomes a generous and highly-respected figure in London. Bob Cratchit is given an immediate raise in pay, and with Scrooge's help Tiny Tim manages to overcome his illness. Scrooge repairs his relationship with Fred, and all live happily ever after.

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 might possibly also be the source of the Pensieve Flashback. For a list of adaptations (and tropes commonly found in said adaptations), see its Derivative Works page.

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 adaptation is the Thomas Edison version of 1910.

Not to be confused with actual Christmas Carols.

A Christmas Carol provides examples of:

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  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: Discussed. When Marley shows up to warn Scrooge about what awaits him, Scrooge dismisses Marley at first as some sort of trick of his senses caused by food poisoning. This doesn't last particularly long, as the sights and sounds that assault Scrooge's senses soon convince him that what he's seeing is the real deal.
    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.
  • An Aesop:
    • Greed and selfishness will never bring you happiness, and will ultimately led you lead to a path of loneliness and misery. The only way to true happiness is by showing love and kindness to your fellow man.
    • 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 your ways and become a better person.
    • No amount of personal wealth gives you the right to decide who does or doesn't have value.
  • 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 and barren. The narrator even describes Scrooge not spending much on candles and keeping his rooms dark, because "darkness is cheap" compared to keeping it all lit.
  • 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:
    • 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.
    • The Ghost of Christmas Present gives this in the form of a Meaningful Echo. When Scrooge asks if Ignorance and Want have no "refuge or resource" from a terrible life, the Ghost asks "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" to Scrooge. It pierces Scrooge's armor because Scrooge said the same thing to some men who wanted donations to help needy children, so Scrooge's own words are being thrown back in his face as a way of showing him how cruel he's been.
  • 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.
    • The Ghost of Christmas Present doesn't like it when Scrooge confronts him on having the bakers shut down on Sundays. (The poor of London didn't have ovens at home, so they needed to use a baker's oven for anything they couldn't cook over a simple fire.) The Ghost replies that it wasn't his idea. He then tears into Scrooge for his line about the "surplus population".
    • 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 Nice 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 Interruptus: "He tried to say 'Humbug!' but stopped at the first syllable".
  • Character Catchphrase: Scrooge's iconic "Humbug", sometimes prefaced with "Bah!"
  • 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: Quite a few.
    • When the charity collectors come by asking Scrooge for donations, it takes an awfully long time for it to dawn on them that Scrooge isn't interested in donating anything. Even after he makes it quite clear that the only charity the poor need are prisons and workhouses, they insist:
    Charity Collector: What can we put you down for?
    Scrooge: Nothing
    Charity Collector: You wish to remain anonymous?
    Scrooge: I wish to be left alone! Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry.
    • 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!
  • Contagious Laughter: Lampshaded by the narrator when Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present look in on Scrooge's nephew and his guests.
    It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that, while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour. When Scrooge’s nephew laughed in this way: holding his sides, rolling his head, and twisting his face into the most extravagant contortions: Scrooge’s niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behindhand, roared out lustily.
  • 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.
  • Death of a Child: Littlest Cancer Patient Tiny Tim dies in the Bad Future because Scrooge never gave Bob Cratchit enough money to afford Tim's treatment. Tim's death isn't shown to Scrooge or the reader, but the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come makes it very clear that Tim is dead, and Scrooge indirectly has Tim's blood on his hands.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • There is clearly something weird going on with time over the course of the Ghosts' visits. Marley explicitly tells Scrooge that the three Christmas Spirits will visit on three separate nights. When Marley leaves and Scrooge goes to sleep for the first time, it is past 2 a.m. on the 25th; when he wakes up again (an hour before the Ghost of Christmas Past's arrival), he is astonished to find that it is midnight, somehow. A similar "reset" happens between Past's visit and Present's, and Present's visit—which is implied to end on Twelfth Night—flows straight into Yet to Come's without a break. When Scrooge finally returns to his own room, it's the 25th again/still.
  • 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 as Characterization: Food is a recurring element of the story, often serving as a reflection of a person's holiday spirit.
    • Scrooge eats a miserable saucepan of gruel for Christmas dinner, which reflects both his cheap, miserly nature and his total disdain for the holiday. Once he is redeemed at the end, he happily buys the Cratchits an enormous prize turkey for their feast, signifying his growth into a charitable person.
    • The Ghost of Christmas Present sits atop a throne of delicious food, symbolizing the abundance of Christmas.
    • The Cratchits have a small but humble meal for Christmas, consisting of a roast goose, some side dishes, and pudding. The size of the meal matters not to the family, because the bond that they have together is what makes the occasion special.
  • 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.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: The narrative examines why Scrooge is always so consistently miserable around Christmas every year by showing many terrible things happened to Scrooge, some of which were around Christmas time. However, multiple characters in the story (supernatural or otherwise) call out this explanation as a petty and shallow reason to be so sour to everyone else, and have Scrooge pull a Heel–Face Turn by instilling the same idea into his head.
  • 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, they welcome him 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 Scrooge his nephew Fred's Christmas party, 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. Seeing what the path of being miserly, cruel, and closed off from the world will do to him, Scrooge vows to become a better person. And according to the narration at the end of the story, Scrooge was "better than his word" in this regard, becoming "as good a master and as good a man" as anyone in the city had ever seen, even becoming something of a second father to Tiny Tim.
  • The Help Helping Themselves: The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge that unless he mends his ways, not only will he die alone and unmourned, his servants will happily pawn his possessions, right down to the sheets off his deathbed. It's implied that they were also stealing from him during his life.
    Charwoman: I certainly shan't hold my hand, when I can get anything in it by reaching it out, for the sake of such a man as he was...
  • 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's mentioned he was one of those who signed Jacob Marley's death certificate. So it's not that Scrooge is dishonest; he's just heartless. He'll only go after people who owe him money, but he'll do so without pity, compassion, or empathy.
  • 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.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Rather than chapters, the story is divided into "staves" (a British term for a musical staff, thereby tying in with the "carol" theme of the title).
  • 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 his past self's firsthand, Scrooge is decidedly not proud of what he's done.
  • 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. The Ghost of Christmas Present considers it a serious likelihood that Tiny Tim will die from his illness, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come shows Scrooge the Bad Future in which this happens, complete with the full emotional repercussions on the Cratchit family. It's mentioned that whatever Tiny Tim is sick with, it's not inherently fatal; it's just that the Cratchit family is too poor to afford the treatment for it. However, thanks to Scrooge's Heel–Face Turn and giving Bob Cratchit a rise, Tiny Tim gets the treatment after all and lives.
  • 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: While Scrooge travels through time to the past, the immediate future and the Bad Future, the things the spirits show him are 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.
  • 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 — a spirit cursed to walk the earth for all eternity as a restless ghost, literally weighed down by his sins.
  • 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, Scrooge 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.
  • Just Here for the Free Snacks: One of Scrooge's associates in the Bad Future is overheard saying he'd be willing to go to Scrooge's funeral if lunch was provided.
  • 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 and "decrease the surplus population" 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 within 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's just that the Cratchits are too poor to afford the treatment, which is why he dies in the alternate future. So when Scrooge has his change of heart and increases Bob's salary, Tim gets the treatment and 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.

