Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most famous characters created by Charles Dickens and arguably one of the most famous in English literature. The protagonist of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is a cold-hearted and mean-spirited accountant. His business partner, the equally mean Jacob Marley, died seven years previous and he lives alone, having never married. Through a visit one Christmas Eve by the ghost of Marley and three subsequent spirits, Scrooge is awakened to his meanness and the impact it has on others.
- The term Scrooge has entered the English Language to represent a mean person, known as a literary neologism. Neologisms are relatively recent terms, words, or phrases in the process of entering common use. Other examples of Dickens’s neologisms include butterfingers (to mean a clumsy person) and doormat (a metaphor for taking advantage of a person).
- In a poll to find the most popular Charles Dickens character, Ebenezer Scrooge was revealed to be the best-loved, beating other well-known characters from the writer including Pip (Great Expectations), Oliver (Oliver Twist), and Sydney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities). The survey, by Penguin Books, was commissioned in 2012 to mark 200th anniversary of the author’s birth.
- In screen adaptations of A Christmas Carol, the character of Ebenezer Scrooge has been played by actors that include Alastair Sim (1951 film), Albert Finney (1970 musical film), Michael Hordern (1977 TV Movie), George C. Scott (1984 TV Movie), Michael Caine (1992 musical fantasy film), Patrick Stewart (1999 TV Movie) and Guy Pearce (2019 TV Mini-Series). Michael Hordern had previously appeared alongside Alastair Sim in the 1951 film (titled Scrooge), this time playing the character of Jacob Marley.
The abused, underpaid clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit is a kind but very poor man with a large family and a very sick son, Tim. He works for Scrooge, copying letters in a cold dismal room, so small it is described as a sort of tank. Bring wintertime, he is forced to try and stay warm with thick clothes and heat himself by the flame of a candle. He wears tattered clothes as he cannot afford a coat. Cratchit is treated poorly by Scrooge and given a weekly salary that is insufficient to provide his family with a proper Christmas dinner. Despite these circumstances, Bob Cratchit represents the opposite qualities of Scrooge including kindness, generosity and the love of his family members.
In life, Jacob Marley was the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. Together, as the firm of Scrooge and Marley, they became successful yet hard-hearted bankers, with seats on the London Stock Exchange. Seven years to the day of his death, on a Christmas Eve, Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge. Bound in chains and tormented, the ghost is doomed to wander the earth forever as punishment for his greed and selfishness when he was alive. Marley visits Scrooge to offer him redemption from his own fate, in the hope of changing his mean ways. He tells Scrooge that three spirits will visit that night.
Ghost of Christmas Past.
The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first of the three spirits to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge. This angelic spirit shows Scrooge scenes from his past that occurred on or around Christmas, in order to demonstrate to him the necessity of changing his ways, as well as to show the reader how Scrooge came to be a bitter, cold-hearted miser. This includes his childhood and school days, his apprenticeship with the jovial Fezziwig, and his engagement with Belle.
Ghost of Christmas Present.
The Ghost of Christmas Present is the second of the three spirits that haunt the miser Ebenezer Scrooge, in order to prompt him to repent. He appears to Scrooge as a jolly giant with dark brown curls, wearing a fur-lined green robe and on his head a holly wreath set with shining icicles. He carries a large torch, made to resemble a cornucopia, and appears accompanied by a great feast, and a scabbard with no sword in it, a representation of peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. The spirit transports Scrooge around the city, showing him scenes of festivity and also deprivation that is happening as they watch, sprinkling a little warmth from his torch as he travels. Amongst the visits are Scrooge’s nephew, and the family of his impoverished clerk, Bob Cratchit and his disabled son Tiny Tim. The spirit finally reveals to Scrooge two emaciated children, subhuman in appearance and loathsome to behold, clinging to his robes, and naming the boy as Ignorance and the girl as Want. The spirit warns Scrooge, ‘Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom unless the writing be erased.‘ The spirit once again quotes Scrooge, who asks if the grotesque children have ‘no refuge, no resource,‘ and the spirit retorts with more of Scrooge’s unkind words: ‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?‘.
Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (often referred to as The Ghost Of Christmas Future) is a darker phantom than the other two ghosts and the spirit that Scrooge finds the most fearsome. It appears to him as a figure entirely muffled in a black hooded cloak, except for a single hand with which it points. Although the character never speaks in the story, Scrooge understands it, usually through assumptions from his previous experiences and rhetorical questions. It looks the way it does because it represents what the future holds for Scrooge if he does not change his ways. The Ghost shows Scrooge visions including one of the Cratchit household without Tiny Tim inside, and of Scrooge’s death, his body picked upon by thieves who show joy at his passing. The visions prove so horrific to Scrooge that he begs the ghost for them to stop.
Timothy Cratchit, nicknamed Tiny Tim, is the youngest son of Bob Cratchit, the underpaid clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge. Tim is disabled and requires the use of a crutch to walk. The Cratchit family are unable to pay for proper care for him on Bob’s poor salary. When visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge sees that Tiny Tim has died. Scrooge asks if the desperately ill Tim will die. The Ghost first states that ‘If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die,’ then – quick to use Scrooge’s past unkind comments toward two charitable solicitors against him – suggests he ‘had better do it, and decrease the surplus population‘. This, and several other visions, lead Scrooge to reform his ways.
Mr. Fezziwig is a tradesman to whom Ebenezer Scrooge was apprenticed as a young man. As a character he is the very antithesis of the person that Scrooge becomes. He is jovial and care-free and although he is a business-man he still is generous with his time and money. This is best illustrated by the Christmas ball we see Fezziwig has put on for others, in which Scrooge is transported to by the Ghost of Christmas Past, showing him how many people can be made happy by his actions. Fezziwig represents a set of communal values and a way of life which was being swept away in the economic turmoil of the early nineteenth century.
Fred is the nephew of Ebenezer Scrooge, the son of his beloved but now dead little sister, Fran. He is Scrooge’s only living relative and also the only person who attempts to pull him out of the miserable isolated world he lives in. Fred is the antithesis of Scrooge in appearance and spirit. He visits his uncle on Christmas Eve and invites him to a family dinner. Scrooge mocks Fred’s celebration of Christmas: “What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough”, says Scrooge to his nephew. To which Scrooge’s nephew replies: “What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough”..A jovial character, Fred refuses to let Scrooge’s miserly attitude dampen his sprits despite his uncle’s rebuttals.
Belle is a minor character in the novella A Christmas Carol, only appearing in the visions that are shown to Ebenezer Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Stave 2). Scrooge was engaged to be married to Belle in his youth, but when his pursuit of money consumed him, Belle ended the relationship. Without Scrooge, Belle goes on to become a happily married woman with a number of children. In Stave 2 we witness the scene of Belle breaking up with Scrooge, and also of Belle as a married woman in a cozy house with children happily playing.
Fred’s wife, and therefore the niece of Ebenezer Scrooge, is described as a ‘exceedingly pretty‘ woman. She does not share her jovial husbands pity towards Scrooge, saying she has ‘no patience with him‘.
The Portly Gentlemen.
The Portly Gentlemen are two benefactors that appear in Stave 1 of A Christmas Carol. They visit Ebenezer Scrooge in his counting-house on Christmas Eve, collecting contributions for the poor and destitute at Christmas time. The gentleman are not given names, and simply referred to as portly, a kinder term for being overweight. This contrasts to a group of businessmen that appear in Stave 4 who are also overweight but which are described in more unkindly words.
The group of businessmen appear in Stave 4 of A Christmas Carol in a scene set in the future shown to Ebenezer Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The men knew Scrooge during his lifetime, and knowing his mean ways they joke about the lack of people likely to be at his funeral. At the time Scrooge, who recognises the men, doesn’t understand who they are talking about. Dickens portrays the businessmen as cold-hearted and mean as Scrooge, and also with unkindly features. One is described as a great fat man with a monstrous chin whilst another as a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.