Nicole Bianchi

Writing, Copywriting, & Marketing Strategies

The Powerful Ingredient in ‘A Christmas Carol’ That Will Make Your Writing and Marketing Compelling

Published December 15, 2020 | Last Updated November 13, 2023 By Nicole Bianchi 15 Comments

Illustration of Scrooge and Marley's Ghost from the first edition of A Christmas Carol

Every Christmas Eve, my whole family gathers around the TV to watch the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol . It’s one of our favorite traditions.

(If you haven’t seen this version, you can watch it on YouTube here — I believe it’s the best film adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic story.)

No matter how many times I watch it, my heart is always touched by each scene. I feel the happiness of the crowd at Fezziwig’s party. Tears come to my eyes when Bob Cratchit cries over his poor Tiny Tim.

But, most of all, I love Alastair Sim’s wonderful performance as Scrooge — how he convincingly portrays Scrooge’s change from heartless and tightfisted to kind and joyous.

You watch with delight as the once grim man can’t stop laughing and smiling and stunning all with his kindness, even while muttering to himself, “I don’t deserve to be so happy.”

What makes stories like A Christmas Carol so enthralling? Why do we love watching movies like these year after year?

In today’s post, let’s look at one ingredient that makes stories like A Christmas Carol so powerful and emotionally compelling. It’s an ingredient you can use to make any type of writing captivate your readers, whether you’re working on a short story, a blog post, or even a sales page.

Why We Love Stories Like A Christmas Carol

At its heart, A Christmas Carol is a story of transformation.

Scrooge is a bitter miser at the start of the story. Though he is wealthy, he lives in a drafty, sparsely furnished house.

He makes his clerk, Bob Cratchit, work for long hours at little pay and won’t even let him put a little more coal on the fire. He refuses to donate to help the poor, exclaiming that they should either go to the prisons or workhouses or die “to decrease the surplus population.” And you thought your boss was bad. 😉

But Scrooge is given a chance to reverse his life. Three spirits visit him on Christmas Eve and take him on a journey. They show him the past, present, and a possible future if he does not repent of his actions and become a new man.

Over the course of the journey, Scrooge gradually realizes the desperateness of his position and how he has destroyed the lives of others and his own life through his actions.

When the last spirit shows him a gravestone with Scrooge’s name written across it, Scrooge begs the spirit to help him sponge out the name. He says again and again that he’s repented, and he’s not the man he was.

He isn’t lying either. The final scenes of the movie show us just how much Scrooge has changed as he attempts to make up for all of the hurt he has caused.

In fiction writing, what happens to Scrooge is called a character arc . A character begins as one sort of person and transforms into a different sort of person by the end of the story.

Perhaps they are bitter at the start of the story, but, at the end of the story, they learn how to let go of the anger they have caged inside.

In some stories, a character might transform from good to bad. They are innocent and naive at the beginning of the story and gradually become worldly-wise and cruel.

Of course, those stories are usually bleak and depressing, so if you want your readers to feel positive at the end of the story, then you’ll want your character to transform from negative to positive.

How a Character Arc Makes Stories Compelling

Editor Shawn Coyne writes in The Story Grid (Amazon affiliate link),

You’ve probably heard a million times that a character must ‘arc.’ What that means…is that the lead character in a story cannot remain the same person he/she was at the end of the novel/movie as they are at the beginning…What the character arc is crucial for is to achieve a cathartic global story climax. When I say catharsis, I mean an overwhelming emotional reaction from the audience…tears, indescribable joy…the kind of experience that keeps us coming back to the movies, to books, to plays. If you’re a writer and you tell me you have no interest in bringing the audience to catharsis, you’re lying.

Essentially, the transformation of a character has an emotional effect upon the reader. If the story has a positive ending, it fills the reader with hope, encouragement, and a sense of inspiration.

It reassures us that there is the possibility that we too can change our own lives. Life might be dark now, but the clouds will eventually part.

There are stories where characters don’t experience an inner transformation. In many action movies (like James Bond films, for example), the characters remain the same at the beginning and end of the film, except for a few bruises and broken bones.

We watch those movies for the exciting action shots, but they don’t have the same lasting emotional effect on us as they would if the protagonist experienced a deep inner change.

Samwise Gamgee sums this up beautifully in his speech in the film adaptation of The Two Towers ,

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.

This is why the story of A Christmas Carol resonates with us. When Scrooge journeys with the “Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come”, we see a dark and dreadful world. But this darkness is but a fleeting shadow by the end of the story.

Of course, Dickens’s story of Scrooge was not revolutionary. The theme of transformation is timeless, weaving its way through countless stories down through the ages.

The Christmas story itself is about transformation. God became a child, the baby Jesus in the manger, who would grow up and die to take away the sins of all those who believe in him. Christians believe that in Jesus we can experience the same kind of radical transformation that Scrooge experienced.

How to Include the Theme of Transformation in Your Writing

How can we effectively include the theme of transformation in our own writing?

