Ebenezer Scrooge

A squeezing, tugging, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner.

c. 1783




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The protagonist of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol is Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas at the start of the book. The story of his redemption by three ghosts (the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) has become synonymous with the Christmas season in the English-speaking world.

“The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.,” Dickens writes early in the novel. The three ghosts show Scrooge the folly of his ways near the end of the novella, and he becomes a better, more giving man.

Scrooge’s surname has become a byword for stinginess and misanthropy, and his catchphrase, “Bah! Humbug!” is frequently used to indicate displeasure with many modern Christmas traditions.

Scrooge is described by Charles Dickens as “a squeezing, tugging, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner.” He operates from a Cornhill warehouse and is well-known among Royal Exchange merchants as a man of good credit. Despite his substantial personal riches, he underpays his clerk Bob Cratchit and ruthlessly pursues his debtors while living cheaply and joylessly in the chambers of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Most of all, he despises Christmas since it is associated with excessive spending. When two men approach him on Christmas Eve and ask for a charitable donation, he sneers that the poor should utilize the treadmill or workhouses, or perhaps die to reduce the surplus population. He also declines his nephew Fred’s invitation to Christmas dinner and calls him a fool for enjoying the holiday.

That night, Scrooge is visited by the spirit of Marley, who is destined to walk the world forever bound in chains as punishment for his greed and inhumanity in life. Marley tells Scrooge that three ghosts will visit him in the afterlife in the hopes that he will change his ways; if he does not, Marley warns, Scrooge will wear much harsher shackles than his in the afterlife.

The Ghost of Christmas Past offers Scrooge flashbacks to his childhood. These visions indicate that Scrooge’s unloving father enrolled him in a boarding school, where he remained alone for the Christmas season while his classmates returned home to their families. Scrooge’s one happy childhood memory was when his adored sister Fan arrived to take him home one Christmas. She died shortly after giving birth to Fred. Scrooge then worked as an apprentice in the warehouse of Mr. Fezziwig, a merry and benevolent master. He fell in love with a young woman named Belle and proposed marriage, but his love for Belle was eventually overshadowed by his love for money. Belle realized this and, heartbroken by his avarice, abandoned him one Christmas, eventually marrying another guy. Scrooge now reacts to these recollections with a mix of nostalgia and terrible remorse.

The Ghost of Christmas Present follows. It demonstrates to Scrooge that his greed and selfishness have harmed others, particularly Cratchit, who cannot afford to offer medical treatment to his critically ill son Tiny Tim due to Scrooge’s miserliness. The Spirit tells a terrified Scrooge that Tiny Tim would die within a year, and he retaliates Scrooge’s own callous remarks about the poor and impoverished.

Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come reveals Scrooge the consequences of his greed and selfishness: a lonely death, unpaid staff stealing his possessions, debtors relieved at his death, and the Cratchit family saddened by the loss of Tiny Tim.

Scrooge inquires of the spirit whether this future can still be altered, but the spirit does not respond. Scrooge begs the spirit for another opportunity, pledging to reform his ways — and awakens on Christmas Day in his bed. Scrooge is overjoyed and vows to be more giving and compassionate; he accepts his nephew’s invitation to Christmas dinner, provides for Cratchit and his family, and contributes to the charity fund.

In the end, he is renowned as the epitome of the Christmas spirit and Tiny Tim’s “second father.”