Ebenezer Scrooge is a wealthy but stingy moneylender. He spent his childhood in a lonely boarding school, with only imaginary friends to keep him company. As he matured, he learned to love money more than anything, which lost him, among other things, his fiancée. Although his first job was with a kind and generous boss, Scrooge became a coldhearted, nasty employer to his clerk, Bob Cratchit. On Christmas Eve one year, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his ex-business partner, Jacob Marley, who warns of a terrible fate should Scrooge not change his ways. After being visited by three ghosts, Scrooge learns the value of engaging with society, including the sick and poor, whom he previously viewed as dispensable and worthless. He learns the lesson that life is meaningless without friends and family to share one's wealth with, so he vows to spend time with his nephew, Fred, and to care for the struggling Cratchit family.
Bob Cratchit is a penniless office clerk who represents the hardworking poor in London. Despite being forced to work in uncomfortable conditions for very little pay, Bob remains loyal to Scrooge, even defending his boss's stinginess to his family on Christmas Day. Although poor, Bob remains optimistic, loving, and merry. He works hard to support his family, reveling in holiday traditions and family togetherness. Dickens portrayed Bob sympathetically in the hopes of encouraging wealthy benefactors in Victorian London to help the poor.
Ghost of Christmas Past
The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first of the three spirits to haunt Scrooge on Christmas Eve. The spirit is described as being dressed in all white, with white hair and a white light beaming from under its hat. It has strange proportions (delicate feet but muscular legs, for example) and is an indeterminate age, looking both like a child and an old man. The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge visions of his past to help him understand how he became the man he is today.
Ghost of Christmas Present
The Ghost of Christmas Present is the second of the three spirits to haunt Scrooge on Christmas Eve. The jolly giant represents Christmas cheer, which is evident from its initial description: "It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur ... on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air." The Ghost of Christmas Present brings Scrooge around town to see the great divide between rich and poor, and also to see how even the poorest manage to find holiday cheer and share their joy. This spirit also hides the emaciated children, Ignorance and Want, beneath its robes.
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the final spirit to haunt Scrooge on Christmas Eve, entering his life like the Grim Reaper: "draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards [Scrooge]." The spirit never speaks to Scrooge but shows him visions of what his future will be like if he does not change his ways. He will die alone, mocked and abandoned in death. His money will amount to nothing, and he will have done nothing to alleviate the suffering of his fellow man, including Tiny Tim.
Jacob Marley serves as Scrooge's double, having lived the same greedy life Scrooge now lives. Now a ghost condemned to wander the world lugging a heavy chain that symbolizes his greed, he visits Scrooge, hoping to warn his only living "friend" to change his ways and avoid sharing Marley's fate.
Tiny Tim is the youngest Cratchit child. He is described as bearing "a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame." The untreated illness is suggested to be a result of his family's poverty: Scrooge's meager wage does not afford Bob enough to seek proper medical care. As a result, Tiny Tim is disabled. Despite his condition, Tiny Tim is "good as gold" with a pure heart. When Scrooge first sees Tiny Tim, his death is imminent, but after Scrooge's change of heart, Tiny Tim's fate is reversed.