The Comprehensibility of Scrooge in Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one of the most classic stories that has been embraced by Western culture. There is a certain timelessness to the entire story, in that it demonstrates the powerful transformation of an incredibly stilted and unlikeable character to that of someone who is giving, kind and generous. The popularity and timelessness of this play is representative of how deeply human being want to believe in the possibility of change, even radical change, and that it's not too late to change one's life.

However, the timelessness and popularity of this tale also reveals something else about human nature: there's a tendency such as an overwhelming whiff and desire for human beings to believe that transformation can be overnight and immediate. The reality is that most transformation and change takes years of hard work. However, change as it is presented in this play is a manifestation of the human desire to experience quick and instantaneous transformation, even with someone's character which has formed over a period of decades.

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In regards to the notion that "Ebenezer Scrooge is difficult to like, but easy to understand" this is generally true if an individual has had a fair amount of life experience. This paper will demonstrate that Ebenezer Scrooge is someone who has a fatal flaw, but the flaws which are demonstrated in this play, aren't as unique as some might view them. In many respects, Scrooge is someone who represents a large portion of the everyman and that those who don't understand him, fail to reach this level of comprehension because they don't want to understand him, but rather want to think of themselves as better than him or above him. 

Scrooge represents sheer lack in his character and being. This is a more common problem of the human condition than people care to admit. In many cases in life, people cover up these instances of sheer lack with things like drugs, alcohol, gambling or other substances. In this case, there's a need to cover up the lack with money and thus, the love of money. Dickens demonstrates clearly with all described interactions with Belle how Scrooge simply isn't capable of engaging in love or in intimate human relationships in a healthy and beneficial manner: there's an inability to be intimate with others that is founded in lack. Belle described the changes that greed and the love of money have caused in Scrooge: "'In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us," said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; 'tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!'" (Dickens, 36). 

This excerpt demonstrates how Scrooge's first love is aware that his heart has changed; Belle is illuminating how their love and romance would never have even begun at this stage because of Scrooge's strong preoccupation with money. Belle is demonstrating how money is such a tremendously strong priority for Scrooge, it is eclipsing all else in a pronounced fashion even her. Belle continues by saying, "You may -- the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will -- have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen" (Dickens 37). What's so fascinating and remarkable about this idea is that Belle correctly states that Scrooge has chosen greed and has chosen the love of money. This is accurate; the lack inside of him prevents him from being able to truly connect to Belle and to fundamentally choose her over money. When the spirit shows him this interaction, Scrooge knows this is true and knows he made a big mistake, as the entire interaction is difficult and repulsive for him to even watch. If Scrooge had truly believed that he was acting out of honesty and a forthrightness of his beliefs, then there would have been a more intensive sense of "well I did the right thing at the time." But as his reactions demonstrate, the interaction from the past is too painful for him to watch.

Scrooge's interactions with his nephew demonstrate the lack and the narrowness inside of him and his inability to connect with other people. Scrooge's nephew invites him to dine with him and his wife on Christmas day, to which Scrooge responds by pounding his fist on the table. Consider the following dialogue:

'Why did you get married?' said Scrooge.

'Because I fell in love.'

'Because you fell in love!' growled Scrooge, as if that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas. 'Good afternoon!'

'Nay, uncle, but you never came to see me before that happened. Why give it as a reason for not coming now?'
'Good afternoon,' said Scrooge" (Dickens, 9).

Scrooge's reactions demonstrate the coldness in his heart; he is a broken man. People who find him difficult to understand are simply those who refuse to understand him. Scrooge is resisting love, plan and simple. Those who say that he's chosen money over traditional love are correct. Rather, he's chosen the love of money. In part, this allows him to stay safe and secure as the love of money is less risky and can prevent him from having to extend any real human emotion. 
One of the final pieces of evidence that demonstrate the commonality that Scrooge has with other human beings, thus making him easy to understand, is the way he interacts with Marley's ghost. There's very little warmth and very little conviviality. The two were former partners and represent a friendship which has fizzled beyond recognition. The two behave like strangers. The only warmth really is the visitation of Marley and the kindness of the warning in isolation that Scrooge would be visited by several ghosts. The alienation palpable and present in this friendship is extremely understandable to the reader. Many readers have experienced friendships which were forever altered as a result of changes made by one or more persons. The chill between Marley and Scrooge is incredibly easy to understand. 

In conclusion, those who argue that Scrooge is both unlikeable and hard to understand, resist comprehension. These people want to see themselves as better than him, when in reality they're not. Scrooge represents a specimen of human nature; a human being who is suffering from profound lack and difficulty and who needs to be able to rectify these issues within himself when he feels like it; in this case the spirits help him to do it. Scrooge and his love of money are no different from an alcoholic who loves alcohol or a gambler who loves gambling. 


Dickens, Charles (2010). A Christmas Carol. London: Evans Brothers

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