|A Christmas Carol character|
Ebenezer Scrooge encounters "Jacob Marley's ghost" in Dickens's novel, A Christmas Carol
|Created by||Charles Dickens|
|Portrayed by||See below|
|Family||Fanny (late younger sister)
Ebenezer Scrooge is the principal character in Charles Dickens's 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is a cold-hearted, tight-fisted and greedy man, who despises Christmas and all things which give people happiness. 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, traits displayed by Scrooge in the exaggerated manner for which Dickens is well-known. 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. Scrooge's catchphrase, "Bah, humbug!" is often used to express disgust with many of the modern Christmas traditions.
In his diaries, Dickens states that Scrooge stems from a grave marker which he saw in 1841, while taking an evening walk in the Canongate Kirkyard in Edinburgh. The headstone was for the vintner Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie, a relative of Adam Smith, who had won the catering contract for the visit of George IV to Edinburgh and the first contract to supply whisky to the Royal Navy. The marker identified Scroggie as a "meal man" (corn merchant), but Dickens misread this as "mean man", due to the fading light and his mild dyslexia. Dickens wrote that it must have "shrivelled" Scroggie’s soul to carry "such a terrible thing to eternity". The grave marker was lost during construction work at part of the kirkyard in 1932.
Several theories have been put forward as to where Dickens got additional inspiration for the character.
- The now obscure English verb scrouge, meaning squeeze or press.
- One school of thought is that Dickens based Scrooge's views on the poor on those of demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus.
- 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.)
- 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.
- The man whom Dickens eventually mentions in his letters 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 story of A Christmas Carol starts on Christmas Eve in 1843, with Scrooge at his place of business. The book says that Scrooge lives in London, England. Charles Dickens refers to Scrooge as "... a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!" Despite owning a vast fortune, Scrooge prefers to hoard his money, denying himself proper conveniences and living a lifestyle of poverty. It is usually assumed that he is a banker or professional money lender. Some recent versions portray him as a solicitor. Whatever his main business is, he seems to have usurious relationships with people of little means. These relationships, along with his lack of charity and shabby treatment of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, seem to be his major vices.
Fred, Scrooge's nephew and only living relative, has great regard for Christmas and we are introduced to him early in the story where he unsuccessfully attempts to invite Scrooge to his Christmas dinner party only to be rebuffed by Scrooge with a repeatedly said sentence: "Good afternoon." After his nephew leaves, two charitable men come in and ask Scrooge if he is willing to help them raise a fund to help the poor, but Scrooge comments that he pays taxes for the poor. The two charitable men comment that many would rather die than go to a government funded workhouse. To which Scrooge responds: "If they'd rather die then perhaps they had better do so and decrease the surplus population" and angrily dismisses them.
Scrooge has only disgust for the poor, thinking the world would be better off without them, "decreasing the surplus population," and praise for the Victorian-era workhouses. He has a particular distaste for the merriment of Christmas; his single act of kindness is to give his clerk, Bob Cratchit, the day off with pay. Done more as a result of social mores than kindness, Scrooge sees the practice akin to having his pocket picked on an annual basis.
After they had introduced Scrooge and showing his shabby treatment of his employee, business men, and only living relative, the novel resumes with Scrooge in his mansion, intent on spending Christmas Eve alone. While he is preparing to go to bed, he is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley (who had died seven years earlier on Christmas Eve) spent his life 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 of escape he will be visited by three spirits of Christmas: Past, Present, and Yet-to-Come. The rest of the novel acts as a biography and psychological profile, showing his evolution to his current state, and the way he is viewed by others.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
As promised, the Ghost of Christmas Past visits Scrooge first at 1 o'clock and takes him back a few years to see his time as a schoolboy, which makes him feel misery and pity towards himself. Here it is suggested that his mother died after giving birth to his younger sister Fanny. His depressed father exiled him from home to live on the streets and in school until he changed his mind when Scrooge has entered his teens. This is relevant to Scrooge, because it shows the beginnings of his lack of socialization and empathy. He does not socialize because he never experienced steady growth in a strong family unit. He does not empathize owing to the way he was treated: as a child until he was a teen-ager he was the least of his father's concerns, and this in turn taught him not to feel for fellow humans. In altered versions of the story, his father goes to jail for not paying debt – it is hinted that he may have died while in prison (which reflects the author's childhood).
