A Christmas Carol
Stave Four: The Last of the Spirits
The phantom, a menacing figure clad in a black hooded robe, approaches Scrooge. Scrooge involuntarily kneels before him and asks if he is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The phantom does not answer, and Scrooge squirms in terror. Still reeling from the revelatory experiences with the last two spirits, Scrooge pleads with the ghost to share his lesson, hopeful that he may avoid the fate of his deceased partner.
The ghost takes Scrooge to a series of strange places: the London Stock Exchange, where a group of businessmen discuss the death of a rich man; a dingy pawn shop in a London slum, where a group of vagabonds and shady characters sell some personal effects stolen from a dead man; the dinner table of a poor family, where a husba nd and wife express relief at the death of an unforgiving man to whom they owed money; and the Cratchit household, where the family struggles to cope with the death of Tiny Tim. Scrooge begs to know the identity of the dead man, exasperated in his attempts to understand the lesson of the silent ghost. Suddenly, he finds himself in a churchyard where the spirit points him toward a freshly dug grave. Scrooge approaches the grave and reads the inscription on the headstone: EBENEZER SCROOGE.
Appalled, Scrooge clutches at the spirit and begs him to undo the events of his nightmarish vision. He promises to honor Christmas from deep within his heart and to live by the moralizing lessons of Past, Present, and Future. The spirit's hand begins to tremble, and, as Scrooge continues to cry out for mercy, the phantom's robe shrinks and collapses. Scrooge, again, finds himself returned to the relative safety of his own bed.
Within the allegory, the silent, reaper-like figure of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come represents the fear of death, which refracts Scrooge's lessons about memory, empathy, and generosity, insuring his reversion to an open, loving human being. In A Christmas Carol, the fear of death connotes the anticipation of moral reckoning and the inevitable dispensation of punishment and reward--literally the split between heaven and hell. In this way, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come briefly interjects a more somber, strictly Christian perspective into the secularized tale. This serves to remind Scrooge of Jacob Marley's fate, the horrific consequences of greed and selfishness--a fate that will doom Scrooge, as well, unless he can change his ways.
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