On a reading tour of America, celebrated author Charles Dickens tells one of his most popular stories, A Christmas Carol. The unexpected appearance of a mouse leads him into the tale, which begins amid the pitiful conditions of an Alms Hospital run for the benefit of the poor and needy. Mounting debts mean that the only doctor is thrown into prison, leaving kind-hearted Belle on her own. She discovers that the debts are now owned by Ebeneezer Scrooge, a man to whom she was once, long ago, engaged.
Drained of the spirit of love and humanity he once possessed, Scrooge is now a cruel, cold man. On Christmas Eve he is shocked to be visited by the ghost of his long dead business partner Jacob Marley, who brings a warning, that unless Scrooge changes his ways the same eternal misery awaits him that Marley himself now endures. Before disappearing the ghost explains that Scrooge will be visited by three further spirits. Recovering his composure long enough to abruptly dismiss two gentlemen collecting for the poor, Scrooge is unaware of Belle’s fate, and of the desperate letter that she has written to him.
When he does find her letter he is interrupted by the arrival of the first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past. In a moment he is transported back to his youth, and watches his cheerful, younger self and his much loved, dearly missed sister Fan. He also witnesses his first meeting with Belle, with whom he falls in love immediately. Then they re-visit the happy times Scrooge enjoyed working under the ebullient Fezziwig.
As time passes all warmth and happiness leaves Scrooge. He falls out with Fan – who later dies in childbirth – and has his engagement to Belle broken off when she despairs of his mean spirited ways.
The Ghost of Christmas Present is a giant figure who takes Scrooge first to the home of Fan’s good natured son Fred who is hosting a Christmas party, where Scrooge overhears everyone describe him as a grumpy old miser. The Ghost takes him next to the Alms Hospital, where Scrooge is shocked by the pain and suffering he sees, and then to the home of his clerk, Bob Cratchit. Here Scrooge is shamed by the grim conditions and the frugal meal of the Cratchits, and by the obvious poor health of their youngest child Tiny Tim.
The third and final Ghost is a hooded, silent figure who shows Scrooge events that are to come, including his own unmourned death and the tragic passing of Tiny Tim. Scrooge awakes on Christmas morning determined to make amends. Finally finding and reading Belle’s letter he makes a belated offer of help. He also sends a fresh turkey to Bob Cratchit and his family, and the next day offers to quadruple Bob’s salary. He is, at last, a changed man.