One of my favorite ways is to follow the outline of the hero’s journey. This is a term coined by American scholar Joseph Campbell to describe one of the most common storylines in literature. A Christmas Carol follows this outline to a T.

Here’s the basic outline:

  • A hero is called to go on an adventure to solve some kind of problem. (Every good story has some kind of conflict driving the plot forward.)
  • He may be reluctant to accept the call but eventually realizes that if he doesn’t solve the problem, his life will spiral out of control.
  • A mentor helps him prepare for the adventure.
  • After facing a series of challenges, the story reaches its climax. Will the hero overcome the problem or not?
  • The hero emerges victorious and returns home transformed.

If you’d like a deeper analysis of the hero’s journey, I recommend reading  The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler or watching my YouTube video .

Let’s look at how A Christmas Carol follows this outline.

At the beginning of the story, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley is the mentor figure who brings Scrooge the call to adventure: Scrooge will be visited by three spirits who will give him a chance to repent and change his life.

Of course, Scrooge is reluctant. He insists that he’s too old for all of this, but he’s whisked away by each of the spirits nonetheless. Eventually, the climax of the story is reached — will Scrooge turn from his ways? He’s already seen what will happen if he does not.

The hero’s journey can be used for any type of writing.

For example, if you’re writing a blog post, you can use the body of your post to take your readers on a journey. Your hero is your blog reader. You are the mentor. Share the steps you took to overcome a problem that the reader is facing. Show what will happen if they don’t solve the problem, the consequences of not taking action. Then show how they will be transformed once they implement those steps.

Or maybe you’re writing the homepage of your website. Let’s say you’re a graphic designer so you explain on your homepage how businesses need to have a professionally designed logo. You paint a picture of the costs of not having a logo. And then you explain how the logo will transform the business and help them stand out from the competition.

That story of transformation will speak far more powerfully to your potential customers than just a list of the services you offer.

The Takeaway

In The Memoir Project (Amazon affiliate link), Marion Roach observes about our writing, “You have to give readers a reason for this thing to live on in their hearts and minds.”

The theme of transformation allows us to do just that. It elevates our writing to connect on an emotional level with our readers and make a lasting impression on them.

How will you incorporate the theme of transformation in your writing? Is there a movie or book that you love that has the theme of transformation? Let me know in the comments.

And if you are celebrating Christmas (or even if you are not!), I hope you are a having a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas!

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Phil Cobb says

February 4, 2020 at 9:47 pm

Nicole, after seeing a number of filmic versions of “A Christmas Carol” via movies and television, still I was never as emotionally transfixed by the tale as when I read the actual text. Absolutely stunning in its impact.

Christopher Watts says

December 19, 2019 at 7:43 pm

Thank you for bringing this excellent, timeless movie to readers’ attention. It is my favourite version, one that I’ve now seen more times than I can count. Alistair Sim brings so much to the role and captures the essence of Dickens’ message. This season my wife and I have also been listening to the audiobook version on our commutes into town, read by Jim Dale (the voice of all the Harry Potter books) . I’d recommend this to all your readers. Enjoy your posts immensely. Wishing you a terrific Christmas.

Nicole Bianchi says

January 3, 2020 at 1:28 pm

Thank you for your comment, Christopher! It’s nice to meet another fan of the 1951 version of ‘A Christmas Carol’. 🙂 I will have to look up at that audiobook. Thanks for the recommendation.

Anoop Abraham says

December 15, 2019 at 10:16 am

I just want to say I really enjoy reading your blog posts. There’s a flow to your writing that I am yet to find on any of the other blogs that I’ve visited. It also contains some great actionable insights. Thank you and Merry Christmas ! 🙂

December 19, 2019 at 4:04 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words, Anoop! 🙂 I’m so glad to hear you enjoy my posts and find them helpful. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas too.

Kate Findley says

December 23, 2018 at 11:03 pm

I love the specific examples and how you relate it both to fiction writing and blogging. Since I write in personal development, my posts usually follow that arc where I begin with a challenge and end with a resolution. In the novel I’m currently working on, I’m incorporating both the hero’s journey and trying to weave in archetypes as well. It seems like all the “Great American” novels as well as popular series like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings as well have strong archetypal characters.

December 26, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Thank you, Kate! 🙂 Have you read The Writer’s Journey ? I’ve found it really helpful while plotting the novel I’m currently working on. I love how Vogler explains all of the archetypal characters.

Tarcisio Cardieri says

December 23, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Thank you for this engaging article. Really useful. I remembered another movie on the same theme and another favorite in Christmas season. It is “What a Wonderful Life”, directed by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart and Dona Reed. In this film, the protagonist is a good character who doesn’t realize the good he is doing for so many people and, in desperation, try suicide. He is rescued by an angel who shows him what his city would be if he was not alive. Really touching. Another transformation story we can watch in “The Doctor”, starring William Hurt. I think all these movies are very good examples of the story arc. Merry Christmas.

