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A Christmas Carol Study Guide

Background Stave One Stave Two Stave Three Stave Four Stave Five


This study guide contains questions that may appear on the quizzes and on the test.  You may not use the study guide during the quizzes or test, but if you are able to answer the questions on the guide, you should be able to answer them on the quizzes/test.


A Christmas Carol Background


  1. Who is the author of A Christmas Carol?
  1. What is a “stave”?
  1. What does it mean to publish a book serially?
  1. What is a carol?
  1. Who is Boz?
  1. What is sensory language?
  1. Briefly explain the main beliefs of the Unitarians.
  1. The author wasn’t Christian, so why did he write A Christmas Carol?
  1. What is an allegory?
  1. When was A Christmas Carol published?
  1. What major event was occurring in England during this time period?
  1. How did this event influence or contribute to the writing of this book?


A Christmas Carol Stave 1 – “Marley’s Ghost”


  1. What is the setting (place, approximate year, and date) of A Christmas Carol?
  1. Why does Dickens spend the first several pages of the novel telling us “Marley was dead, to begin with”?
  1. What is the first fact we discover about Jacob Marley?
  1. What is one word that would describe Scrooge and his spending habits? (Hint: We learned this word in class specifically to describe Scrooge)
  1. What does the author mean when he writes about Scrooge, “The cold within him froze his old features… 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”?
  1. How does Scrooge feel about the fact that people avoid him on the streets, beggars won’t ask him for money, children won’t ask of him the time, noone will ask him for directions, and even seeing-eye dogs take blind men out of his path?
  1. How does Scrooge feel about both Christmas and marriage?
  1. Why does Scrooge think Bob Cratchit, his clerk, and Fred, his nephew, are “lunatics”?


Read the following passage and use it to answer questions 9 to 13:


“…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.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”


  1. Who is the first speaker in this passage?
  1. About whom is he speaking in this passage?
  1. Who is the second speaker in this passage?
  1. Why are these two character having this conversation?
  1. How does the first speaker feel about the people being spoken of?


  1. Why does Scrooge threaten to beat the young caroler outside his door?
  1. What “unfair” request does Scrooge’s clerk make of his boss?
  1. List several personality traits of Scrooge.  Support your idea.  Explain how the examples you chose show the traits you listed.  If you had to come up with some object to represent  Scrooge (a symbol), what would it be?  Why?  Support your idea. 
  1. Who lived in Scrooge’s house before him?
  1. What does Scrooge see when he looks at the doorknocker on his front door?
  1. Is Scrooge scared by what he sees on his doorknocker?  How does he react?
  1. Name one of the reasons why the ghost that visits Scrooge had to be Marley.
  1. What does Scrooge first think the ghost actually is?
  1. What do the chains and money boxes in which Marley’s ghost is draped represent?
  1. What is the purpose of Marley’s visit?
  1. There are seveal different reasons why Marley is being punished.  What are they?
  2. There are several different elements to Marley's punishment.  What are they?
  3. How does Marley's punishment reflect Dickens' Unitarian beliefs?
  1. According to Marley’s Ghost, what is the duration of the story supposed to be?  (How long is the action supposed to take?)
  1. Why doesn't Scrooge want to take advantage of the chance Marley's Ghost offers?
  2. Briefly explain who the other spirits Scrooge sees flying around London are.
  1. As soon as Marley's Ghost leaves, what does Scrooge do?
  2. A Christmas Carol is full of symbolism.  Briefly describe (2-3 sentences), in your own words or through quotation, something from the first stave that is symbolic.  Support your idea.  Explain why/how the example you chose is symbolic.
  1. Briefly describe (2-3 sentences) two important conflicts from Stave One.  Support your idea.  Explain what kind(s) of conflict each is (man v. man, man v. nature, man v. self).  Explain why the conflicts you chose are the kind you labeled them.
  1. We know this story is an allegory.  Based on Dickens’ characterization of Scrooge at the beginning of the story, what part of Victorian England/the Industrial Revolution does Scrooge symbolize at the beginning of the story?  Explain how you arrived at this conclusion.