  • Married to the Job: Belle accuses Scrooge of being this when she breaks up with him. He's so insistent on pursuing wealth at all costs that there's no room in Scrooge's heart for anything else, not even her. While Scrooge is an Honest Corporate Executive who never tries to cheat anybody out of money that he isn't owed, he's still so dogged in his pursuit of money that, by the time the story proper has begun, he's known to the people only as a crotchety old miser who is "as solitary as an oyster" with no life outside his job.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The Ghost of Christmas Present had more than 1,800 siblings (presumably all deceased), each representing Christmas of a preceding year. 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.
  • Money Is Not Power: Marley died a rich man, but it did him no good; he has a 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".
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker:
    • Scrooge is an aversion of this trope. He's at least honest with people's money, and it's mentioned that he only goes after debts that he's honestly owed. But Scrooge acts like such an old miserly jerk that everyone presumes he's morally corrupt.
    • Jacob Marley was this in life, to the point that he's condemned to be Walking the Earth for all eternity, literally weighed down by the lockboxes and ledgers he cultivated in life.
  • 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.
  • 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 wage.
  • 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.
  • Officially Shortened 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?
  • 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.
  • Only Cares About Inheritance: During the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come sequence, the only people attending Scrooge's funeral plan to take his belongings after his passing or only be there if lunch is provided.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Bob Cratchit is stunned to see the newly-reformed Scrooge after Scrooge's Heel–Face Turn, to say the least. However, once Scrooge proves to be a man of his word and sincere in his reformation, it starts sticking far more.
  • Opinion-Changing Dream: Averted. It admittedly follows a similar format (Scrooge is a mean person who hates Christmas and helping the needy, Scrooge goes to bed, Scrooge meets some ghosts, Scrooge gets out of bed in the morning, Scrooge's opinions have changed completely and he becomes a good person). But all available context clues indicate that Scrooge is fully awake when he meets the ghosts. This is altered in some adaptations, where his adventures really are All Just a Dream.
  • 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.

