Background.

A Christmas Carol.
  • I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?‘ is a quotation from A Christmas Carol (Stave 1).
  • A Christmas Carol is a novella, or short story, written by Charles Dickens and first published in the Christmas of 1843. The allegorical tale tells the story of the transformation of the mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge through the visits of the spirit of his former business partner and three ghosts over the course of a Christmas Eve night. It remains a much-loved traditional Christmas tale.

Context.

Quotation said by FredScrooge’s nephew.

Fred visits his uncle on Christmas Eve and invites him to a family dinner. Scrooge replies harshly, saying he wants to be alone. Fred, a jovial character in the story, is determined to will stay cheerful, despite his uncle’s bitterness during an exchange of words.


Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.
Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge (left), here being visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, bound by the chains he forged in life.

Source.

Taken from the following passage of Stave 1 (Marley’s Ghost) of A Christmas Carol:

“Good afternoon,” said Scrooge.

I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?

“Good afternoon,” said Scrooge.

“I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party. But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!”

“Good afternoon!” said Scrooge.

“And A Happy New Year!”

“Good afternoon!” said Scrooge.

His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding. He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greetings of the season on the clerk, who, cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge; for he returned them cordially.

Characters.

Fred.

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.

Ebenezer Scrooge.

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 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.

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I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?