Ebenezer Scrooge

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Ebenezer Scrooge
A Christmas Carol character
Marley's Ghost-John Leech, 1843.jpg
Ebenezer Scrooge encounters "Jacob Marley's ghost" in Dickens's novel, A Christmas Carol
Created by Charles Dickens
Portrayed by See below
Information
Nickname(s) Scrooge
Gender Male
Occupation Money-lender
Business man
Family Fanny (late younger sister)
Fred (nephew)

Ebenezer Scrooge[needs IPA] is the focal character of Charles Dickens' 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas. Dickens describes him thus: "The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and he spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice ..." His last name has come into the English language as a byword for miserliness and misanthropy. The tale of his redemption by the three Ghosts of Christmas (Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) has become a defining tale of the Christmas holiday in the English-speaking world. Scrooge's catchphrase, "Bah, humbug!" is often used to express disgust with many of the modern Christmas traditions.

Origins[edit]

Several theories have been put forward as to where Dickens got inspiration for the character.

  • The now obscure English verb scrouge, meaning squeeze or press.[1][2]
  • One school of thought is that Dickens based Scrooge's views on the poor on those of demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus.[3]
  • Another is that the minor character Gabriel Grub from The Pickwick Papers was worked up into a more mature characterization (his name stemming from an infamous Dutch miser, Gabriel de Graaf.)[4][5]
  • Jemmy Wood, owner of the Gloucester Old Bank and possibly Britain’s first millionaire, was nationally renowned for his stinginess, and may have been another.[6]
  • The man whom Dickens eventually mentions in his letters[7] and who strongly resembles the character portrayed by Dickens's illustrator, John Leech, was a noted British eccentric and miser named John Elwes (1714–1789).
  • The character was taken from an anti-Scottish stereotype of a miser. Particularly, inspired by Ebeneezer Scroggie, who won the catering contract for the Visit of King George IV to Scotland.[8]

Appearance in the novel[edit]

The story of A Christmas Carol starts on Christmas Eve in 1843, with Scrooge at his money-lending business. Dickens refers to Scrooge as "... a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!" Among his many flaws, he despises Christmas as a "humbug", and subjects his clerk, Bob Cratchit, to grueling hours at low pay. On Christmas Eve day, he rudely refuses his nephew Fred's Christmas dinner invitation, and turns away two charitable workers seeking donations for the poor.

While he is preparing to go to bed, he is visited by the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley, who had died seven years earlier on Christmas Eve. Like Scrooge, Marley had spent his life hoarding his wealth and exploiting the poor, and as a result is damned to walk the Earth for eternity bound in the chains of his own greed. Marley warns Scrooge that he risks meeting the same fate, and that as a final chance at redemption he will be visited by three spirits of Christmas: Past, Present, and Yet-to-Come.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to see his time as a schoolboy and young man. These visions reveal that Scrooge was a lonely child whose unloving father sent him away to a boarding school. (In some film adaptations of the story, the ghost explains that Scrooge's mother died giving birth to him, for which his father blamed him.) His one solace was his beloved younger sister Fan, who repeatedly begged their father to allow Scrooge to return home, and he at last relented. Fan later died giving birth to her son, Fred. The spirit then takes him to see another Christmas a few years later in which he enjoyed a Christmas party held by his kind-hearted boss, Mr. Fezziwig. Then, the spirit shows him a Christmas in which his fiancée, Belle, leaves him as she realizes his love for money has replaced his love for her. Finally, the spirit shows him a Christmas Eve several years later, in which Belle is happily married to another man.

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John Leech in 1843

Scrooge is then visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows him the whole of London celebrating Christmas, including Fred and the impoverished Cratchit family. When Scrooge expresses concern for Cratchit's sickly son Tiny Tim, the spirit informs him that the boy will die unless something changes and uses Scrooge's earlier words about "decreasing the surplus population" against him. The spirit then produces two misshapen, sickly children he names Ignorance and Want. When Scrooge asks if they have anyone to care for them, the spirit throws more of Scrooge's own words back in his face: "Are there no prisons, no workhouses?"

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge Christmas Day one year later. Just as the previous spirit predicted, Tiny Tim has died; his father could not afford to give him proper care on his small manager salary. The spirit then shows Scrooge scenes related to the death of a "wretched man": His business associates snicker about how it's likely to be a cheap funeral and one associate will only go if lunch is provided, his possessions are stolen and sold by his housekeeper, undertaker and laundress, and a young couple who owed the man money are relieved he is dead, as they have more time to pay off their debt. The spirit then shows Scrooge the man's tombstone: it bears Scrooge's name.

Scrooge weeps over his own grave, begging the spirit for a chance to change his ways, before awakening to find it is Christmas morning. He immediately repents and becomes a model of generosity and kindness: He visits Fred, gives Cratchit a raise, and becomes like "a second father" to Tiny Tim. As the final narration states, "Many laughed to see this alteration in him, but he let them laugh and little heeded them, for he knew that no good thing in this world ever happened, at which some did not have their fill of laughter. His own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him. And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge."

Actors portraying Ebenezer Scrooge[edit]

Scrooge has been portrayed by:

Popular use[edit]

The name "Scrooge" is used in English as a word for a person who is misanthropic and tight-fisted despite the fact Ebenezer Scrooge reformed later.[12]

The character is most often noted for exclaiming "Bah! Humbug!" despite uttering this phrase only twice in the entire story. He uses the word "Humbug" on its own on seven occasions, although on the seventh we are told he "stopped at the first syllable" after realising Marley's ghost is real. The word is never used again after that in the book.

A species of snail is named Ba humbugi after Scrooge's catchphrase.[13][14]

Scrooge appears in Louis Bayard's 2003 novel Mr. Timothy, which is told from Tim Cratchit's perspective.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scrouge at dictionary.com, 5 December 2012
  2. ^ "Ebeneezer Scrooge - The Meaning of the Name", 5 December 2012
  3. ^ Frank W. Elwell, Reclaiming Malthus, 2 November 2001, accessed 30 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Real-life Scrooge was Dutch gravedigger", 25 December 2007, archived from the original 27 December 2007.
  5. ^ "Fake Scrooge 'was Dutch gravedigger'", 26 December 2007, archived from the original 6 December 2008.
  6. ^ "Jeremy Wood".
  7. ^ The Letters of Charles Dickens by Charles Dickens, Madeline House, Graham Storey, Margaret Brown, Kathleen Tillotson, & The British Academy (1999) Oxford University Press [Letter to George Holsworth, 18 January 1865] pp.7.
  8. ^ http://www.scotsman.com/news/revealed-the-scot-who-inspired-dickens-scrooge-1-571985
  9. ^ Fleming, Michael. "Jim Carrey set for 'Christmas Carol': Zemeckis directing Dickens adaptation", Variety, 2007-07-06. Retrieved on 2007-09-11.
  10. ^ "Doctor Who Christmas Special – A Christmas Carol". Retrieved 22 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "Christmas Day". Radio Times (volume 347, no. 4520): 174. 18-31 Dec 2010 (cover date). 
  12. ^ Oxford Dictionaries
  13. ^ "Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature". Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  14. ^ Fountain, Henry (2005-02-20). "Ba Humbugi! Let's Nameus That Speciesus". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  15. ^ Author's website

External links[edit]