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A CHRISTMAS CAROL: In Defense of Ebenezer Scrooge

A Christmas Carol open book

Charles Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol, the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy tyrant oppressing his long-suffering clerk, unworthy of his fair maiden’s affections, detested by debtors he holds under his thumb, and the bane of Christmas revelers the world over. 

…or is he? 

In the 1936 opus The Crack Up, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that The Test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. Now, I’ll resist the strong temptation to relate this to our present political environment, in which hate for anyone whose ideas do not conform to one’s own has become the norm rather than the exception. See? As I said, I’ll resist the temptation to say that. NOT!!! 

I will now present the other side of the story. The one which demonstrates why Ebenezer Scrooge is actually the hero of the story, and the ever-suffering victim of a town full of greedy parasites and hypocrites conspiring to steal his hard-earned money to satisfy their own desires and alleviate the obligations to which they willingly contracted. 

I mean, really. When you think about it, it brings a tear to your eye and makes you want to weep for the guy. One could actually make a case that this story marks one of the earliest explorations into the realities of elder abuse. 

Ebenezer’s Childhood

But, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Who is Ebenezer Scrooge? 

Ebenezer Scrooge is a neglected child, kicked out of his home as a small boy by a father who hates him, despises his very existence because he irrationally blames him for the death of his wife during childbirth. How cruel! Yet, if that weren’t enough, that’s not the worst thing his emotionally absent father did to him. As clear evidence of his hate for the boy, his abuse knows no bounds, as he named the boy Ebenezer before unceremoniously ousting him from the family home before the age of 10. Obviously young Ebie has some serious abandonment issues to face. I mean, look what happened to The Boy Named Sue? 

Scrooge Falls In Love

Yet, despite this, he manages to rise above the fully understandable mistrust he might feel for the world, and opens himself to the love of the young daughter of his financially successful boss and mentor. A girl who has become accustomed to financial security and a taste for the finer things in life. This is a girl who- despite her protests to the contrary- is not going to be happy living a life of frugality and a paycheck-to-paycheck existence. 

So, knowing this, a now not-as-young Ebie tries to establish a living wage before jumping blindly into marriage without the means to support his bride to be. And instead of supporting him in this, she jumps right to You don’t love me anymore! She even breaks up with him on Christmas Eve of all things! And this is supposed to make him love Christmas? Right! 

Then what does she do, as Scrooge discovers thanks to the Ghost of Christmas Present? She ends up marrying someone else who is already established in an upper-middle-class income! So, obviously, she didn’t just run right to the next impoverished entrepreneur yet to make his way in the world. Looks like Ebie was right when he said There is nothing the world is so hard on as poverty, and nothing the world condemns with such severity as the pursuit of wealth. 

By the way, does anyone else notice that, for some inexplicable reason, Ebenezer has become an old man, while his former intended is still at most a middle-aged woman, with young kids? Strange. 

Scrooge: Benevolent Businessman

But, back on track. Who is Ebenezer Scrooge surrounded by, and what is his business? He is a hard-working small businessman. In fact, he only has one employee! He is essentially a Private Equity Investor. And he’s not even a Shark Tank type. He doesn’t even take any equity. Ebenezer just wants his payments and interest. 

He provides people loans for small business startups. Without his faith in their abilities, they would probably be relegated to the poor house. And how do they repay him? Well, for the most part, they don’t seem to at all. They default on their payments and then blame him for having been naive enough to loan them the money in the first place! What a bunch of ingrates and freeloaders! 

But, when it comes down to it, what is Ebenezer Scrooge’s big sin? He detests the commercial festival the holy day of Christmas has become. That’s it! And he’s to be vilified for that? How unfair is that? 

Bob Cratchit

And lastly, Bob Cratchit. According to Ebenezer, Bob is paid handsomely. And who are we to doubt him? He has a home and is able to provide for a large family as the sole breadwinner. Not bad. 

But Ebenezer’s cruelty, as we are told, is that he doesn’t like giving Bob paid time off for Christmas. In this culture, was that the norm? Not according to what we see in Christmas Present. Does anyone else not notice that Christmas-loving Nephew Fred makes his maid work on Christmas? She answers the door for Scrooge when he comes to dinner. Ebenezer buys a Christmas goose for Bob Cratchet first thing Christmas morning, so obviously the poulterer is working Christmas morning. 

And not only him! As Scrooge wanders through town, literally every store and kiosk is open and doing brisk business. It seems everyone works on Christmas! Bob Cratchit is literally the only employee in town getting Christmas off! And with pay at that! 

The evidence is clear. Ebenezer Scrooge is a misunderstood and maligned victim of Christmas commercialism, employee disgruntlement and greedy entrepreneurs who are happy to accept his assistance, but then don’t want to make good on their agreements. Isn’t it time he got his due? 

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