Marley is dead. Seven years before our story begins Scrooge is seen, as a solitary mourner, at the funeral of his business partner Jacob Marley. It is the finality of Marley's death which gives meaning to all the events that follow.
In a street in the old city of London, on Christmas Eve, shoppers hurry to buy last minute Christmas presents. Outside the counting house where Ebeneezer Scrooge and the late Jacob Marley have made their money, carol singers arrive collecting for the poor.
Scrooge's clerk, the warm-hearted Bob Cratchit joins them but the re-appearance of Scrooge signals an abrupt end to the festivities.
Inside the counting house Bob Cratchit shivers and suffers under the tyranny of his stoney-hearted master. Even the arrival of Scrooge's affable nephew and his wife has no effect on the embittered and miserly old man.
At the end of the working day Scrooge reluctantly gives his clerk permission to leave but as Scrooge returns to his lodgings he has a disconcerting experience.
In the meantime Bob Cratchit, on his journey home, meets some workmen at Cornhill and stops to join in a light hearted game before hurrying back to his wife and family.
While Scrooge is finishing his lonely supper of gruel the ghost of his dead colleague, Jacob Marley, appears with a terrible warning.
Scrooge will be condemned to endless torment as a phantom unless he changes his selfish and meaningless way of life. Scrooge buries his head in his pillows to escape the fearful sight.
The Ghost of Christmas Past appears and takes Scrooge back to a Christmas of many years ago, to a party in the counting house of Fezziwig & Family, his first employer.
The same party where his first love, Belle, was to tell him that she would not be his wife for he had a greater love than her, ‘I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you.’
Scrooge becomes distressed as he discovers he is powerless to undo the mistakes he made as a young man. He can bear no more and covers the light of the Ghost – the scene fades into darkness.
He is comforted by the Ghost of Christmas Present who leads him to the Cratchit household, ‘They were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented.’
Scrooge is affected by the warmth and love that illuminates the home as Tiny Tim sings a Christmas Song.
The happy family move off with the Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge is unable to follow.
He is left with only the phantoms, who grow more powerful.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come leads Scrooge back to the Cratchit home where he finds the family grieving for the loss of their beloved son, Tiny Tim.
Another vision of the future shows three hags ransacking the bedroom of a corpse. Dark scenes crowd on each other as the dead man's effects are disposed of at a grim auction. Finally Scrooge sees the Angel of Death approaching with a tombstone and realises, with horror, that it is his own.
As he throws himself at the headstone it dissolves and he finds himself in his own bed on Christmas morning. There is still time to change!
'I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future!' Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions … 'the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!'
He dresses frantically and sets off into the streets to prepare for an enormous Christmas feast.
Children and passers-by are all enlisted into helping to bring the best that money can buy and soon a dazzling array of food is assembled for the arrival of the guests of honour – the Cratchit Family.
As Scrooge welcomes them to his party the first flakes of snow begin to fall and the street becomes the scene of a joyful celebration.
Scrooge's journey is complete. The embittered and maligned old man has found the generosity of spirit to regain his lost humanity and to share in the love of his fellow man.
The story ends with an affirmation of peace on earth to all men.
‘God Bless Us, Every One!’