Question: How does the personality of Ebenezer Scrooge develop during the novel “A Christmas Carol”?
In this essay I am going to distinguish the personality changes of Ebenezer Scrooge in the novel, “A Christmas Carol”; who was once a miserly, lonely businessman but became a generous, respected, kind man. I will divide the changes into stages providing evidences shown throughout the story. (From the first meeting with Jacob Marley to the three Christmas spirits) Charles Dickens wrote this novel “A Christmas Carol” under the background of 19th Century England. It was the period just after the Industrial Revolution when lots of people in England were suffering through poverty and poor living conditions. Immiseration in London was serious therefore I suggest Charles Dickens were trying to draw attention to the plight of the poor and to encourage the wealthy to support those who were suffering through this book, “A Christmas Carol”.
The main character, Scrooge, was a wealthy old man who owned his own business; however he was an extremely stingy man. As the name of the business tells the reader, “Scrooge and Marley’s”, we know Marley was a very good friend as well as a partner of Scrooge. “Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name.” Charles Dickens had therefore hinted to readers that this cold hearted man would not even pay to have his partner’s name painted out. “Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand”. The lines from his employees also felt his miserly ways, “could External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge…” In the first few pages, the reader already comprehend the character of Scrooge in their mind. He was such a horrible person who didn’t care about anyone else, “Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal.” Scrooge as is mentioned a lot of times in the book was a penny-pinching person. He didn’t even want to spend a little money to comfort his clerk, Bob. No doubt, other people’s impression was the same as his nephew called him, “dismal and morose”, partly because this old man never celebrated Christmas. I suggest that Charles Dickens wanted to portray Scrooge as an extreme – absolutely selfish and heartless; so that comparing the personality to the end of the novel, it could create a major effect regarding the reaction to the book from the readers. Charles Dickens started the story with an odd simple sentence, “Marley was dead, to begin with.” It is quite an unusual beginning as it seems there is not much direct correlation to the later development of the story. Yet this leads into the first visit of Jacob Marley to Scrooge. We understand this as it mentioned, “There is no doubt whatever about that” Marley is definitely not alive, but then he walks into Scrooge home! Charles Dickens made sure the readers knew Marley was a ghost, something supernatural; cleverly informing us that this section is a critical part of the story, where we can establish the initial changes in Scrooge’s personality. We can argue that Scrooge was disbelieving of what he saw and experienced, “It’s humbug still!” or “I won’t believe it”, even though his incredulous and dismissive to Marley couldn’t cover his fears and shock, “H….”. It was not humbug anymore! He was starting to believe. The word “humbug” is still widely used in England nowadays because of this book “A Christmas Carol”. It means “rubbish” or “a lie”. It was Scrooges catch phrase and consequently, his inability to express us shows that Scrooge is already changing.
When the Ghost of Christmas Past comes to Scrooge, we go back in time and see Scrooge’s childhood, the time when he was once a gentle fellow. Charles Dickens shows us Scrooge’s excitement and happiness when he met his old school friends and his sister (Fan) and his going back home at Christmas Day,”Why was he rejoiced beyond all bounds to see them?”. “Scrooge sat down…and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he had used to be”, because both Scrooge and the reader are shows a time when his personality was very different. This part of the story mentioned the incidents that affected Scrooge before the story and explained why he turned out to be such horrible person. It also reminded Scrooge of his old days, the happy days (when he was the nice kind fellow surrounded with friends) and the move towards gloomy days (abandon himself with his girl friend). He recognized his goodness to people in the past and understands that he can contribute more to the others if he wants. He also felt rather guilty for the things he did recently, “There was a boy singing a Christmas carol at my door last night. I should like to have given…” This indicates he started to realize the feelings of the others apart from himself. Moreover, he revisited the Fezziwig with the Christmas Past. He remembered himself with his old boss Mr. Fezziwigs and his fellow worker Dick and they had a completely different relationship compared to his clerk now. “I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now.” He didn’t even appreciate his clerk with a simple “Merry Christmas.” Further more, he saw his foolishness long ago when he chose money instead of his girlfriend. He noticed it was his acquisitive mind that demolished his only true love in his life, as his girlfriend said, “I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master passion, gain, engrosses you.”, “I do and I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were.” Finally at this point in the story, he wasn’t brave enough to face his own past anymore, “Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer.” He even tried to destroy every piece of his memory by forcing the Christmas Past spirit beneath the fire extinguisher; however, he could still see the light coming out from the bottom of the cap. I suggest Charles Dickens is trying to express that it is impossible to hide your past just as Scrooge can’t hide his real heart forever. After seeing the Christmas Past, Scrooge should have recognized in his internal mind that the things he achieved in these years might not be the things he most wanted.
