Ebenezer Scrooge, that evergreen, miserly, but popular character, out of the equally evergreen classic, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Over the years, A Christmas Carol has been far and away my favourite Christmas programme, on both television and on the stage.
In his 1843 novel, Charles Dickens created this unbelievably tight fisted, excessively greedy and extremely cold-hearted man, who absolutely despised Christmas, despised the poor and hated anything that lightened their load or indeed anything that brought them happiness however small.
Right: Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghost of Jacob Marley
He is described thus by Dickens: “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and he spoke out thinly in his grating voice…”
His name has now become synonymous within the English Language for misanthropy and miserliness and the story of his hauntings by the three Spirits of Christmas, has over the years become so intricately intertwined with the Christmas Season, that his “Bah, humbug!” of yesteryear can indeed and quite rightly be used in the modern era, to express the utter disgust and contempt, at the way the well established Christmas traditions have degenerated into what we have now got left to celebrate.
Charles Dickens goes on to describe Ebenezer Scrooge as …a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” who treats his clerk, Bob Cratchit, very shabbily.
Having already refused his nephew’s invitation to spend Christmas Day with him and his wife, he roundly refuses the pleas of two charitable men who ask him if he would be willing to help the poor at Christmas.
When he tells the two men that he already pays taxes for the poor which help to maintain the workhouses and the treadmills, they retort that many of the poor would rather die than go to the government funded workhouses paid for by Scrooge’s taxes.
To that remark Scrooge who has nothing but disgust for the poor and thinks that the world would be better off without them, replies “if they would rather die, then let them do so and decrease the world’s surplus population.”
He begrudges the one act of kindness he shows to his clerk, Bob Cratchit, when he gives him Christmas Day off with pay, so that he can spend the day with his family. He sees that practice in the same way as he sees having his pocket picked.
As Scrooge prepared for bed that same Christmas Eve, all alone, as he fully intended to be, he received a visitation from his deceased former business partner, Jacob Marley, who had died on the same day, Christmas Eve, 7 years earlier.
Marley had spent his entire life just as Ebenezer Scrooge was doing right then, fully exploiting the poor, resulting in him being damned for all eternity to walk the Earth, bound in the unbearable weight of the chains, which had been forged in the fiery furnace of his own greed.
It was a hellish future that awaited Scrooge himself also, if he were not to mend his ways.
It was a fate that Marley had been sent to warn Scrooge was his, but that he would however, have one final chance of escaping with the visitation of three spirits. These were the spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come.
Bang on time as Marley had promised, the visitation of the Ghost of Christmas Past materialized and took Scrooge back to his unhappy years, spent abandoned by his father at boarding school, even during the Christmas Holidays.
It is suggested here by Charles Dickens, that it was during this time in his formative years, that the young Ebenezer Scrooge, learned how to distance himself from his fellow human beings, even to the point of his intense dislike of anything that would normally bring a touch of happiness into a person’s life.
He was then transported by the ghost to his first ventures into business, after he had left that hateful school episode of his life and how his intial success began to grow and grow, until it finally became an obsession with him to make money at all costs.
This obsession of his to make money together with his workaholic lifestyle, eventually left his fiancee, Belle, no other alternative but to leave him. This only cut even deeper into his already cold and embittered heart, hardening it even further.
Whatever spark of love Ebenezer Scrooge may have had remaining in him for the world, was finally extinguished once and for all it seems, when the one person in the world who had ever shown him any kind of love and affection died.
The death of his younger sister Fan, the only person in the world and certainly the only relative, who had a close relationship with him, hurt him so much, that whatever love he may have had left in him, was lost forever.
This was probably the reason why Scrooge did not particularly care for his nephew, or perhaps why he probably cared even less, whether any misfortune overtook the boy.
It is more than probable that he blamed the infant for the premature death of his sister following childbirth.
The Ghost of Christmas Past also reminded Scrooge of his former employer, by taking him back in time to when he served his apprenticeship to the kind and generous Mr. Fezziwig. It was Mr. Fezziwig from whom Scrooge eventually bought out of business.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
Precisely at the allotted time, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, who proceeds to show him the happiness enjoyed by Scrooges’ nephew, compared to the impoverished, but nevertheless happy, lifestyle of his poorly paid employee, Bob Cratchit and the Cratchit family.
The youngest member of the Cratchit family, Tiny Tim, is crippled, yet despite this setback, they all still manage to live quite happily, knowing that they do not have the means to provide the proper medical attention needed for Tiny Tim, with the pittance that Scrooge pays his downtrodden clerk.
Was there a sense of some latent compassion, hidden deep within the recesses of that solid heart of stone, when Scrooge, upon being shown the pitiable condition of the poor boy, asked the Ghost of Christmas Present if Tiny Tim will die.
Scrooge is left in no doubt that this indeed would be the case, but is reminded of his callous remarks made to the two charitable men who had been collecting for the poor, when the ghost repeats the words used by Scrooge in his reply to the duo “he had better do it now, and decrease the surplus population”.
Before the Ghost of Christmas Present leaves Scrooge, he draws back his robe, to show Scrooge two small children, more animal in appearance than human, both of them vicious and terrifying. They were a warning to Scrooge of the twin evils of Ignorance and Want.
The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come
The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come reveals to Scrooge the final outcome of his actions one year later.
The whole Cratchit family were devastated by the death of their beloved Tiny Tim. He was being mourned by family, friends and relatives, both far and wide.
Compared to Tiny Tim, however, no one had bothered to mourn his own death, the aftermath of which the ghost had also shown him.
His miserly, solitary existence, his utter contempt for those in want and desperately in need, had only brought comfort and happiness to those who had known him.
Right Scrooge with Bob Cratchit
He was shown how his money and possessions had been appropriated and stolen, by the deperate, the corrupt, the thieves, the rogues the vagabonds and the very same people who he had condemned in life.
What he had been shown by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was his final legacy, a cheap gravestone in an overgrown and uncared for graveyard.
Scrooge had wept uncontrollably over his own grave, begging for a chance to change his ways and in the process, to avoid the same fate of his late partner, Jacob Marley.
He woke up all of a sudden to discover it was Christmas Morning. He had realised with barely uncontrollable joy, that he had been given another chance and an opportunity to repent of his sins and start anew.
Ebenezer Scrooge did repent and immediately began to reform his ways.
He became a model citizen, a supreme example of generosity and kindness towards his clerk, Bob Cratchit and the whole Cratchit family, his nephew, his neighbours and anyone who required help. No one in need was ever again turned away.
Tiny Tim did not die, Ebenezer Scrooge saw to that.
We will now finish with the famous words of Charles Dickens,
“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.”
A Christmas Carol or Scrooge, by Charles Dickens, is a must see Christmas Special on anyone’s Christmas list. It is a well loved show for all the family to see.