A Christmas Carol

In Charles Dickens' 1843 book A Christmas Carol, how many ghosts visit Ebenezer Scrooge?

And the answer: 4.

Photo courtesy: Sotheby's. 

In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is an elderly miser who is visited by four ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, as well as the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley. By the end of the book, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder and gentler man.

While Christmas Carol remains a well-loved staple of the holiday season even today (certainly owing special thanks to its 24 movie adaptations), Charles Dickens' story grew out of a very specific moment in history. In the early to mid-nineteenth century, a quickly industrializing England swept into its fervor a slew of underpaid and desperate workers. While the population of cities grew, so too did unskilled manufacturing lines, bringing with it a desire for low-pay, low-stakes work. Unfortunately, in times like the "Hungry '40s," it was often children who who would work for the least.

After reading a government report on child labor in 1843, Dickens was stricken. The conditions were rough for children workers, and yet such 11-hour days were considered ordinary. While the author initially considered publishing a pamphlet to raise awareness and stir compassion for unfair labor laws, he was moved to write a novel instead. In A Christmas Carol, characters embody the traits of Ignorance, and Want, while ghosts warn of the troubles brought by an apathetic existence.

In the end, Tiny Tim proclaims around a full dinner table, "Merry Christmas, every one!" While Scrooge's heart is lightened (and laden with the warnings of the ghosts), the message rings true in the hearts of readers everywhere. However and wherever we may, this Christmas season is as good a reason as any to take with us such lessons of kindness, compassion, and respect for one another.

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