Later the ghost shows how his success in business made him become obsessive and develop a workaholic tendency. His money and work-obsessed personality traits eventually compel Scrooge's fiancée, Belle, to leave him, which further hardens his heart. He and his sister Fan move to London where Fan gives birth to Fred (Scrooge's nephew) but dies from the stresses of giving birth thus causing Scrooge to lose all his love for the world except for his money and work. Scrooge does not care about his only living relative left; his nephew Fred because almost like what his father did to him in childhood; he blames Fan's death on Fred and refuses every dinner invitation that Fred gives to him.
The Ghost of Christmas Past also shows how Scrooge after all this took place was an apprentice for Mr. Fezziwig, a kindly warehouse business owner. Mr. Fezziwig had been known for his parties, which was one of Scrooge's only positive childhood memories.
The visit by the Ghost of Christmas Past also reveals the origin of Scrooge's neurotic hatred of Christmas; most of the events that negatively affected Scrooge's character occurred during the Christmas holiday season.
One of the sources of his negative ways is the pain he feels for losing his love, Belle. Engaged to be married to her, he keeps pushing back the wedding until his finances are as healthy as he would like; something that, given his insatiable lust for money, he would probably never have. Realizing this, Belle calls off the engagement and eventually marries someone else, causing Scrooge to further withdraw from society and relationships.
Eventually Scrooge asks the ghost to take him somewhere else but the ghost haunts him with the images of his past forcing Scrooge to take the ghost's candle extinguisher like hat and extinguish the ghost with it.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
Scrooge is then visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present at 2 o'clock, who shows him the happiness of his nephew's middle-class social circle; how Fred still cares for Scrooge despite being rebuffed by him; and the impoverished Cratchit family. He uses Scrooge's past unkind comments to the two charitable gentlemen against him – saying "they had better do it now, and decrease the surplus population".
The ghost also warns him of the evils of Ignorance and Want. As the spirit's robe is drawn back Scrooge is shocked to see these two aspects of the human psyche suddenly manifest before him as vicious, terrifying, little children, who are more animal than human in appearance.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge the final consequences of his actions one year later. Tiny Tim has died from his unmentioned but lethal illness, leaving the entire Cratchit family in mourning.
In contrast to Tim Cratchit's death, Scrooge's solitary life and disdain for those in need will ultimately lead others to find only comfort and happiness from his own death. No one will mourn his passing and his money and possessions will be stolen by the desperate and corrupt, e.g. his housekeeper Mrs. Dilber and his laundress and undertaker will use his death as an advantage to rob his house and sell his property to junkmen (e.g. Old Joe), the very people he condemned in life. The only people who feel any emotion are a young couple Scrooge was about to ruin financially. His death, however, allows them the small amount of extra time (while Scrooge's affairs were being settled) to raise the funds to pay off their debt to his estate. His final legacy will be that of a cheap tombstone in an unkempt graveyard and the fact that if he does not change he will die the next day on Christmas morning.
Scrooge weeps over his own grave, begging the ghost for a chance to change his ways and re-embrace life, before awakening to find it is Christmas morning. He has been given an opportunity to repent after all. Scrooge does so and becomes a model of generosity and kindness, towards his nephew, his neighbours, and the Cratchits. He also lives the time he would have died if he was still selfish. 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
Scrooge has been portrayed by:
- Tom Ricketts in 1908
- Marc McDermott in 1910
- Seymour Hicks in 1913 and again in 1935
- Rupert Julian in 1916
- Russell Thorndike in 1923
- Lionel Barrymore on radio throughout the 1930s and 1940s
- John Barrymore on radio, for ailing brother Lionel 1930s
- Orson Welles in 1939 on radio replacing Lionel Barrymore for one appearance only.
- Reginald Owen in 1938
- John Carradine in 1947
- Malcolm Keen in 1947
- Taylor Holmes in 1949
- Bransby Williams in 1950
- Alastair Sim in 1951, and again in 1971 (voice)
- Fredric March in 1954
- Basil Rathbone in 1956 and 1958
- Stan Freberg in Green Chri$tma$, 1958. "Mr Scrooge" is portrayed as an advertising executive "...trying to find new ways of tying their product into Christmas." The satirical skit was so sarcastic that sponsors threatened to pull their ads from any radio station that dared play it. As a result, the skit received very little airplay until 1983, and still doesn't get much.
