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A Christmas Carol (1951) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • Stingy businessman Ebenezer Scrooge is known as the meanest miser in Victorian London. He overworks and underpays his humble clerk, Bob Cratchit, whose little son, Tiny Tim, is crippled and may soon die. He also has nothing to do with his nephew, Fred, because his birth cost the life of his beloved sister. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge has a haunting nightmare from being visited by the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley. He is visited by three ghosts and is given one last chance to change his ways and save himself from the grim fate that befell Marley.

  • Ebenezer Scrooge is a greedy businessman who thinks only of making money. For him, Christmas is, in his own words, a humbug. It has been seven years since his friend and partner, Jacob Marley, died and on Christmas Eve. Marley's ghost tells him he is to be visited during the night by three spirits. The Ghost of Christmas Past revisits some of the main events in Scrooge's life to date, including his unhappy childhood, his happy apprenticeship to Mr. Fezziwig who cared for his employees, and the end of his engagement to a pretty young woman due to growing love of money. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows him how joyously is nephew Fred and his clerk, Bob Cratchit, celebrate Christmas with those they love. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him what he will leave behind after he is gone. Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning, a new man intent on doing good and celebrating the season with all of those around him.

  • An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by three ghosts on Christmas Eve...


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • On his way out of the stock exchange, Mr. Scrooge stops to talk to a pair of businessmen and tells them that Christmas is a humbug. They laugh. He then is stopped by one of his debtors who asks him to extend a debt, but Scrooge refuses. Passing some children singing for pennies in front of his door, he shouts at them to be off.

    Entering his office, two gentlemen await him asking for a contribution for the poor. "Are there no prisons?" asks Scrooge, and tells them to leave him alone. He is too busy with his own business to concern himself with the poor. The gentlemen withdraw, and Scrooge's nephew Fred enters. He invites Scrooge to Christmas dinner, but Scrooge refuses. As he leaves, Fred asks Scrooge's clerk, Bob Cratchitt, about his family and they wish each other a Merry Christmas. Meanwhile, Bob's son Tim is at the window of a toyshop admiring the toys. He walks with a crutch, and his mother escorts him home.

    As the working day ends, Scrooge berates his clerk for requesting the entire Christmas day off. He takes his dinner in a tavern and returns to his home, where he sees in his door-knocker the apparition of his old partner, Jacob Marley. He locks himself in his room and takes his gruel by a small fire. Suddenly all of the bells around him begin to ring, and just as suddenly stop. A clanking and banging out on the stairs soon reveal the ghost of Jacob Marley. Scrooge denies believing in the ghost, thinking it is more likely to be an issue with his digestion, but the ghost eventually convinces him. Marley is doomed to walk the earth, unable to help his fellow man, since he never did so when alive. He wears a long chain, and tells Scrooge that his chain will be even longer. Scrooge points out that Marley was a good man of business, but Marley explains that mankind was his business. He offers Scrooge a chance of escaping Marley's fate by the visits of three spirits. He also shows Scrooge through the window the ghosts of many people surrounding a woman and baby shivering in the snow, and explains that they wish to help her but cannot. Scrooge slams the window shut, runs to his bed and hides under the covers.

    When the clock strikes one, Scrooge is awakened by the first ghost, the ghost of Christmas past. He takes Scrooge through time to his old school, where young Scrooge is alone as the other boys have left for Christmas. A knock on the door reveals his sister Fan, who has come to take him home. She promises to care for him as long as she lives, and Scrooge tells her that she must live forever. Older Scrooge tells the spirit that Fan had died giving Fred life, just as Scrooge's mother had died giving him life, a fact for which his father never forgave him.

    The scene changes to a party at Fezziwig's, where Scrooge had been apprenticed. He tells the spirit that the happiness Fezziwig had given them was as great as if it had cost a fortune, a fact that gives Scrooge pause. They look in the corner, where a younger Scrooge is romancing a woman named Alice. As they watch, she accepts his marriage proposal.