December 23, 2018 at 10:12 pm

Thank you, Tarcisio! Yes, that’s another fantastic Christmas movie about transformation. I think “A Christmas Carol” may have inspired some of those scenes where Jimmy Stewart sees what the town would be like if he had never been born. 🙂 I haven’t seen “The Doctor”! Thanks for the recommendation. I love discovering new movies.

John DiCarlo says

December 23, 2018 at 5:48 am

Excellent post Nicole. Nothing could be more timely as one year fades into another. Sometimes we need to look deep inside our own psyche to discover the spirits that haunted Scrooge. But if we look hard enough they will appear and we will learn. Thank you!

December 23, 2018 at 10:10 pm

Thanks so much, John! Yes, it’s true that we can examine our own lives like Scrooge did and learn from our experiences. Love the way you put it. Hope you have an amazing 2019! 🙂

December 23, 2018 at 4:37 am

Never thought about this that way, but seems to me it is a great way to make a post more tempting and to get the attention of the readers. Thanks for the great article and Merry Christmas and Happy and prosperous New Year!

December 23, 2018 at 10:08 pm

Thanks for reading and commenting, Ned! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas to you as well! Hope you have a wonderful 2019.

Rhonda Marie Stalb says

December 22, 2018 at 10:16 pm

I love the story little women by Louisa May Alcott. Jo goes through a transformation. I get teared up every time I watch or read the story. I just watched the 2018 version today. It was awesome!!

December 23, 2018 at 10:07 pm

Yes, that is a wonderful story of transformation. 🙂 I have not seen the 2018 version yet — sounds like I should add it to my list of movies to watch. Coming of age stories usually are fantastic examples of the hero’s journey.

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SUBJECTS — Religions/Christianity; World/England;



AGE : 8+; There are several versions.

This Learning Guide relates to all of them and to the book. Available from .

Benefits of the Movie Possible Problems Parenting Points Selected Awards & Cast

Helpful Background Discussion Questions Social-Emotional Learning Moral-Ethical Emphasis

Assignments and Projects Bridges to Reading Links to the Internet Bibliography


Movie Worksheets Here.


This is the classic film presentation of Dickens’ immortal Christmas story about Ebenezer Scrooge and his discovery of the joys of sharing.


Selected Awards: None.

Featured Actors: Alistair Sim, Kathleen Harrison, Jack Warner, Michael Hordern, Patrick Macnee, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Clifford Mollison, George Cole, Carol Marsh, Miles Malleson, Ernest Thesigner, Hattie Jacques, Perter Bull, Hugh Dempster.

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst.


The novel and the film will enrich any child’s cultural experience and impart positive moral values. The story also provides a harsh critique of conditions in England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.


MINOR. Very young children (ages 5 – 8) may be frightened by the ghosts.


Show your child the location of England on a map or a globe. For younger children (ages 8 & 9), explain that in the early 1800s, the time this story took place, conditions for workers in England were very poor. Many farmers were moving to the city and there were more people who wanted work than there were jobs. Employers could keep wages very low. If an employee asked for more pay, the employer could easily find someone else who was willing to work for the low wage the employer wanted to pay. “A Christmas Carol” is a great story of Christmas and how a man changed from being selfish to being generous. When it was first published, almost 200 years ago, the author also wanted to change the selfish attitudes of the wealthy of that time.

For children about ten years of age or older, describe the information set out in the Helpful Background section.

After the movie, ask and help your child to answer the Quick Discussion Question and several of the other Discussion Questions that might interest them.

The book is not long. Give it to your child to read. If he or she needs help, read it to them.


The Industrial Revolution began in the late 1700s, and its effects began to be felt strongly in the 1830s and 1840s. It required large numbers of workers concentrated into small geographic areas. Cities filled with unemployed people from rural areas provided an excellent location for factories. However, there were more workers than there were jobs. With several people competing for each position, employers could keep wages low.

As the 19th century progressed and competition increased, ancient ways of doing business were left behind in favor of the more aggressive methods of the new age. Scrooge’s first employer, Mr. Fezziwig, was unable to adjust to these changes. Scrooge adapted to the new environment but lost his soul in the process.

People who couldn’t pay their debts were thrown into debtor’s prison until the second half of the 19th century. Wealthy and educated Englishmen during the period of this story (the early 1800s) often lumped the lower orders of society together and referred to them as “the Poor.” The prevailing view was that poverty was largely the result of laziness, incompetence, immorality, and drunkenness. If the Poor were taken care of it would only encourage these vices. Government policy at the time provided that the Poor, children and adults, healthy and infirm, were to be abandoned on the streets to starve unless they agreed to go into “Poor Houses.” In England before the 20th century, there was little help for the indigent as we know it today.

In his influential Essay on the Principle of Population , first published in 1798, Thomas Malthus contended that the population of Britain was growing so quickly that it would soon exceed the country’s capacity to grow food. Malthus predicted that the poorer classes would starve and this would act as a natural check on the increase in the population. He reasoned that helping the Poor would be useless and simply postpone the inevitable.