- Jim Backus (as Quincy Magoo) in Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, 1962
- Cyril Ritchard in 1964
- Wilfrid Brambell in a 1966 radio musical version (adapted from his Broadway role)
- Sid James in the Carry On Christmas Specials, 1969
- Albert Finney in 1970
- Marcel Marceau in 1973
- Michael Hordern in 1977
- Rich Little as W.C. Fields playing Scrooge in Rich Little's Christmas Carol, 1978
- Walter Matthau (voice) in The Stingiest Man in Town, 1978
- Henry Winkler as Benedict Slade in An American Christmas Carol, 1979
- Hoyt Axton as Cyrus Flint in Skinflint: A Country Christmas Carol, 1979
- Mel Blanc (as Yosemite Sam) in Bugs Bunny's Christmas Carol, 1979
- Alan Young (as Scrooge McDuck) in Mickey's Christmas Carol, 1983
- George C. Scott in 1984
- Mel Blanc (this time as Cosmo Spacely) in the Jetsons episode "A Jetson Christmas Carol", 1985
- Robert Guillaume as John Grin in John Grin's Christmas, 1986
- Bill Murray as Frank Cross in Scrooged, 1988
- Rowan Atkinson as Ebenezer Blackadder in Blackadder's Christmas Carol, 1988
- Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992
- Jeffrey Sanzel has appeared in more than 1,000 stage performances since 1992
- James Earl Jones in Bah, Humbug, 1994
- Henry Corden (as Fred Flintstone) in A Flintstones Christmas Carol, 1994
- Susan Lucci as Elizabeth "Ebbie" Scrooge in Ebbie, 1995
- Beavis as Beavis Scrooge, 1995
- Cicely Tyson as Ebenita Scrooge in Ms. Scrooge, 1997
- Tim Curry (voice) in 1997
- Jack Palance in Ebenezer, 1997
- Ernest Borgnine (as Carface Carruthers) in An All Dogs Christmas Carol, 1998
- Patrick Stewart in 1999
- Vanessa Williams as Ebony Scrooge in A Diva's Christmas Carol, 2000
- Ross Kemp as Eddie Scrooge in 2000
- Dean Jones in Scrooge and Marley, 2001
- Tori Spelling as "Scroogette" Carol Cartman in A Carol Christmas, 2003
- Kelsey Grammer in 2004
- Bill Bourne in The Carol Project, 2006
- Joe Alaskey (as Daffy Duck) in Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, 2006
- Helen Fraser as Sylvia Hollamby in Bad Girls 2006 Christmas Special
- Morwenna Banks as Eden Starling (Barbie) in Barbie in a Christmas Carol, 2008
- Jim Carrey in 2009 (Carrey also played the three spirits haunting Scrooge).
- Catherine Tate as Nan in "Nan's Christmas Carol", 2009
- Christina Milian as Sloane Spencer in "Christmas Cupid," December 2010
- Eric Braeden as Victor Newman in "Victor's Christmas Carol" on The Young and the Restless, December 2010
- Michael Gambon as Kazran Sardick in "A Christmas Carol" on Doctor Who, December 2010.
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.
The character is most often noted for exclaiming "Bah! Humbug!" despite uttering this phrase only twice in the entire book. 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.
- Mcbeth, Jim (2004-12-24). "Revealed: the Scot who inspired Dickens' Scrooge". The Scotsman (Edinburgh).
- Scrouge at dictionary.com, 5 December 2012
- "Ebeneezer Scrooge - The Meaning of the Name", 5 December 2012
- Frank W. Elwell, Reclaiming Malthus, 2 November 2001, accessed 30 August 2013.
- "Real-life Scrooge was Dutch gravedigger", 25 December 2007, archived from the original 27 December, 2007.
- "Fake Scrooge 'was Dutch gravedigger'", 26 December 2007, archived from the original 6 December 2008.
- "Jeremy Wood".
- 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.
- Fleming, Michael. "Jim Carrey set for 'Christmas Carol': Zemeckis directing Dickens adaptation", Variety, 2007-07-06. Retrieved on 2007-09-11.
- "Doctor Who Christmas Special – A Christmas Carol". Retrieved 22 November 2010.
- "Christmas Day". Radio Times (volume 347, no. 4520): 174. 18-31 Dec 2010 (cover date).
- Oxford Dictionaries
- "Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature". Retrieved 2008-12-23.
- Fountain, Henry (2005-02-20). "Ba Humbugi! Let's Nameus That Speciesus". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
- Author's website