    The scene switches again to Fezziwig refusing a buyout offer from a Mr. Snedrick. They want to replace all of the workers with machines. Later, Scrooge visits Fan's deathbed. She asks him to promise her something. Young Scrooge leaves the scene thinking Fan has died, but then older Scrooge learns that she had asked him to take care of her son. Later again, Scrooge has accepted a job offer with Mr. Snedrick, where he meets another clerk, the young Jacob Marley.

    Eventually, Fezziwig is forced to sell his company to Snedrick's firm. Alice confronts Scrooge, telling him he fears the world too much. She tells him that, penniless, he would not seek her out again, and returns his engagement ring.

    Still later, a company owned by a Mr. Jorkin goes under due to his embezzlement. Scrooge and Marley, members of the board, offer to make good Jorkin's debts in return for majority control of the company. The rest of the board declines.

    Another Christmas, with Marley dying, Scrooge refuses to go to him until the day's business is concluded. At seven o'clock, he enters Marley's rooms and listens to his breath before Marley wakes. Marley tells him that they had been wrong and that Scrooge should save himself before expiring.

    Scrooge wakes in his own bed, but a voice beckons him from the next room. Investigating, he finds the spirit of Christmas present. They visit miners, and then watch Bob Cratchitt's happy, although small, Christmas celebration. The spirit tells Scrooge that Tim will die if circumstances don't change. Cratchitt announces that he has a situation in mind for his son Peter, and then toasts Mr. Scrooge. The family objects, with Mrs. Cratchitt calling Scrooge hard and stingy. Eventually they relent and reluctantly toast Scrooge.

    Meanwhile, Fred is also toasting Scrooge at his Christmas dinner. He says he feels sorry for Scrooge. Alice, who has become a nurse, takes care of patients at a home. The spirit asks Scrooge if he will profit from the experience, but Scrooge is unsure. The spirit shows Scrooge two children under his care, Want and Ignorance. Scrooge runs, and runs directly into the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come.

    They visit Cratchitt's house, where Tim has passed away. Bob returns home, after visiting Tim's resting place. They then visit the rag-and-bones man Old Joe, as a laundress, a charwoman, and an undertaker come to pawn their spoils. They discuss the man they'd all stripped, who had been unkind and miserly. Joe gives the undertaker eight shillings and the laundress seventeen and sixpence. The charwoman had taken the bedcurtains from around the corpse and stripped the expensive shirt from it, leaving him to be buried in calico. Moving to the stock exchange, two businessmen discuss the funeral, one insisting on having a lunch provided if he was to attend. Scrooge realizes he is nowhere to be seen. Finally, the spirit takes Scrooge to a cemetery, where he sees his own name on a tombstone. Once again Scrooge wakes in his own bed.

    The charwoman knocks and enters, and tells him that it is still Christmas day. Scrooge tells her that he feels as light as a feather and as giddy as a school boy, but when he tries to stand on his head in his nightshirt she runs out screaming. He chases her out and gives her a guinea as a Christmas present. Hearing bells, he runs to the window and opens it. Seeing a small boy run past, he tells him to buy a large prize turkey from a butcher and sends it to the Cratchitts. They puzzle over who could have sent it, but Tim suspects Scrooge. Scrooge then visits his nephew for dinner. Unsure of his welcome, he enters to the strains of "Barbara Allen". Fred welcomes him in and Scrooge asks Fred's wife for forgiveness. They dance a polka together.

    The next day, Scrooge arrives at the countinghouse. Cratchitt shows up a full fifteen minutes late, and tries to sneak in. Scrooge calls him into his office. Cratchitt, expecting to be fired, apologizes profusely; but instead Scrooge tells him he is raising Cratchett's salary, and tells him to go out and buy a new coal scuttle. In the final scene, Tim is shown running to Scrooge, no longer limping.

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