  • "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!
  • 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.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Downplayed and discussed. While Scrooge's newfound generosity and joyous behavior prove sincere enough to be accepted, it's such a complete and total change of attitude that the people he reunites with on Christmas Day are very alarmed and not quite sure what to expect at first; he offers a personal apology as well as a donation to the portly charity collector when they meet again, feeling ashamed of his earlier behavior, and Bob thinks for a fleeting moment his boss might have gone mad when Scrooge announces he's raising his salary for coming in late. The penultimate paragraph mentions that a few never took Scrooge's change seriously and thought of him as a ridiculous old fool, but Scrooge let them mock him, knowing that some people will scorn anything that happens for good, and appreciating that he at least brought some laughter into their lives.
  • Releasing from the Promise: Belle releases Ebenezer from his promise to marry her.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When the two gentlemen putting together a fund for the poor visit Scrooge and Marley's and are informed that Marley has been dead for seven years, one optimistically remarks that "we have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner" — a fully accurate statement in the sense that in life Marley was just as much a miserly skinflint as Scrooge and would have refused to make any such donation, just as Scrooge proceeds to do.
  • 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, and most of what the spirit shows Scrooge happens after he's dead.
  • 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 peal.
  • 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 entire evening's affairs are one long Jacob Marley Warning about what will happen if Scrooge doesn't shape up his act and turn to helping people instead of hoarding money. They do eventually get through to him, resulting in a Heel–Face Turn.
  • 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. Part of his Heel–Face Turn is learning that he can't just wait around and say that there are alternatives to people like him refusing to help the poor; Scrooge has to actively help people if he wants the world to be a better place.
  • 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!: Scrooge scoffs at the idea of his nephew falling in love; according to the narrator, his tone of voice implies that it is "the only thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas".
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Most of the story lies 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.
  • Thermostat Tamper Tantrum: While set before thermostats existed, Scrooge still managed to be a temperature tyrant before his time.
    Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part.
  • Thriving Ex-Crush: Scrooge is shown by The Ghost of Christmas Past that Belle, who had broken up with him because of his greed, was now happily married and with children and a loving, doting husband. Scrooge, meanwhile, is a solitary miser whose only family left is his nephew, whom Scrooge chooses to avoid, at least until his reformation.
  • 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, Scrooge finds they did it all in one night, as it's Christmas morning.
  • 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: The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come especially doesn’t pull any punches. The spirit shows Scrooge that he'll end up Dying Alone, that Tiny Tim will die from an illness that could have been treated if he'd just paid Bob Cratchit a little more money, and that Scrooge will have all of it coming. And yet, the ghost (and all the others) are doing it out of a desire to give Scrooge a chance to turn himself around.
  • 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 breaks it off with Scrooge after realising he did not truly love her anymore. She is wearing a mourning-dress when she does this, which suggests that someone close to her died not long before.
  • 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.
  • Unmourned Death: The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come teleports Ebenezer Scrooge to a cemetery, where a headstone stands, overgrown and derelict. The Ghost points to it, and Scrooge hesitantly pulls away the overgrowth to reveal his own name; no one has come there to mourn or tend his grave. As further proof, the Ghost takes Scrooge to a pawnbroker's shop, where Ms. Dilber offers his bedcurtains for cash. "Brass rings 'n' all? With [Scrooge] still lying in the bed?" asks the shopkeeper. "Aye, that I did," cackles the woman.
  • 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.

God bless us, every one!