Ebenezer Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge is the main character in Charles Dickens' 1843 novel, "A Christmas Carol". He is a cold-hearted, tight fisted, selfish man, who despises Christmas and all things which engender happiness. A quote from the book reads "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 story of his transformation by the three Ghosts of Christmas (Past, Present, and 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.

Origins of the character

Several theories have been put forward as to where Dickens got the inspiration for the character.
*One school of thought is that it stems from a grave marker for an Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie. The marker identified Scroggie as a “meal man” (corn merchant), but Dickens misread this as “mean man”. [ [http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1462612004 Scotsman.com News ] ]
*Others claim that Dickens based Scrooge's views on the poor on those of demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus. [Frank W. Elwell, [http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/~felwell/Theorists/Malthus/reclaim.html Reclaiming Malthus] , 2 November 2001, accessed 28 September 2006] (born 1775)
*Yet others that the minor character Gabriel Grub from The Pickwick Papers was worked up into a more mature characterisation (his name stemming from an infamous Dutch miser, Gabriel de Graff.) [ [http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Quirks/2007/12/25/real-life_scrooge_was_dutch_gravedigger/3411/ "Real-life Scrooge was Dutch gravedigger"] ] [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=JXXWBDI5OQH4JQFIQMGCFGGAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2007/12/24/nscrooge124.xml "fake Scrooge 'was Dutch gravedigger'"] ]
*Jeremy Wood (James/Jemmy/Jacabos), owner of the Gloucester Old Bank and possibly Britain’s first millionaire, become a nationally known figure for his miserly ways, and may have inspired Dickens in creating the character of Scrooge. [ [http://www.livingheritagesouthwest.co.uk/main/en/FamousPeople/InventorsInnovators.cfm "Jeremy Wood"]

The story

The story of "A Christmas Carol" starts on Christmas Eve, with Scrooge at his place of business. The book says that Scrooge lives in London, England. 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.

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 introducing Scrooge and showing his shabby treatment of his employee, business acquaintances, and only living relative, the novel resumes with Scrooge at his residence, 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 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: 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.

As promised, the Ghost of Christmas Past visits Scrooge first and takes him to see his time as a schoolboy many years earlier. Here it is suggested that his father abandoned young Scrooge at his boarding school, even during Christmas. 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 thanks to the way he was treated: as a child, he was the least of his father's concerns, and this in turn taught him not to feel for fellow humans. Furthermore, his mother died giving birth to Ebenezer, for which his father blames the boy. 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. The untimely death of his sister Fan, the one relative who had a close relationship with him, also injures him greatly enough that he loses any love he had for the world. Scrooge had only his nephew left but didn't care for him one bit.

The visit by The Ghost of Christmas Past also reveals the origin of Scrooge's neurotic hatred of Christmas. Most of the events that affected Scrooge's character occurred during the holiday season. The important revelation from the spirit of Christmas Past is why Scrooge has such a negative view of Christmas.

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. Realising this, Belle calls off the engagement and eventually marries someone else, causing Scrooge to further withdraw from society and relationships.

The book (which was written in 1843) does not state how long ago all this happened, or even how old Scrooge is now. It does seem likely, however, that Scrooge is not nearly as old as he is sometimes assumed. At the time of Jacob Marley's death (seven years before the story takes place), Belle is married to another man and still has several young children. Even if Scrooge was somewhat older than Belle at the time they were betrothed, he was still a young (and poor) man when they met. Because of this, it seems the often elderly portrayals of Scrooge are somewhat wide of the mark.

Scrooge is then visited by The Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows him the happiness of his nephew's middle-class social circle and the impoverished Cratchit family. The latter have a young son (Tiny Tim) who is lame, yet the family still manages to live happily on the pittance Scrooge pays his clerk. When Scrooge asks if Tim will die, the ghost – quick to use Scrooge's past unkind comments to two charitable solicitors against him – suggests "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 shows Scrooge the final consequences of his actions. His solitary life and disdain for those in need will ultimately lead others to find comfort and happiness from his death. No one will mourn his passing and his money and possessions will be stolen by the desperate and corrupt, the very people he condemned in life. His final legacy will be that of a cheap tombstone in an unkept graveyard. Scrooge then weeps over his own grave, begging the ghost for a chance to change his ways 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. "Many laughed to see this alteration in him, but he let them laugh and little heeded them. 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
* Lionel Barrymore on radio throughout the 1930s and 1940s
* John Barrymore on radio, for ailing brother Lionel 1930s
* Reginald Owen in 1938
* Alastair Sim in 1951, and again in 1971
* Albert Finney in 1970
* Marcel Marceau in 1973
* Walter Matthau in "The Stingiest Man in Town", 1978
* Henry Winkler in "An American Christmas Carol", 1979
* George C. Scott in 1984
* Bill Murray in "Scrooged", 1988
* Michael Caine in "The Muppet Christmas Carol", 1992
* Susan Lucci in "Ebbie", 1995
* Cicely Tyson in "Ms. Scrooge", 1997
* Patrick Stewart in 1999
* Vanessa Williams in "A Diva's Christmas Carol", 2001
* Tori Spelling in "A Carol Christmas", 2003
* Animated characters Daffy Duck, Fred Flintstone, Oscar the Grouch, Mr. Magoo, Scrooge McDuck, Yosemite Sam, Mr. Burns, Cosmo G. Spaceley
* Jim Carrey in an upcoming computer animated interpretationFleming, Michael. [http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117968136.html?categoryid=1236&cs=1&query=%22bob+hoskins%22+AND+%22christmas+carol%22 "Jim Carrey set for 'Christmas Carol': Zemeckis directing Dickens adaptation"] , Variety, 2007-07-06. Retrieved on 2007-09-11.]

crooge and the English Language

The name "Scrooge" is used even outside of the UK and the US as a word for a person who is always complaining - not unlike the more recent Victor Meldrew. Interestingly, it is almost always used in that context, and not as a person who changes from bad to good, despite the fact that his unpleasant side is only shown in its entirety within the first chapter, or "stave".

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

The word "Ebenezer" comes from Hebrew and is actually two words pronounced together: Even Haazer. It is usually transliterated as a proper name by dropping the definite article (Ha) from the Hebrew word for "place" (Ezer) and putting it together with the Hebrew word for "stone" (Even) to create: "Ebenezer." The etymological roots of the word, thus defined, should demonstrate that an "Ebenezer" is, literally, a "Stone of Help." The Biblical Scripture reads as follows:

"“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.”" (1 Samuel 7:12-14 NRSV)


*worldcat id|id=lccn-sh89-6283

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