Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?

Marley shares his regret with Scrooge in an attempt to prevent Scrooge from sharing his fate. Having never helped out his fellow humans in life, he has been doomed to walk the earth in death without the ability to help them. He knows that Scrooge too walks through the streets ignoring the needs of others. He points out that the original Christmas story provides the key for how people should behave toward one another. Like the Wise Men did for Jesus’s family, people should seek out the needy and help them.

The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power forever.

The narrator explains how, with the aid of Marley’s Ghost, Scrooge can now see all the ghosts doomed to an afterlife of regret. They now want to help others as they could have in life, but death prevents them. Their only chance to do so was when they were living. Scrooge glimpses the spirits of many men he knew in life before they fade away again. He has the option to choose whether he really saw suffering souls or he imagined them. At this point, he feels unsure of what he believes.

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes on his cuff: “but it’s too late now…. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something, that’s all.”

For the first time, Scrooge expresses regret over a past lack of generosity. Scrooge has just relived the events of his boyhood, when he was left alone at school over Christmas. He experiences the sad and lonely feelings he has long repressed. Relating again to his own younger self, he now remembers the boy who recently tried to sing him a Christmas carol, a boy he dismissed violently. Whether his empathy with the boy results from the boy’s solitary status or his poverty, the incident rekindles Scrooge’s instinct for kindness.

Read about the related theme of empathy in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

[W]hen he thought that such another creature, quite as graceful and as full of promise, might have called him father, and been a spring-time in the haggard winter of his life, his sight grew very dim indeed.

The narrator describes Scrooge’s regret as he sees the daughter of Belle, his former fiancée. Readers learn that Belle broke off their engagement due to his increasing obsession with money and happily married another man. Suddenly, Scrooge realizes that if he had not lost Belle, he might have had a beautiful family too, and for the first time he senses the value of family. Previously he preferred being “solitary as an oyster.” Scrooge feels a heavy sorrow knowing that the time for having a family of his own has passed.