He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days, and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas. External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, not wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him.
The narrator reveals that when readers first meet Ebenezer Scrooge, he lives an entirely self-contained life. Not even the cold weather affects him, because—metaphorically—he has a cold heart. Scrooge made the decision, over a lifetime, not to allow external forces to influence his feelings or behavior. If atmospheric conditions don’t alter him, mere people certainly won’t influence him. His coldness rebuffs people, which suits him fine.
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”
Scrooge explains that he has no desire to help others celebrate Christmas when he doesn’t observe the holiday himself. His insistence that he “can’t afford” to make others happy points up his misplaced priorities. He also believes that the poor have no one to blame but themselves for their poverty. Scrooge’s belief that prisons and workhouses will solve the poor’s problems was a common idea in British society at the time.
The spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man in foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at: stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and leading by the bridle an axe laden with wood. “Why, it’s Ali Baba!” Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. “It’s dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know. One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, just like that. Poor boy!”
Scrooge recalls one of his childhood Christmases when his parents left him at school alone. He rejoices to remember a “visit” from the storybook character Ali Baba. Readers learn that Scrooge lived a lonely childhood but compensated with imagination and fun. Readers might infer that Scrooge developed self-containment by emotional necessity. Here, he pities his former self, and a glimmer of empathy shines through.
During the whole of this time Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation.
The narrator explains how Scrooge reacts to reliving the Fezziwigs’ Christmas party with the aid of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Mr. Fezziwig apprenticed Scrooge when he was young. Being reminded of that happy experience—possibly long forgotten but now vividly and happily recalled—literally takes Scrooge back to the time before he became reclusive and heartless. The memory reminds him that Christmas once meant to him what it means for many: enjoying people’s company.
You fear the world too much…. All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall of one by one, until the master passion, Gain, engrosses you.
In another scene recalled from a Christmas past, Scrooge’s fiancée Belle explains why she must break up with him. Scrooge has changed since they fell in love. Belle understands that Scrooge desires wealth to protect himself from the poverty he once knew. But he cares only about money, no longer even about her. Not admiring the man he has become, she grants him the freedom to be alone with his one true love, money.
“Spirit,” said Scrooge submissively, “conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.”
Scrooge greets the arrival of the second of the three ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge recognizes that the Ghost of Christmas Past showed him some memories that have forced him to reflect upon his past, both the things that happened to him and choices he made. Here, Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Present to help him however he can, a change in attitude since his experience with the Ghost of Christmas Past. The change Scrooge needs to undergo has already begun.
“He’s a comical old fellow,” said Scrooge’s nephew, “that’s the truth; and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him…. His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it. He don’t make himself comfortable with it. He hasn’t the satisfaction of thinking—ha, ha, ha!—that he is ever going to benefit Us with it.”
Scrooge’s nephew talks about his uncle to his wife and friends. Unlike the others, who have “no patience” for the grumpy old man, Fred pities him. He makes the case that Scrooge’s stinginess harms Scrooge almost as much as anyone else. Scrooge could use his resources to make himself and others happy, but since he doesn’t, he misses out on those joys. Fred’s generosity of spirit stands in contrast to Scrooge’s lack of humanity.
[T]hough the clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he saw no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured in through the Porch. It gave him little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolution carried out in this.
The narrator describes the scene at the stock exchange where Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come materialize. Scrooge looks for himself among the businessmen with whom he would normally be found doing business. When he doesn’t see himself, he speculates that in the future he may have changed his way of life. Readers may note that Scrooge has already begun to think about changing for the better. Scrooge later realizes that he is dead in the scenario the Ghost shows him and experiences terror. The reader following Scrooge’s transformation anticipates something other than the fear of death produces the true change inside Scrooge’s heart.
“I don’t know what day of the month it is,” said Scrooge. “I don’t know how long I have been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby.”
When Scrooge awakens from his experience with the Ghosts, he does not know how much time has passed. Having learned the lessons they were sent to teach him, he now understands that everything he thought he knew is overrated. A baby—a new life who sees the world with fresh eyes—will make better decisions than someone burdened by practicalities. Scrooge feels like a baby in the sense that today marks the first day of his new life.