Known by most as the villain/hero (over time, of course) of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s name has become a proverbial part of the English language (I.e., you’re being a grouchy Scrooge today). He also may strike most as a very simple character, and I’m willing to concede that. But he represent quite a few complex ones.
Quick backstory for you (heathen) who don’t know about Scrooge: his mother died in childbirth and his dad seemed to blame him for it, sending him to a forgotten boarding school when he was just a lad. After a long period of waiting, Ebenezer’s sister persuaded their rotten father to free Scrooge from the school, only to force him into an accounting job for a certain Mr. Fezziwig.
Fezziwig is a jolly old man who throws a bash for his family, employees, and close friends every Christmas. It is around this time that Scrooge becomes acquainted with Belle, and she becomes his lover. In time, however, their relationship is terminated when Belle asserts that Scrooge loves money more than he does her. This is true, for Scrooge was climbing up the ranks of social status, always scheming for a way to get more money.
In Scrooge’s quest for greater wealth, he eventually leaves Fezziwig and joins another company, this time becoming friends with Jacob Marley, another industrious and slightly greedy young man. It is at this time that Fan, Ebenezer’s sister, dies in childbirth while bringing young Fred into the world–Ebenezer’s nephew.
From Scrooge’s emotional losses, habitual greed, and lack of love, he devolved into a miserly old man who only cared about money and work. He ends up becoming rather cruel, from rudely refusing to give any money to the poor and instead suggesting that they go to the workhouse to not allowing his poorly-paid clerk to fuel the fire.
At the time that the book opens (that was all backstory, mind you), Marley has died and Scrooge is alone. But his miserly habits are as uncharitable as ever, and the entire town eyes him with Infamy. The scene opens right before Christmas, and Scrooge begins to see visions of Marley in odd places, which he dismisses as stomach ailments.
Scrooge is frightened out of his wits when the ghost of seven-years-dead Marley walks in the door and demands that Scrooge repent of his miserly ways, warning that he might suffer eternal imprisonment in the afterlife. The specter also warns of three ghosts that will visit Scrooge, and then abruptly leaves.
Many people are familiar with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, so I won’t split this up into three paragraphs: the three ghosts visit Scrooge, each in turn, and show him visions of past, present and future. Scrooge’s backstory is revealed and Scrooge sees that he’s going to die if he doesn’t repent, so he sees the error of his ways and wakes up on Christmas morning, happy as a schoolboy and intent on righting all the wrong he had done.
You probably knew (most of) that, but I was just repeating it for the benefit of the (again, heathen) readers. So what is it about Scrooge’s character that makes him such a good one?
First of all, his character juxtaposes miserliness with evil. Scrooge isn’t evil like a mass murderer or a thief. He’s just stingy and cheap. Why is he portrayed as someone who is evil? Because he is. You see, if all you see when you look at Scrooge is a common miser, you’ve not begun to grasp the essence of the problem.
Scrooge can only think about himself. While he’s not morally obligated to give to charity, he actually hates charity. And that is far worse. It’s not that he loves his money, it’s that he hates the morally kind act of charity. He hates other people. He’s only kept pacified by his money; given certain circumstances, there’s no telling the monster he would become. Besides, he takes every chance of his to slight and be cruel to all all those who he can. Scrooge is inhuman. That’s what makes him evil.
This business of seeing evil where many others do not is softy ground to tread on. However, if you can pull it off, you’ve incorporated a truly masterful idea into your work. The chances that my reader would be able to pull it off is minimal, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that it’s impossible…or that it should keep you from reaching for it.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!