A Christmas Carol Stave 2 – “The First of the Three Spirits”


  1. When he thinks the sun has gone out, why is Scrooge worried?
  2. Who is the first of the three Christmas Spirits who visits Scrooge?
  1. What are some of the characteristics of the first Christmas Spirit?
  2. Who is the solitary boy left at the school?
  1. Who are the young boy’s only friends?
  1. How does Scrooge feel about his father?
  2. How does Scrooge's mother treat him?
  3. The only member of Scrooge’s family Scrooge gets along with is whom?
  1. Referring to the above question, what happened to that person?
  1. Who is Fezziwig?
  2. How do Fezziwig and the present-day Scrooge compare as employers?
  1. How does Scrooge feel about Fezziwig?
  2. How does Scrooge end up explaining to the Spirit that it doesn't cost money to make employees hapy, or to make work more enjoyable?
  3. On what date does Scrooge get dumped?
  4. According to the young woman who talks with Scrooge in the next scene, what is the reason she no longer wants to marry him?
  1. Referring to the above question, what does this have to do with Scrooge’s earlier words to his nephew?
  1. Would Scrooge have married his fiancee if he'd met her that day instead of several years before?
  2. What does Dickens mean when he says that every child in the last house Scrooge and the Spirit visit was “conducting itself like forty”?
  1. Referring to the last question, how long ago in Scrooge’s past is this scene set?
  1. What is the relationship between all but one of the places Scrooge and the Spirit visit?
  1. Referring to the last question, what is the one exception to the general rule of what the Spirit shows Scrooge, and why is it an exception?
  1. Referring to the last question, why does the Spirit show Scrooge this one exception?
  1. Scrooge faces a very important internal conflict from his past in this stave.  What is it?  Support your idea. How can it be an internal conflict if it involves other people?
  1. When Scrooge sees Belle’s family, he is more disturbed and upset than at any of the rest of what he has seen in this stave.  Why does he find this happy family to be so upsetting?
  1. What does the light coming from the head of the Ghost of Christmas Past symbolize?
  1. Why does Scrooge want to cover the light?
  1. Quote a few sentences from the story that contain sensory language.  Why does Dickens use so much sensory language? 
  1. The ghosts that visit Scrooge are regularly going to use Scrooge’s own words against him.  Is this an example of foreshadowing?  Why or why not?
  1. What does the Spirit of Christmas Past symbolize?
  2. What are some of the clues that help you figure out what the Spirit symbolizes?
  3. At the beginning of the chapter, Scrooge wants the Spirit to wear its hat.  Why?
  4. Why can't Scrooge stop the light coming from the spirit's head?
  5. Why is Ebenezer Scrooge such a miserable person?  Support your idea.



A Christmas Carol Stave 3 – “The Second of the Three Spirits”


  1. According to Marley's ghost, what night is it when the second spirit arrives?
  2. Why did Scrooge pull back all the curtains on his bed?
  3. How does Scrooge know he should open the door and enter the other room?
  1. How are all of the objects Scrooge sees in the room (holly, ivy, mistletoe, roaring fire, turkeys, meats, wreaths, desserts, bowls of punch) related?
  1. Why did Dickens provided so many sensory details?
  2. Why does the Ghost of Christmas Present have over eighteen hundred brothers?
  1. Draw an image of the Spirit of Christmas Present in your notes based on the details provided by Dickens - who does he sort of resemble?  Why might Dickens have created this resemblance?
  2. What effect did the Ghost of Christmas Present’s torch have on those he sprinkled its droppings on?
  1. What are two of the ways we know that the Cratchits are poor?
  1. How many children are there in the Cratchit family?
  1. What do the youngest Cratchits want Martha to do just after she arrives?
  1. How does Tiny Tim think people will feel when they see him in church?
  1. Why do the youngest Cratchits cram spoons into their mouths after they finish setting the table?
  1. Why does the Ghost of Christmas present say, when speaking of Tiny Tim, “If he be like to die, then he had better do it, and decrease the population”?
  1. What does Bob want to do that makes Mrs. Cratchit angry?
  1. Why does the Ghost of Christmas Present bring Scrooge out to a “bleak and dessert moor”?


Use the following quotation to answer the following questions:


“I was only going to say that the consequence of his taking a dislike to us, and not making merry with us, is, as I think, that he loses some pleasant moments, which could do him no harm.  I am sure he loses pleasanter companions that he can find in his own though, either in his moldy old office or his dusty chambers.  I mean to give him the same chance every year, whether he likes it or not, for I pity him.  He may rail at Christmas till he dies, but he can’t help thinking better of it – I defy him – if he finds me going there, in good temper, year after year, and saying, “Uncle Scrooge, how are you?”  If it only puts him in the vein to leave his poor clerk fifty pounds, that’s something, and I think I shook him, yesterday.”


  1. Who spoke these words?
  1. Why does this character pity Scrooge?
  1. What does this speaker hope to accomplish by “going there, in good temper, year after year”?
  1. In your own words, what is “the consequence of [Scrooge’s] taking a dislike to us, and not making merry with us”?
  1. Referring to the above question, who is “us”?


