The Scrooge Who Stole Christmas
Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is one of the most well known and best loved stories in the modern world. A Victorian tale of a man finding redemption before it is too late. Ebenezer Scrooge is an old man visited in one night by three specters warning him to amend his ways lest he live the remainder of his surely short time on earth alone, and then be chained to his material desire for his entire afterlife.
But Scrooge, today, has another meaning, someone who hates Christmas. A Scrooge is someone who cannot abide the holidays, festivities of any sort really, or any sort of human fellowship. Scrooge is certainly a miser when we meet him in the story. A stingy old man that cannot see past his profit margins to help or even acknowledge his fellow man. One night he is haunted by the shade of his former business partner. The ghost warns Ebenezer of the futility of a life devoted to material things, showcasing his own chains as proof of what earthly gains truly last with a person through death. Then warns the elderly man in his sleeping frock that he will be haunted by three more ghosts over the next three nights.
Often Ebenezer Scrooge is likened to a biblical hero finding redemption from their sin and following a good and Godly path. Nearly every Biblical hero is someone who finds redemption, at least in the eyes of God. There are few that begin as sensible, or even nice people. But through the process of some tribulation they find redemption from their former lives of evil and follow the path God has laid for them. Some even go so far to shed their past as to be given a new name.
But Scrooge is not quite in this same category. Quite often it is forgotten that Scrooge was for most of his life a good person. He loved what little family he had and cared for several people that were not of blood relation. The ethereally angelic Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge old familiar places like his former school, and the first real job ever had. Each of these places invokes an emotional response in Scrooge that moves from fond remembrance to melancholic remorse over what was lost. Scrooge in these moments is revealed to be a intrinsically good man that has suffered a great deal of loss. This is probably the most important ghost in terms of characterizing the old man as a sympathetic character the audience can rally behind.
Also unlike Biblical heroes such as Paul, formerly Saul, Scrooge is never renamed. He bears the mark of humbug long after the story is over. But why is that? Why is it that Scrooge is remembered always as the mean old miser that wouldn’t allow Cratchit even that extra lump of coal for warmth and not the generous man he becomes in the final scene after his visitations? As I pointed out in an earlier post, the culprit might just be another green monster from popular media. Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch has been a holiday mainstay for much of the 20th century. And somehow the two main characters of each story have been conflated in modern times. Their characterizations are similar, though the Grinch’s true motives for his meanness is never more than his cardiovascular anomaly. Yet at the end of each story both have a miraculous change of heart (one more literal than the other) and find fellowship and joy in the height of seasonal celebrations.