Malthus’ prediction was used as a pretext by many wealthy people to justify paying starvation wages and subjecting the Poor to oppressive work and degrading conditions. Scrooge, until he realized the error of his ways, was just such an employer. His comment about “surplus population” derives from this line of thought.

Note that children of the Poor were not exempt from harsh treatment. Child labor was rampant and children were often maimed and disabled in factories. Children were permitted to live in the Poor Houses with their parents only until the age of 5, at which time they were placed in separate houses reserved for children. Life there was harsh, and they were required to work long hours. (See Oliver Twist , another Dickens indictment of the treatment of the Poor.) Education was denied to the Poor because the ruling classes knew that even a little learning would make them discontented. In the American South of the same time period, it was illegal to teach a slave to read or write for much the same reason.

In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens was objecting to the hard-heartedness of the English ruling classes and the condition of the poor during the Industrial Revolution.

A Teachable Moment

Showing how sometimes, the movie can improve on the book, even a classic.

The book, A Christmas Carol was hastily written by Charles Dickens in a few weeks late in 1843. The author needed money for the end of the year, and the shortness of the book prevented Dickens from fully developing the characters. The 1951 screenplay written by Noel Langley adds depth to the story by introducing a new character, Mr. Jorkin, who corrupts Scrooge and leads him to a life of greed. The corruption of Scrooge allows for additional development of Scrooge’s character. The following text is from the 1951 screenplay, and the comments are from Ebenezer Scrooge—The real spirit of Christmas by Greg Felton.

Fezziwig: “It’s not just for money alone that one spends a lifetime building up a business, Mr. Jorkn. . . . It’s to preserve a way of life that one knew and loved. No, I can’t see my way to selling out to the new vested interests, Mr. Jorkin. I’ll have to be loyal to the old ways and die out with them if needs must.” After failing to tempt Fezziwig, Jorkin turns to Scrooge, who has overheard everything from his desk: Scrooge: “I think I know what Mr. Fezziwig means, sir.”

Jorkin: “Oh, you hate progress and money, too, do you?”

Scrooge: “I don’t hate them, sir, but perhaps the machines aren’t such a good thing for mankind, after all.”

Scrooge can at least admit to himself and others that rampant automation has inhumane consequences, a fact that Jorkin also understands but has learned to suppress. After mocking Scrooge’s scruples, Jorkin tempts him with double the salary and chances of promotion, all of which leads to this exchange:

Scrooge: “Money isn’t everything, sir.”

Jorkin: “Well, if it ain’t I don’t know what is!”

Jorkin leaves, but not before appealing to Scrooge’s vanity and inviting him to come ’round for a visit, which of course he does. Scrooge eventually moves to Jorkin’s company, meets and befriends another young clerk, Jacob Marley, and abandons any sense of business ethics. He becomes Jorkin.


1. [ Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film ].

2. In the 1951 version of the film, Scrooge says, “perhaps the machines are not such a good thing for mankind after all?” What is the evidence for and against this statement?

Suggested Response:

The Industrial Revolution and the very competitive business climate that came with it changed the old ways of living. No longer were products made by artisans with small businesses who had joined together in guilds to protect themselves. Now, people worked in factories tending machines that made products. Workers in factories were poorly paid and didn’t have enough money to live on. The social dislocations of the times were the cause of tremendous misery for many people.

3. What did Scrooge mean when he talked of “surplus population”?

See the comment concerning Thomas Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population.

4. What happened to Scrooge’s first employer, Mr. Fezziwig? What mistake did Mr. Fezziwig make that Scrooge was determined to avoid?

Mr. Fezziwig could not adapt to the new competitive environment. As a result, he lost his business, his money, and his property.

5. What did the Ghost of Christmas Past show to Scrooge?

The events of his past life that caused him to be the way he was. This is really a way for the author to tell the audience about what made Scrooge so mean.

6. What did Scrooge learn from the Ghost of Christmas Present?

This ghost showed Scrooge the meager celebrations of the Crachit family and the illness of Tiny Tim, the fact that his nephew still believed that Scrooge could change and become generous, and the evils of ignorance and want.

7. What did the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come show to Scrooge?

The death of Tiny Tim and of Scrooge and people’s reactions to those deaths.

1. See Quick Discussion Question.

2. If you do something that you later realize was wrong, and by doing that thing you benefitted from it either by making money, getting something you wanted, or in some other way, how do you make it right?

You must return, if possible, what you took or received and correct for any injury you have caused.


Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.

(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

1. How did Scrooge cut himself off from other people? Why did he do this?

Scrooge cut himself off from others by not caring about them. He did this because he had been hurt in the past when he tried to care for someone.

2. What benefits did Scrooge get when he began to care about people?

He was no longer lonely and he had friends.


