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Who is Ebenezer Scrooge?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Ebenezer Scrooge is the miserly main character of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol first published in 1843. He is probably one of the most well known misers in literary history, and has become, over time, a symbol for transformation of the spirit.

Scrooge’s profession in business is a bit unclear. Some people believe he is a usurer, while others think he is a banker or property owner of sorts. At the beginning of the novel, we find him dwelling on the memory of his late partner Jacob Marley. It is clear that Scrooge clearly hates Christmas with great passion, and any sort of jolliness or merriment associated with Christmas spirit.

Scrooge’s nephew pays him a visit in the first section of the novel, and one soon sees that the miser is also contemptuous of love, and quite deliberately mean to all who might celebrate Christmas. Scrooge is also portrayed as a terrible and exacting employer who pays his clerk Bob Cratchitt very little, and who does not even allow the clerk much access to warmth from a fire.

As the short novel progresses, Dickens uses the invention of Christmas “Ghosts” or “Spirits” to elucidate on Scrooge’s past and his future should he continue in his evil ways. One Spirit shows him a past that reminds him of his loneliness as a child, his abiding love for his sister, the kindness of his first employer and then the break-up of his relationship to a young woman.

These visions all begin to work on the miser mightily. In fact he sheds tears when seeing himself alone and abandoned in a school. His next vision into Christmas Present helps Scrooge grasp the importance of the holiday. Most essential is his visit to his clerk’s home, where we meet the clerk’s son Tiny Tim. The Spirit of Christmas Present’s prediction that Tiny Tim will die without good food and medical care is clearly a converting moment for him.

He willingly embraces the Spirit showing his future, but is terrified by his fate, of dying alone and the subject of jokes by old business associates. Scrooge is given the chance to change and responds accordingly, keeping “Christmas in his heart” ever afterward.

The transformation of Scrooge is interesting to witness. As well, though his character is at first unlikable, he quickly becomes both humorous and likeable. Dickens' method of delving in the character’s past is an interesting psychological statement that holds consistent today. Many psychologists believe that poor behavior is a reflection of pain felt deep in childhood. Such is the case with Scrooge.

When Scrooge learns to pity himself, he can become empathetic to others. It is easy for him to suddenly relate to Tiny Tim, who earlier he would have dismissed as one of the “surplus population.” Scrooge’s complete reversal is sentimental but believable because Dickens has been sure to scribe the emotional path he takes to reform. Though sentimental, the change of heart is lovely to witness, and keeps people drawn to the popular book, and its numerous adaptations into plays and films.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon309789 — On Dec 18, 2012

What does he like, what's his business, and what are his goals at the beginning, middle, and end?

By anon307005 — On Dec 03, 2012

I was contracted this year to play the third ghost in a production of the story. Standing in on the rest of the story, I enjoy watching and hearing it play out. Marley is the favorite scene, but others are very touching. As the third ghost, I'm in a black outfit with stilts that make me stand seven feet tall. I get quite the view of the people and performance. The only trouble is running back to change outfits at a high pace through the entire production. It is interesting though and we have some fascinating performers. I have fun during the entire show.

By anon143428 — On Jan 16, 2011

I liked reading this and as I have to go through the character of Scrooge because it is my school novel.

By suntan12 — On Dec 17, 2010

Mutsy-I think that the Scrooge story reminds us to take a look at how we live our lives. It makes us think at how satisfied we are with our life and what would people say about us at our death.

It shows that the value of having a lot of material things really does not matter in death. The only thing that actually matters is the difference that you made in other people’s lives.

Some people go through life and never get this message and their death becomes as uneventful as their lives.

Scrooge realized this and wanted to desperately change course and at the end he does get a chance to redeem himself.

Although this is a Christmas story its theme is universal and can relate to anyone in any religion. Having the Christmas spirit is more about showing kindness to others especially those that are suffering or are in need.

People tend to be more generous during the Christmas holidays but it is really a principle that we should adhere to year round.

The Scrooge Albert Finney film along with the Disney animated classic staring Jim Carrey are just a few of the many adaptations of this film. The Scrooge DVD is worth renting. If you can get a copy of the Finney Scrooge version it would be best.

By mutsy — On Dec 15, 2010

Sunny27-The Scrooge movie by Disney is a good adaptation of the classic story. It is a great story with a wonderful message.

It really reminds the viewer that you reap what you sow in life. The way you treat people and the regard you have for them will reflect how you are received at the time of your death.

There are people in the world that are like Scrooge and really believe that the pursuit to money is all that matters and establishing personal relationships with people and reaching out to them does not.

In fact, in order to have a fulfilling life you really have to have quality relationships because in the end it is the quality of these relationships that will determine the quality of your life especially at the end.

The universal message of the Scrooge film really shows the contrast of Scrooge and Marley. Marley, Scrooge’s business partner that dies is a generous man and the story shows how people loved him. By contrast Scrooge was hated because of his cruelty and selfishness.

By Sunny27 — On Dec 15, 2010

The Scrooge story is a positive story of hope. The Charles Dickens Scrooge classic really demonstrates how a lonely old miser like Scrooge can see the error in his ways.

The story unfolds with a visit from the ghost of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future. It is a powerful story that allows the character a glimpse of his past beginning with his childhood, followed by his current circumstances.

It also allows the character and the reader to experience what his life would be like in the future after his death. The poor regard that people had for him matched the poor regard Scrooge had for man kind in general.

It depicts a few men talking about his funeral in such a belittled manner. One of the men even says that he would go to the funeral for the free food.

The ghost of Christmas future is probably the scariest of all the ghosts in the Scrooge story because it foretells Scrooge’s fate. He repeatedly asks the ghost if he has hope to change his future circumstances and the reader really sees the transformation in the character when he realizes all of the opportunities that he had to be kind and chose to be hateful instead.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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