Stave 4 of A Christmas Carol: Death and Resurrection

By Nathaniel Saylor

6In Stave Four of A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come transports Scrooge to a future time, to a miserable London pawn shop.  There he observes three rascals who have caught one another in the same criminal act: looting a dead man’s body and now trying to sell their loot.  The reader quickly guesses the identity of the dead man; Scrooge staves off the obvious truth.

To Scrooge, these rogues appear like “obscene demons” lacking any respect for the dead or fear of God.  One of them, the laundress, was bold enough to take the curtains and blankets from the bed, and the clothes from the very body of the dead man.  And yet, she hints at the unease that lies beneath her laughter and chatter: “Who’s the worse for the loss of a few things like these?  Not a dead man, I suppose.”

One imagines the soldiers at the foot of the cross blustering in the same way as they cast lots for the seamless garment.  The connection between the scene in the London pawn shop and the Passion is hard to ignore.  We are not meant to see in Scrooge an innocent victim – far from it!  Nor is the dead body of his future self meant to draw our attention.  A deep transformation is taking place in him while he watches, which is itself a kind of death.

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As Scrooge observes the buying and selling of his clothes he dies an interior, redemptive death.  This is a death that each of us must experience at least once in our lives.  This death strips away material goods we use to give ourselves the impression of well being.  It wrenches from our grasp the objects of our addictions with which we cover up despair and shame.  In the end, we are left with nothing solid to which we can cling.

By the end of Stave Four, we find Scrooge stripped of all his old defenses, but left with one treasure: a seed of humility.  He reveals this before he leaves the pawn shop: “I see, I see.  The case of this unhappy man might be my own.  My life tends that way, now.  Merciful Heaven…”  Then he travels with the ghost to see Bob Cratchit mourn his Tiny Tim.  The Cratchit family recalls the life of their youngest, “how patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child”.  Scrooge’s newfound humility allows him to acknowledge the goodness and beauty of Tiny Tim and the ugliness of his own life.  He is ready to face the final test.

Beside the stone where he finds his name engraved Scrooge nearly despairs: “Why show me this, if I am past all hope!”  In this moment, when he is most keenly aware of the wretched end awaiting him, Scrooge is finally ready for redemption.  “Good Spirit… Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me.  Assure me that I may yet change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.”  He is ready for his resurrection.  He is ready for Christmas Day.

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