|The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come|
A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. (19 December 1843)
Ebenezer Scrooge finds the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come the most fearsome of the spirits; he appears to Scrooge as a figure entirely muffled in a black hooded robe, except for a single gaunt hand with which he points. Although the character never speaks in the story, Scrooge understands him, usually through assumptions from his previous experiences and rhetorical questions. The Ghost's muteness and undefined features (being always covered by his robe) may also have been intended to represent the uncertainty of the future. He is notable that even in satires and parodies of the tale, this spirit nonetheless retains his original look.
- The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. ... It thrilled him [Scrooge] with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black.
When the Ghost makes his appearance, the first thing he shows Scrooge is three wealthy gentlemen making light of a recent death, remarking that it will be a cheap funeral, if anyone comes at all. One businessman said he would go only if lunch is provided, while another said he did not eat lunch or wear black gloves, so there was no reason for him to go at all. Next, Scrooge is shown the same dead person's belongings being stolen and sold to a receiver of stolen goods called Old Joe. He also sees a shrouded corpse, which he implores the ghost not to unmask, and a poor, debtor family rejoicing that someone to whom they owed money is dead. After pleading to the ghost to see some tenderness connected with death, Scrooge is shown Bob Cratchit and his family mourning the passing of Tiny Tim (in the prior visitation, the Ghost of Christmas Present states that Tiny Tim's illness was not incurable, but implied that the meager income Scrooge provided to Bob Cratchit was not enough for him to provide Tim with adequate treatment). Scrooge is then taken to an unkempt graveyard, where he is shown his own grave, and realizes that the dead man of whom the others spoke ill was himself.
This visit sets up the climax of the novella at the end of this stave. Moved to an emotional connection to humanity and chastened by his own avarice and isolation by the visits of the first two spirits, Scrooge is horrified by the prospect of a lonely death and by implication a subsequent damnation. In desperation, he queries the ghost:
- “Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?”
- Still, the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.
- “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”
And in an epiphany in which he understands the changes that the visits of the three spirits have wrought in him, Scrooge exclaims:
- "I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope! ... I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
His transformation complete, Scrooge is ready to re-enter the world of humanity as a changed man as he does in the story's denouement in the final stage.
Public Domain Appearances
- A Christmas Carol
- Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1908)
- A Christmas Carol (1908)
- A Christmas Carol (1910)
- Scrooge (1913)
- A Christmas Carol (1914)
- The Right to Be Happy (1916)
- Scrooge (1935)