This idea is illustrated again when the next Christmas spirit visits Scrooge. We can tell by Scrooge’s emotions that he knowing that tiny Tim’s will die in the future that he is changing, “’No, no,’ said Scrooge. ‘Oh no, kind spirit! Say he will be spared.’” He wanted to help and to be part of the family although he doesn’t deserve any respect from them and does not get it, “’the founder of the feast, indeed!’ cried Mrs. Cratchit…I wish I had him here. I’d give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he’d have a good appetite for it.’” He started to feel upset after the comments made by the Christmas Present, which ironically is very similar to what he said to the others before, “If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief”. I suggest Scrooge now truly understood that he was previously such a nasty, mean person to everyone else. Therefore he became conscious of how he treats other people around him, his assistant, his nephew and the boy who sang the carol at his front door. He couldn’t bear the humbling scene of these “visions”. He experienced loneliness and felt left out by his relatives. He sees how they make the best out of Christmas despite them having such a hard time. (For example, he saw the delightful scene when his clerk Bob’s young daughter was united with the family during Christmas, as well as the children smiling when they see a small Christmas pudding which is barely shared by the whole family.) Scrooge also saw the present scenes of the invitation party and he understands the reason he was left out by his relatives was due to his previous refusal to join them. He started to think maybe he should change and make a step towards these people before it s too late. At this point, Charles Dickens suggests that Scrooge personality is changing inside his mind, and that he wanted to be included and cared for again. Besides that, he also realised that his nephew’s remarks on him were correct, “His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it. He doesn’t make himself comfortable with it.”
The visit of the Ghost of Christmas Present made Scrooge understand that time is precious; therefore he decided he should contribute as much as he can to his remaining life. He is prepare to make a change, “’Ghost of the Future!’ he exclaimed, ‘I fear you more than my specter I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear your company, and do it with a thankful heart.” and the following spirit – Christmas Future showed what would happen if he chose to be the same for the rest of his life. He found out as he expected, that nobody really bothered with his death, the taste was awful but he agreed he did deserved it, “’It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,’ said the stranger; ‘for, upon my life, I don’t know of anybody to go to it.” Certainly, Scrooge would never want to rest in the cold gravestones and furthermore, die without any memories left in the world and this is the real catalyst for his reform, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year…on this stone.” Charles Dickens illustrates the effect that terrifying Scrooge to death has – the death of tiny Tim as well as himself. This warning effect is cleverly connected to the beginning of the story with Marley’s words. (When Marley’s explain to Scrooge what happened to him after his death in reality.) Scrooge now believed everything and changed completely at this final visit. The word “Humbug” is no longer useful to him,”I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” He was extremely happy that he had another chance to enjoy Christmas and give a hand to those poorer than himself. At this point, he developed into a munificent, loving old man. He could laugh truthfully out of his heart after so many years of loneliness. He is thankful to be able to save Tiny Tim as well as helping the Cratchits family, “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family……Bob, make up the fires and buy another coal-scuttle”. This again shows Scrooge’s personality is completely changed. He is now internally wealthy and the stingy businessman is no longer existed.
As a conclusion, Scrooge personality changes were developed step by step throughout the story. The first met of Scrooge with Jacob Marley was the introduction of A Christmas Carol. Then followed by the spirit, Christmas Past, signify that Scrooge wasn’t really that cold hearted. After that the second spirit, Christmas Present came and encouraged him to reform and reunion with the others. Finally the Christmas Yet hinted what would happen to him if he decided to remain the same. Fortunately in the end Scrooge is imbued with the Christmas spirits, he learned the true meaning of Christmas, rejoined his relatives and abandoned his real enemy – loneliness. Charles Dickens wrote a famous paragraph as the ending for the story of Scrooge, “He became as good as a friend, as good as a master, and as good a man as the good old City knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world.”