See [ Assignments, Projects, and Activities Suitable for Any Film ]. In addition,

  • Separate the class into different groups and have each group act out a scene from the story;
  • Have each student make a puppet of a figure in the story;
  • Hold a toy drive for the class to help needy kids or the class can make toys as a joint activity and donate them to a charity for needy kids;
  • Ask each child to describe, in an essay or in a talk to the class, what happened on their best holiday;
  • Ask each child to describe, in an essay or in a talk to the class, what they are going to do this holiday to help someone else, either in their family or outside their family.
  • For middle and high school classes: Have students write an essay on changes to the story in the 1951 screenplay and describe what the changes add to the story.


Books recommended for middle school and junior high readers include Christmas Gift: An Anthology of Christmas Poems, Songs, and Stories, compiled by Charlemae Hill Rollins and A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.


  • David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page ;
  • The Dickens Project ;
  • Wikipedia article on “A Christmas Carol”
  • Ebenezer Scrooge—The real spirit of Christmas at, December 24, 2007;
  • Brian Desmond-Hurst, A Christmas Carol or Scrooge, 1951 by Norman N. Holland.


The websites which may be linked in the Guide and Wikipedia articles on the Industrial Revolution, Malthus, Poor Houses and the Poor Laws.


If a person makes a mistake, is it ever too late for him to fix it by admitting his mistake and doing something extraordinary to make up for it?

There is almost always time to repent, make amends, and redeem oneself.


humbug, Bedlam, Debtor’s Prison, workhouse, poor law, old ogre, the little lame boy.


Another great Christmas movie which is also good any time of the year is It’s a Wonderful Life .

Movies on this site based on novels by Charles Dickens are The Old Curiosity Shop , Oliver Twist , Great Expectations , Oliver! (a musical) , and A Tale of Two Cities .


Contemporaries noted that when “A Christmas Carol” was published, the importance of Christmas as a holiday was in decline. The book played a critical role in redefining the importance of Christmas and its traditions. “If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease,” said English poet Thomas Hood in his review in Hood’s Magazine and Comic Review (January 1844, page 68). Michael Patrick Hearn, The annotated Christmas Carol: a Christmas Carol in Prose by Charles Dickens, 2004, page XIV.

A quote from the book: “Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. 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.”

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christmas carol hero's journey

A Christmas Carol – The Passage of Time Problem

I read this wonderful little book every couple of years in the run up to Christmas. Scrooge’s reclamation never fails to bring me a bit of cheer and hope that things aren’t really as bad as they seem. In 2016 I had the realization that A Christmas Carol is a classic hero journey (as described by Joseph Campbell).  I’ve always been troubled by the passage of time in this story and decided to pay more attention to that this year and now understand the time problem when set in the hero’s journey framework.

Marley visits Scrooge on Christmas Eve to tell him the three spirits will visit on three consecutive nights.

“‘Expect the first tomorrow when the bell tolls One.’ … ‘Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate.'” Page 12

But when Scrooge wakes up after the three visits it is Christmas day. Knowing that Dickens was a serial writer I always explained it to myself that Dickens changed his mind midway through the story but the early pages had already been published. This just doesn’t hold up though. Going in, Dickens knows the story starts on Christmas Eve and will end on Christmas day. The solution to the time problem is wrapped up in the hero journey where the hero leaves the known world to enter an unknown one; one that doesn’t necessarily conform to our notions of time.

Let’s review a few other references to time in the novel. Scrooge first wakes up before the first ghost appears

“To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up to twelve; then stopped. Twelve! It was past two when he went to bed.”

It is actually earlier than when he went to bed. Marley is the threshold guardian who has helped Scrooge enter the unknown world. 

Next, Scrooge is awake before the second ghost appears…

“Awaking in the middle of a prodigious tough snore, and sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One.” Page 27

He assumes it is one o’clock again; he waits

“Now being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; and consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came. All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the  clock proclaimed the hour.” Page 28

My understanding is that the second spirit shows up at two o’clock – an hour later than foretold. Scrooge is awake before one o’clock and waits more than an hour for the second spirit. The Ghost of Christmas Past appeared right on the stroke of one; so, if he woke up before one o’clock for the second ghost, Scrooge has either slept through the night, Christmas day, and another night, or he is living in a world separate from time. He certainly doesn’t seem concerned at this point that he has slept through the day. The cares of the known world are beyond his concern now.

“‘Spirit’, said Scrooge submissively ‘conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion… Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.’” Page 29

At the end of the Spirit of Christmas Present’s visit, Scrooge is aware that things are not as they seem.

“It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together.” Page 41

At the end, Scrooge has returned to the known world; only then does he begin to care about the passage of time.

“‘I don’t know what day of the month it is!’ said Scrooge. ‘I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits.’ “ Page 54

When he learns it is Christmas Day from the boy passing beneath his window, Scrooge has his realization.

