In Stave 4 of Charles Dickens’ ”A Christmas Carol,” The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come visits Ebenezer Scrooge. The spirit shows Scrooge the grim future that awaits him. Watch this video to learn more.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
As Stave 4, titled ”The Last of the Spirits”, of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol opens, a phantom approaches Ebenezer Scrooge. This spirit is shrouded in darkness, and the only feature visible to Ebenezer Scrooge is a single, outstretched hand. Scrooge surmises at once that the phantom is The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and Scrooge knows the spirit is there to show him the future.
This spirit is silent and foreboding. Rather than respond to any of Scrooge’s questions or comments, the menacing phantom only points with its hand. Scrooge admits that he is more afraid of this ghost than any of the spirits who have visited him on the previous nights.
The spirit whisks Scrooge away from his familiar surroundings and deposits him in the city. The ghostly hand gestures toward a group of men, a clear indication that Scrooge should listen to their conversation. The businessmen are discussing the recent death of a man who was not very well-liked. ” ‘It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,’ one man says, ‘for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it.’ ”
The ghost then points to two other businessmen in conversation; Scrooge knows these two men to be wealthy businessmen. ”Old Scratch has got his own at last, hey?” one of the men says. Scrooge is unable to make sense of the conversation and wonders why the ghost is showing him these apparently meaningless scenes.
Scrooge wonders if the men could be discussing the death of his business partner, Jacob Marley, but then he remembers that he’s viewing the future. Marley has been dead for seven years, so they can’t be referring to Marley’s death. Scrooge begins to look for himself amongst the people ambling about the street, but he doesn’t see himself anywhere.
The ghost then takes Scrooge to a remote part of town, an area Scrooge has never seen before. He recognizes it at once as a ”den of infamous resort.” The spirit directs Scrooge into what is basically a pawn shop. Inside this rundown store, Scrooge sees a group of people with wares to sell.
He learns that the items once belonged to the dead man he’s heard about; in fact, these people disrespect him so much that one woman has snatched the bed curtains and blankets from the man’s deathbed. She has even taken the man’s dress shirt, which he was to buried in. Scrooge is horrified by what he sees in the resale shop.
The scene changes again, and Scrooge finds himself in a bedroom. Upon the bed, a corpse lies. Scrooge could easily pull the cover from the corpse’s face, but he’s reluctant to do so despite the ghost’s insistent gestures toward the corpse’s head.
Scrooge promises that he has learned a lesson from this terrible sight, but the ghost continues to indicate that Scrooge should look at the corpse’s face. Scrooge says that he cannot force himself to look. He then pleads with The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to show him at least one person who has been affected emotionally by the man’s death.
The Debtors & the Cratchits
The ghost then displays a lighted room for Scrooge. A family gathers, hoping for good news from the father who is just returning to his home. The man and his family owed the dead man money, and the father has just learned of the death as he was going to plead for an extension on the debt.
The family is actually happy that the man has died because they’ll have time to accumulate enough money to pay their debt; they also know that whoever takes over collection of their debt cannot possibly be as bad as the man who has died. All agree that ”it would be a bad fortune indeed to find so merciless a creditor in his successor.”
The ghost then shows Scrooge the Cratchit family. The Cratchits are grieving because Tiny Tim has died. Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim’s father and Scrooge’s clerk, reports that he has encountered Scrooge’s nephew. Bob Cratchit is surprised by Fred’s kindness, given his uncle’s cranky temperament.
At last, Scrooge asks the ghost to reveal the dead man’s identity. The ghost takes Scrooge to the cemetery, where he finally discovers the dead man’s name. On the grave stone, Scrooge reads his own name. Scrooge is now quite intent on changing his future. To avoid such a terrible end, Scrooge makes a vow to The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come:
” ‘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!’ ”
Though Scrooge pleads for a chance to change the future, the ghost doesn’t indicate if his attempt to negotiate a brighter future for himself is successful. Scrooge grasps the spirit’s hand in desperation, but the spirit pulls away. Scrooge watches as The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come dissolves into a bedpost.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrives to show Ebenezer Scrooge the grim future that awaits him. Scrooge hears of a death, and the ghost shows him a covered corpse. It soon becomes apparent that most of the townspeople are undisturbed by the death; in fact, the only emotion associated with the man’s passing comes from his debtors who are glad for the extra time they will have to make good their payment. Scrooge eventually learns that he’s the dead man and pleads with the spirit for the opportunity to change the future.