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Best Quotes from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

alex atkins bookshelf literatureA Christmas Carol, published by Charles Dickens in 1843, has never been out of print for almost two centuries. The story endures because Dickens masterfully compressed many themes into this short novella about a very reprehensible miser named Scrooge: redemption/transformation, compassion/foregiveness, guilt/blame, poverty/wealth, misanthropy/philanthropy, the impact of personal choices, the importance of family and home, and lost love and love are as relevant today, particularly in a callous Trumpian world, as they were 174 years ago. Scrooge, thanks to the visitation by three ghosts, demonstrates that we can be better human beings if we choose to be, echoing Sartre’s famous adage: “we are our choices.” Here are some of the best and most famous quotes from Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol:

Narrator: Marley was dead: to begin with… Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Narrator: Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, 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.

Fred (Scrooge’s nephew): “A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!”
Scrooge: “Bah! Humbug!”
Fred: “Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don’t mean that, I am sure?”
Scrooge: “I do. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
Fred: “Come, then. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”
Scrooge: “Bah! Humbug. 
Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should! If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Fred: “There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say. Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Scrooge: “A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin.”

Scrooge: “Are there no prisons?”

Ghost: “Why do you doubt your senses?”
Scrooge: “Because a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

The Ghost of Jacob Marley: “I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard.”

The Ghost of Jacob Marley: “No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.’’

The Ghost of Jacob Marley: “It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.”

The Ghost of Jacob Marley: “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

The Ghost of Christmas Past: “The school is not quite deserted. A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”

Narrator: They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.

Scrooge: “Why, it’s Ali Baba! It’s dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know! One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson; there they go! And what’s his name, who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him! And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii; there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I’m glad of it. What business had he to be married to the Princess!”

Narrator: To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in the city, indeed.

Belle: “Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made, you were another man.”

Mrs. Cratchit: “A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!” [To which added Tiny Tim]: “God bless us every one!”

Bob Cratchit: “[Tiny Tim is] as good as gold and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

The Ghost of Christmas Present: “I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved.”
Scrooge: “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

The Ghost of Christmas Present: “Man, if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant [“If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”] until you have discovered what the surplus is, and where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that in the sight of Heaven you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. O God! to hear the insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

The Ghost of Christmas Present: “They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

Narrator: It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that, while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.

Scrooge: “Ghost of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”

Scrooge: “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”

Scrooge: “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!’ Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. ‘The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!”

Scrooge: “I don’t know what to do! I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

Narrator: Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

Read related posts:
Life Lessons from Scrooge
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Trivia

The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Twas the Night Before Christmas
A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life
Best Quotes from A Christmas Story
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
The Story Behind Scrooge
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”

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2 responses to “Best Quotes from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

  • TheChattyIntrovert

    I still haven’t read this one, though I’ve seen the movies a ton of times (most recently and most often the Muppets version–I can’t help it, I like it and the songs are fun to sing, and I’m an awful singer).

    Merry Christmas to all. Between “A Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” I think they have the lessons about generosity, choices, and faith down pretty well.

    • Alexander Atkins

      TCI: Thanks for your steady support of Bookshelf throughout the year. Very much appreciated. The Carol is definitely worth the read, not only because it is so compelling, haunting (in a good way) — but every reader deserves a chance to “direct” their own cinematic version in their head. Despite the lessons of this book, everyone knows at least one Scrooge — and it is baffling why certain people choose to live a life filled with indifference, intolerance, and avarice.
      God bless us, every one!

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