“‘It’s Christmas Day!’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like.” Page 55

When I first started thinking about this problem of time I did some research to see if others have tackled this problem. And of course they have. On May 6, 2019 Christian Sidney Dickinson (with that name you may have to become a Dickens scholar) of the Baptist College of Florida published an article on the Dickens Society website . Whereas my understanding is seen through the lens of the Hero Journey, Dickinson frames the issue in terms of Christianity.

“The necessity for a Christian understanding of linear time, ever-present and ever-active, is the message that Dickens wishes to communicate to readers through Scrooge’s experience of temporal reversal.” Linked above

Dickinson’s article helped me understand Dickens’ choices were intentional. Of course, Joseph Campbell didn’t publish his groundbreaking work on myth – The Hero with a Thousand Faces – until the mid 20th century, so it is unlikely (impossible) Dickens had the Hero Journey framework in mind. I imagine his intentions were closer to Dickinson’s understanding, However, that is exactly what Campbell proved: stories from all cultures from the beginning of recorded time follow this Hero Journey structure. Dickens upsetting the regular time flow is intentional. It both serves his theme of charity (Scrooge promises to live in the past, present, and future), it also fits into the hero’s journey motif. 

To finish the hero journey description, Scrooge is ushered into the unknown world by Jacob Marley’s ghost; once there he challenged by the three ghosts and ends up facing his own death (seeing his body on its deathbed and seeing his name on the gravestone). The experience transforms Scrooge. He atones for his errors with the men who came to collect for charity, with his nephew, and with Bob Cratchit. Scrooge then goes on to share his boon (money) with Cratchit and the community.

Finally, if you are like me and resisted A Christmas Carol for years because of the cloying “God bless us, everyone”, give it another chance; it is a short book and breaking it up over 5 nights leading up to Christmas is fun. Or watch the George C. Scott version on TV.

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Musings on the Arts, the Mind, and Whatever Else Moves Me by Doc B

  • About This Blog
  • About the Author

The Psychology of “A Christmas Carol”

  • on Dec 28, 2020
  • in Culture , History , Literature , Social Issues , The Mind

christmas carol hero's journey

A dear friend who is an American Sign Language interpreter recently shared with me a video of a virtual performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that she helped interpret. I hadn’t read or seen a film version of A Christmas Carol in many years, and I’d forgotten what a touching and timeless story it is.

While A Christmas Carol , a novella written in 1843, was a story of its time, meant to promote understanding of and empathy for the industrial-age urban poor in England, its messages remain salient today. And, there are deeper meanings in its story.

christmas carol hero's journey

Layers of Meaning

In addition to its more obvious meaning as a story about compassion and charity, the story is also a powerful archetypal tale. It speaks to universal human needs for for meaning and community. What’s more, it illustrates the Jungian “hero’s journey”–Ebenezer Scrooge starts as a flawed, cold, and closed-off man who is transformed as he goes on an odyssey through his past, present, and future.

The Ghosts’ Lessons

The first of the three main motifs in the story, represented by the Spirit of the Past, is a Jungian battle between ignorance/repression (represented in the novella by fog, smog, dusk, and darkness) and awareness (represented by light from fires, candles, street lamps, and the ghost’s flaming crown). Scrooge must go through the pain of seeing his evolution from an innocent youth to a selfish and miserly adult. He begins to realize what he has lost in this process.

The Spirit of the Present brings the story’s second motif–want (represented in the novel by cold, ice, frost, and sleet) versus charity (represented by warmth, being well fed, and fine alcohol). The second spirit allows Scrooge to witness people coming together and bonding. Seeing this brings into the light his own loneliness and aloofness. As his journey continues, Scrooge must start facing his sins and their impact on others to become self-aware. The ghost also shows Scrooge two emaciated children called Ignorance and Want and warns him to avoid Ignorance at all costs.

The second spirit’s lessons help Scrooge bring his dark side further to the surface and begin to integrate his dark and light parts into a cohesive self. It is only after knowing himself that Scrooge would be able to more fully connect with others. The spirit also shows Scrooge Tiny Tim, a cheerful but ill child; this awakens some compassion in the miser. Tiny Tim represents youthful optimism and joy, love, and the promise of what life could be. Scrooge is saddened when the ghost tells him Tim will die.

When the third ghost, the Spirit of the Future, arrives, he is frightening and silent. He forces Scrooge to confront his mortality and the meaninglessness of his life–others don’t care that he dies, steal and sell his possessions, and have few kind words to say about him. The spirit also shows Scrooge that Tiny Tim has died, and people do mourn the loss of this pure little soul.

Scrooge learns that that for his life to have purpose, he must use the lessons learned through his odyssey: He must see all facets of himself and take responsibility for what he’s done to others, he must cultivate emotion and compassion for others, and he must use his wealth to help people. Scrooge has completed the hero’s journey and emerged as a new man.

Salient Lessons for Today

On the surface, we see the lessons Dickens intended for the capitalist upper classes of his time: Scrooge begins to run his business with mercy toward his debtors, give money to the needy, and treat his employees well. These are certainly messages that apply to our current world as well.

