The protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, is described as the absolute anti-thesis of everything Christmas stands for. Described as a covetous, miserly man of a sinful nature, he has no time for Christmas or for the basic human qualities of compassion or kindness. Christmas Eve is a time for him to eschew acts of charity, and to rebuff the last remnant of his family, Fred (his nephew). It is only with a great deal of reluctance and contempt that he allows his clerk, Bob Cratchit, the day off for Christmas.
On the night of Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by his deceased partner, Jacob Marley’s ghost. The ghost narrates his tale of horror and misfortune. As a punishment for a lifetime of avarice, his spirit is trapped on Earth and is forced to wander in loneliness and pain, imprisoned by weighted chains around his body. He warns Scrooge that he is likely to meet the same fate if does not change his ways and tells him that he will be visited by 3 spirits.
The first apparition that visits him is the Ghost of Christmas Past. This spirit takes him on a trip to the many Christmases of his childhood and youth. He is reminded of the kindness and happiness that he experienced in his youth and witnesses a different side of himself. This journey also reminds of him of the love that was lost along the way, and his reasons for disliking this festive period.
The Ghost of Christmas Present allows Scrooge to experience various scenes of joy and happiness of the present Christmas. He is taken to the home of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, where he witnesses the meager Christmas feast placed before his employee’s family. During this time, he realizes that it is his miserliness that prevents Cratchit from adequately tending to his crippled son, Tiny Tim.
The final Spirit is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. This apparition shows Scrooge a glimpse of the future that awaits him, if does not change his ways. He is taken to the scene of his death, where he realizes how much the people in his life despised him for his lack of humanity. The vision of his untended, dilapidated grave has a strong effect on Scrooge.
The final stave of this book describes the actions of Scrooge on Christmas Day. Transformed by these visions, he rediscovers his more humane side, and goes about spreading joy and happiness to other people.