In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is “. . . a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire. . .” (2). And unkindly, remorseless old man, Scrooge makes every effort to avoid the normal pleasantries of social life and the sharing of his riches—even his own employee and nephew cannot warm Scrooge’s soul. However, when the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley, appears to him on a night near Christmas, Scrooge is taken on a journey that will change him forever.
Scrooge’s character may not have been subject to transformation had it not been for the strong sense of fear that comes over his being when first confronted with ghostly spirits, particularly that of Marley:
Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.
“Mercy!” he said. “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?” (15)
Stricken with fear, Scrooge feels compelled to be attentive to the ghost, and in his desire to be done with the haunting spirit, he listens and responds to everything it says. Because of Scrooge’s fear, he accepts what Marley is saying as pure gold and agrees to comply with the spirits that are to come (18-19).
The Ghost of Christmas Past visits Scrooge next, and out of Scrooge’s fear of offending the spirit, he quickly learns humility (24). With the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge is open to what the spirit has to teach, and he knows that he is undergoing a transformation of his heart, and of his life (41-41).
Because of the fear initially ignited in Scrooge by the surprise appearance of first Marley’s spirit then the Ghost of Christmas Past, he is able to continue his journey and transformation with the subsequent spirits. Scrooge’s fear makes him vulnerable and wrests away his control, so that he is reliant on the spirits to not only see his cold, shameful ways, but to also see the warm-spirited merriment which others across the world daily possess, and especially so on Christmas. By the end of the third stave, Scrooge’s heart has been warmed by his observances of his clerk’s and nephew’s respective families on Christmas, and he is repulsed by his former ways and outlook on life (59-61).