The deeper, and also timeless, lesson of Dickens’ tale is for us to live our lives seeking to really know and accept ourselves so that we can fully participate and contribute to the world around us. It is only by rejecting ignorance and denial that we can become integrated humans capable of empathy and connection.

My Wish for You

We’ve gone through a terrible journey of our own in 2020. My wish for anyone reading this post is for a peaceful holiday season and that 2021 brings good things for you, and for all of us. I also wish for you to be able to see and accept yourself as you are while striving to cultivate your higher self. Count your blessings, and share them.

christmas carol hero's journey

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A Christmas Carol (1978)

IMPORTANT: This is a very rough and general deconstruction that is meant to simply illustrate that this story follows the pattern described on the main page .

DO NOT attempt to write a story by following this deconstruction � it contains inaccuracies, critical stages have been omitted and it does not benefit from the latest insights; if you need an accurate deconstruction of this story, place an order at ../CustomServices.html#deconstructions

For other basic deconstructions, you may also want to do a search on our youtube channel .

You would be wise to gain a deep understanding of effective story structure by purchasing the complete 510+ stage Hero's Journey from ../ClassicHero.html and learning from our video lessons and tuition services at ../CustomServices.html

Good bye to the Old World: Marley dies.

Ordinary World: Period England.

Professional World: Scrooge's offices.

Devolved State: it's cold in here.

Catchphrase: Baaaa….humbug.

Devolved State: what's the value of Christmas?

Foreshadow of the Elixir: come to dinner.

Refusing the Journey: no I'm not coming; why did you get married?

Devolved State: Scrooge refuses to give to charity.

Devolved State: Scrooge admonishes the boy singing.

Time Pressure: the bell rings.

Goto the main web page

Buy the Complete 510+ stage Hero's Journey / Monomyth

Devolved State: I suppose you want the whole day off tomorrow.

Foreshadow of the Supernatural Aid: Scrooge sees the ghost.

The strange sounds.

Foreshadow of the Supernatural Aid: Scrooge sees the ghost again.

Catchphrase: humbug.

Supernatural Aid Physical Marker: the ghost comes up to the door.

Supernatural Aid: Marley's ghost arrives; mankind was my business; you will be visited by three spirits (i.e. you will be going on a journey).

The Ghost of Christmas Past arrives.

First Threshold Outer Cave: The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to where he grew up.

Transformation: there was a boy singing at my door; I wish I'd given him something.

First Threshold Middle Cave: Scrooge's sister arrives.

Inner Cave: Scrooge's boss gives his staff a Christmas.

Transformation: I wish I could have had a word, that's all.

Belly of the Whale: Scrooge is released by his love; his love finds another; Scrooge is alone.

Road of Trials 1: The Ghost of Christmas Present arrives.

(a) Cratchet's Christmas table is being laid; Cratchet's Christmas.

(b) Transformation: Scrooge asks if Tiny Tim will live.

(c) Cratchet toasts Scrooge; his wife objects.

(d) Scrooge's nephew and friends make fun of him.

Warning: Scrooge is told of the children of man.

Night Sea Journey: The Ghost of the Future arrives.

Rebirth through Near Death Experience:

(a) People talk of Scrooge's death.

(b) People steal his things.

(c) Scrooge's debtors are happy.

(d) Cratchet cries at Scrooge's demise; Tiny Tim is dead.

Transformation: Scrooge sees his own grave; are these the shadows of things that will be or maybe.

Atonement with the Father: Scrooge is returned home; it all really happened.

Apotheosis: Scrooge is stingy no more; goes to his nephew's dinner.

Ultimate Boon: Scrooge raises Cratchet's salary; make up that fire; we'll talk about what we can do about Tiny Tim.

ELA A Christmas Carol Track the Hero's Journey Notes and Movie/Book Organizers

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christmas carol hero's journey


This product is an engaging way to introduce the Hero's Journey to students by tasking them with tracking Scrooge's Hero's Journey in A Christmas Carol.

Before watching the film or reading the text, students can complete the Notes Organizer, which accompanies my free Editable Hero's Journey PPT , to get a general understanding of each stage. As students watch the film/read the text, they will complete the Hero's Journey Stages Movie Organizer. Each stage has a titled section containing guiding questions as to how each stage might pertain to the protagonist. At the end of the film/text, students will determine if the protagonist is a true hero and defend their position with evidence.

  • Hero's Journey Note Organizer
  • Hero's Journey Stages Movie Organizer

Don't forget! You can access my FREE Editable Hero's Journey PPT here .

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — A Christmas Carol — The Transformation of Scrooge as Highlighted in “A Christmas Carol”


The Transformation of Scrooge as Highlighted in "A Christmas Carol"

  • Categories: A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens Christmas

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Published: Jun 29, 2018

Words: 959 | Pages: 2 | 5 min read

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A Christmas Carol

Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol (2009)

An animated retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions. An animated retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions. An animated retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.

