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The first of the spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to Christmas scenes of his boyhood and youth, which stir the old miser's gentle and tender side by reminding him of a time when he was more innocent. They also show what made Scrooge the miser that he is, and why he dislikes Christmas.
The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to several differing scenes – a joy-filled market of people buying the makings of Christmas dinner, the celebration of Christmas in a miner's cottage, and a lighthouse. A major part of this stave is taken up with the family feast of Scrooge's impoverished clerk Bob Cratchit, introducing his youngest son, Tiny Tim, who is seriously ill but cannot receive treatment due to Scrooge's unwillingness to pay Cratchit a decent wage. The spirit and the miser also visit Scrooge's nephew's party.
The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, harrows Scrooge with dire visions of the future. These include Tiny Tim's death as well as scenes related to Scrooge's own death including a conversation among business associates who will only attend the funeral if lunch is provided. Scrooge's charwoman Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's laundress, and the undertaker steal some of Scrooge's belongings and sell them to a fence named Old Joe. Scrooge's own neglected and untended grave is then revealed, prompting the miser to aver that he will change his ways in hopes of changing these "shadows of what may be."

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