Why Ebenezer Scrooge is my BFF

Why Ebenezer Scrooge is my BFF

One of my yuletide enjoyments is to reread A Christmas Carol. I do it in the years when the world seems grim at Christmastime. I always find that Ebenezer Scrooge is still my Best Friend Forever.

Most Americans know Charles Dickens’ story about the greedy, cranky, crusty curmudgeon who is transformed by the visits of his late business partner, Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come.

What you’ll learn in this blog: Each and everyone of us is Ebenezer Scrooge. But do you recognize when you’re the Bad Scrooge before the ghosts visit, or the Good Scrooge after the visits? Time to read: less than two minutes.

I suspect few Americans have read the novella. It’s tough to read. The little book is full of references to things English from the Victorian Era. To modern readers, the writing style seems formal and convoluted, but it was the norm when the novella appeared in print the week before Christmas of 1843.

Ebenezer meets the Ghost of Christmas Present. Artwork in the original novella published in 1843.

Ebenezer meets the Ghost of Christmas Present. This artwork was in the original novella published in 1843.

Most Americans know of the tale through films. Dozens have been produced since the first in 1901. My favorite is the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim; it has the eerie feel of a ghostly story. The 1992 Muppets Christmas Carol is a close second. How can you not love Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim?

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Dickens penned the Christmas Carol over a six-week period when his writing career needed a boost in popularity and finances. His themes reflected upon issues of the day.  One was the British re-emergence of Christmas tradition from the past and such new customs as Christmas trees and cards. A Christmas Carol played a significant role in boosting the holiday’s popularity.

More importantly, the novella represented Dickens’ sympathy for the poor and their children during the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s. He drew upon his own experiences. His father was tossed into debtor’s prison when Dickens was 12 years old. To survive, the youngster worked in a factory pasting labels on pots of boot blacking. His work and living conditions were beyond harsh.

How did Dickens come up with the name “Ebenezer Scrooge”? One theory is that he misread the gravestone of an Edinburgh corn merchant named Ebenezer Scroggie. The gravestone described Scroggie as a “meal man,” but Dickens misread it as a “mean man.”

At its every heart, A Christmas Carol is the story of redemption. A bitter miser transforms into a friendlier, caring fellow, a good guy. Prior to the ghostly visits, he was a symbol of winter with its coldness, darkness and death; then, his renewal to goodwill is like the warm freshness of spring.

Alastair Sim as Ebenezer in the 1951 film.

Alastair Sim as Ebenezer in the 1951 film.

That is why I like Scrooge. He reminds us that we all can change for the better.

We are Ebenezer Scrooge, each and everyone of us. Which brings up a simple question. Do I want to be the Bad Scrooge before the visitations of Marley and the three ghosts, or the Good Scrooge when he became a renewed soul?

Not unexpectedly, the latter—the Good Scrooge—is everyone’s preference. It’s how all of us view ourselves, isn’t it? However, the reality is that most of us slip in and out of the roles of Bad Scrooge and Good Scrooge all of the time.

The 1992 Muppets Christmas Carol movie.

The 1992 Muppets Christmas Carol movie.

Regardless of how steadfast we are in our belief  that we are always a Good Scrooge, our actions speak louder than words. Of course, I always think of myself as the Good Scrooge. But the other day an incident starkly revealed the Bad Scrooge. I was putting sacks of groceries into my car as a bearded, bedraggled vagabond came wearily across the parking lot and asked for money.  My temper flared out of nowhere and I snapped at him, telling him to not even waste his time panhandling me.

My Bad Scrooge, right?

The Good Scrooge is not an easy lifestyle to maintain. It requires a conscious effort to remain friendly, compassionate and gentler even in the most trying of challenges. And challenging is our times. A controversial incoming president. Millions of refugees on the move. An embattled environment. Global politics that may threaten democracy. And a zillion other complicated events are shaping and reshaping our world, giving the Bad Scrooge the potential to rise.

The role of Good Scrooge also necessitates eliminating two of Scrooge’s favorite words from our our vocabulary and way of thinking. May “Bah! Humbug!” be boiled in their own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through their heart.

Don’t understand the reference? Watch the movie.

Better yet, read the book. And remember, even the smallest of actions can slip you into the role of Bad Scrooge.