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A Christmas Carol: Trailer #2

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  • Trivia In the Cratchit home, there is a portrait of the story's author, Charles Dickens , hanging by the fireplace.
  • Goofs Marley tells Scrooge that one spirit will visit him at 1:00 am for the next three nights, but they all appear to him in the same night. This is repeated verbatim from the book, in which, following all the visits, Scrooge calls them "clever spirits" for doing it all in one night.

[from trailer]

Ebenezer Scrooge : What do you want with me?

Jacob Marley : You will be haunted by three spirits.

Ebenezer Scrooge : I'd rather not.

  • Connections Featured in The Jay Leno Show: Episode #1.30 (2009)
  • Soundtracks God Bless Us Everyone Written and Produced by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri Performed by Andrea Bocelli Courtesy of Sugar s.r.l.

User reviews 422

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  • In the book, does Charles Dickens make Scrooge have a caricatured long hooked nose? If so, would Disney do that if the movie was made in 2020?
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  • November 6, 2009 (United States)
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GCSE The Hero Journey in Literature (A Christmas Carol) can be edited

GCSE The Hero Journey in Literature (A Christmas Carol) can be edited

Subject: English

Age range: 14-16

Resource type: Lesson (complete)


Last updated

30 October 2022

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pptx, 717.82 KB

A useful introduction to literary theory and structure. I have used this lesson after teaching structure Q3 and structure in the novella. Ideal for a high ability set. Main activity - labelling the steps of Scrooge’s journey. Credit to David Jolly on Wordpress for his magnificant image/model.

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  2. A Hero's Journey: A christmas Carol by Asmae Elgarib on Prezi

    A HERO'S JOURNEY A CHRISTMAS CAROL A Christmas Carol Ordinary World Scrooge is introduced by his deceased friend and past business partner Jacob Marley. Marley describes him as a "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner" The Call to Adventure Topic

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    A Christmas Carol Scrooges Heroes Journey Scrooge in his ordinary world Topic 1 Scrooge was a cruel and ruthless boss. He never let Bob Cratchit take off for Christmas and did not give him the raise he so very deserved. He had a plentiful amount of money but never donated any to.

  4. The Powerful Ingredient in 'A Christmas Carol' That Will Make Your

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    The hero's journey has many regulations, therefore, many stories do not qualify. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is not an example of A Hero's Journey because it does not possess certain components included in the hero's journey. …show more content… The result in the hero's journey is the final milestone in the adventure.

  6. A Christmas Carol Study Guide

    Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs. This study guide and infographic for Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. ... Course Hero, "A Christmas Carol Study Guide," October 27, 2016, accessed July 3, 2024 ...

  7. A Christmas Carol- Hero's Path by Natasha Walker on Prezi

    Beginning Scrooge is miserable during Christmas Eve Ebeneezer Scrooge is a rich, greedy man who owns a counting house. Scrooge refuses to help the poor, turns down a Christmas dinner invitation from his nephew, and treats his workers unfairly. Marley visits Scrooge as a ghost. Get started for FREE Continue.

  8. PDF Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey A Christmas Carol

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    A Teachable Moment. Showing how sometimes, the movie can improve on the book, even a classic. The book, A Christmas Carol was hastily written by Charles Dickens in a few weeks late in 1843. The author needed money for the end of the year, and the shortness of the book prevented Dickens from fully developing the characters.

  10. ACC Hero's Journey

    ACC Hero's Journey - Free download as Word Doc (.doc / .docx), PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. Scrooge undergoes a transformation through The Hero's Journey in A Christmas Carol. He is initially unwillingly called to adventure when the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley warns him to change his ways. Scrooge is then shown his past mistakes by the Ghost of ...

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    Going in, Dickens knows the story starts on Christmas Eve and will end on Christmas day. The solution to the time problem is wrapped up in the hero journey where the hero leaves the known world to enter an unknown one; one that doesn't necessarily conform to our notions of time. Let's review a few other references to time in the novel.

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    While A Christmas Carol, a novella written in 1843, was a story of its time, meant to promote understanding of and empathy for the industrial-age urban poor in England, its messages remain salient today. And, there are deeper meanings in its story. ... Scrooge has completed the hero's journey and emerged as a new man. Salient Lessons for ...

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    A Christmas Carol details the events of one night in which Ebeneezer Scrooge transitions from an immensely dislikable old miser to a generous, joyous friend to many. Setting aside the individual steps, a hero's journey is set in both a normal world and a special world, as Scrooge has London and the world of time with the spirits.

  18. A Christmas Carol (2009)

    A Christmas Carol: Directed by Robert Zemeckis. With Jim Carrey, Steve Valentine, Daryl Sabara, Sage Ryan. An animated retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.

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    Illustration of the hero's journey. In narratology and comparative mythology, the hero's journey, also known as the monomyth, is the common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed.. Earlier figures had proposed similar concepts, including psychoanalyst Otto Rank and amateur anthropologist Lord ...

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