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The tale begins on Christmas Eve seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge's business partner Jacob Marley. Scrooge is established within the first stave (chapter) as a greedy and stingy businessman who has no place in his life for kindness, compassion, charity, or benevolence. After being warned by Marley's ghost to change his ways, Scrooge is visited by three additional ghosts "each in its turn" who accompany him to various scenes with the hope of achieving his transformation. The first of the spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to the 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. The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to several radically differing scenes (a joy-filled market of people buying the makings of Christmas dinner, the family feast of Scrooge's near-impoverished clerk Bob Cratchit, a miner's cottage, and a lighthouse among other sites) in order to evince from the miser a sense of responsibility for his fellow man. The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, harrows Scrooge with dire visions of the future if he does not learn and act upon what he has witnessed. Scrooge's own neglected and untended grave is revealed, prompting the miser to aver that he will change his ways in hopes of changing these "shadows of what may be." In the fifth and final stave, Scrooge awakens Christmas morning with joy and love in his heart, then spends the day with his nephew's family after anonymously sending a prize turkey to the Crachit home for Christmas dinner. Scrooge has become a different man overnight, and now treats his fellow men with kindness, generosity, and compassion, gaining a reputation as a man who embodies the spirit of Christmas. The story closes with the narrator confirming the validity, completeness, and permanence of Scrooge's transformation.
Emma Brown is a happy-go-lucky child, content to work hard at school, and to play hopscotch with her friends on the pavement outside her house in the run-down Nechells area of Birmingham. As long as everything is alright at home with her Ma and Pa, her little sister Joyce and brother Sid, then life is good. But after Em's mother Cynthia has her baby she just doesn't seem to be able to cope. Her life-long friend and neighbour Dot helps as much as she can, but she has children of her own, and no man to hand; Cynthia's husband Bob, too, does his best, but begins to feel that he's losing the wife he has loved so much; and little Em just can't find enough hours in the day to do all the washing and cleaning. Soon, it seems, the only thing is for Cynthia to go and stay across the city with her tyrannical older sister. With Cynthia away, life only gets harder for Em. Her best friend Kate ostracises her, leaving only poor, stinky Molly Fox at her side, and when the Board Man comes to call, wanting to know why she's not at school, things are really bad. When Bob stays out later and later in the evenings, always the worse for wear, and spending too much time with a local very merry widow, Em decides to travel across Birmingham to fetch her mother home, but the mother she discovers is a far cry from the proud, upright and loving figure she has known so well...
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