Ghosts and Goodwill in the ultimate Christmas story. It is Christmas Eve in Victorian London, and all around the snow-covered city people are rushing home to be with their families. All except one man, that is: Ebenezer Scrooge. A wealthy old miser whose only joy in life is money, Scrooge decides to spend the evening counting his cash, rejecting seasonal goodwill with well-practiced cries of ‘Bah! Humbug!’
But this Christmas Eve there are some surprises in store for old Scrooge. While his poor and put-upon employee Bob Cratchit prepares the finest family feast his paltry wages can buy, Scrooge’s sleep is disturbed by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. In one short night they reveal more to him about his true character than he has ever realised himself. As Christmas Day dawns, Scrooge is forced to confront the spectre of his own mean existence.
‘A Christmas Carol’ was published in December 1843, at a time when medieval Christmas traditions were in steady decline. Indeed, Dickens’s heart-warming tale has been seen as a major turning point; the popularity of its lamp-lit setting and its diverse characters – from the wonderfully wicked Scrooge to the crippled but optimistic Tiny Tim – helped ensure that family unity and ‘goodwill to all men’ once more became the appropriate sentiments of the Christmas season.
At the same time, Dickens used the poverty-stricken Cratchit family’s dependence on hard-hearted Scrooge to highlight the Victorian working class’s daily struggle against the indifference of the greedy.
The book’s importance was cemented at Christmas 1852, when Dickens undertook public readings of it before both educated and working-class audiences. The success of these events led to public readings becoming a major part of his later career, usually featuring A Christmas Carol. The novella’s short length and strong moral message have ensured that it has become one of Dickens’s most well-known classics.