  1. Why does the Ghost of Christmas Present grow “older, clearly older” before Scrooge’s eyes?
  1. Explain the symbolic meaning of the two children hidden under the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present.  How do the children relate to Dickens’ Unitarian beliefs?
  1. Choose one situation from the book you where a character acts in a way you do not understand.  Give a brief but specific description of the context of the situation, including page numbers.  Explain how you would have reacted in that situation. 
  1. Why does the Ghost of Christmas Present take Scrooge to so many places?  Why does he take Scrooge so far from London during these visits?
  1. Give at least two examples of symbolism directly related to the Ghost of Christmas Present.  Explain the symbolism.
  1. We know this story is an allegory.  What does Bob Cratchit symbolize?  Explain how you arrived at this conclusion.



A Christmas Carol Stave 4 – “The Last of the Spirits”


  1. What is the one reason the dead man’s business associates will go to his funeral?
  1. In A Muppet Christmas Carol, the business men are depicted as pigs.  Why was this symbol chosen to represent the business men?


Read this passage, then answer the following questions:


[Scrooge] knew these men, also, perfectly.  They were men of business, very wealthy, and of great importance.  He had made a point always of standing in their esteem – in a business point of view, that is, strictly in a business point of view.

“How are you?” said one.

“How are you?” returned the other.

“Well!” said the first.  “Old Scratch has got his own at last, hey?”

“So I am told,” returned the second.  “Cold, isn’t it?”

“Seasonable for Christmas-time.  You are not a skater, I suppose?”

“No.  No.  Something else to think of.  Good morning!”

Not another word.  That was their meeting, their conversation, and their parting.

Scrooge was at first inclined to be surprised that the Spirit should attach importance to conversations apparently so trivial, but feeling assured that they must have some hidden purpose, he set himself to consider what it was likely to be…


  1. What does the author mean when he says, “[Scrooge] had made a point always of standing in their esteem – in a business point of view, that is, strictly in a business point of view”?
  1. About whom are these gentlemen speaking?
  1. Why does the Spirit “attach importance to [a conversation] apparently so trivial” (that is, why is it interesting/important that the conversation is so short)?
  1. Why do you think Scrooge refuses to recognize that the man being discussed in the future is him?


  1. Where do the charwoman, the laundress, and the undertaker’s man get the goods they are about to pawn?
  1. More specifically, from exactly what location does the laundress get her goods?
  1. How does the treatment of Scrooge’s property and body after his death by the undertaker’s man, the laundress, and the charwoman (maid) reflect how Scrooge lived his life?
  1. According to Dickens, what is the connection between how you live your life, and your death?
  2. In A Muppet Christmas Carol, Old Joe is depicted as a giant spider.  Why did the Muppets choose this symbol to represent Old Joe?
  1. What is the emotion Caroline and her family (NOT the Cratchits) feel when they learn Scrooge is dead? 
  1. Referring to the last question, why do Caroline and her family feel this way?
  1. What event has transpired in the Cratchit house?
  1. What are the words the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come says to Scrooge which make Scrooge so afraid?
  1. What are some possible reasons Dickens chose to have the Spirit of the Future share some features with the Grim Reaper?
  2. What about this bleak future gives Scrooge hope?
  1. What suggests to Scrooge that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come feels sorry for Scrooge?


A Christmas Carol Stave 5 – “The End of It”


  1. Why was Scrooge so surprised to find his bed curtains still on his bed?  Why did Scrooge think his bed curtains had been torn down?
  1. After asking the boy outside what day it is and talking about his adventures with the spirits and telling the boy to go buy the prize turkey, the boy looks at Scrooge and says, “Walker!”  What does “walker” mean in London in the 1840’s?
  1. Why is Scrooge so interested in/in love with the doorknocker?
  1. Why did Bob Cratchit consider putting Scrooge in a straightjacket?
  1. What happened to Scrooge in the years after his experience?
  1. One reason Dickens wrote this story was to convince people to be kinder to others.  Do you think this story helps achieve that goal?  Cite specific evidence to explain your reasoning.
  1. This story was written for several reasons.  Explain one reason.
  1. What symbol would you use to represent Scrooge as he is at the end of the novel?  How is this symbol for Scrooge different from the symbol you came up with for Scrooge in Stave One?  Why does this change make sense, based on what happened in the story?  Support your idea.
  1. What do you think is the one, single, most important, main conflict this story is about?  That is, what is the single-most-important problem in the book that needs to be overcome?
  1. What is the climax of this story?  Give a brief summary and relevant page numbers.  What is the resolution of this story?  Give a brief summary and the page number where the resolution begins.
  1. Identify one message or theme from the book.  Provide an example from the book that illustrates the theme. Give the page number(s) on which your example can be found.  (THEMES are ideas that come up again and again in the story.  They may or may not be said out loud by one of the characters; sometimes, it’s an idea that you notice keeps coming up that affects the characters and how they act). 
  1. How did you feel when you finished this story?  Why?  Give specific details that support your opinion.
  1. Why was Scrooge visited by Christmas spirits from the past, present, AND future?  Why not just one? Explain how you arrived at this conclusion.