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Are We Being Unfair To Scrooge? - Op-Ed Piece
A Christmas Carol is one of the most memorable Christmas stories of all time. It is the Dickens story, even though it is relatively small compared to his other works. I am sure you know the story, but let us go through it.
The old guy gets visited by three ghosts and then changes his ways. That is the simplified version, but the story is all about how even the mean old Scrooge can change who he is with a little Christmas help.
Side note here;
Charles Dickens is credited with “creating” the modern Christmas. He focused on his stories about family and being together and a better person, which are Christian ideals, but he didn’t necessarily focus on Jesus and God in his stories. Dickens pushed this idea when we all think of a family getting together for Christmas.
And now I just realized that Jesus was not in the actual Scrooge story. Boy, that would have made for an interesting appearance.
Anyway, on to my problems (with the story, I am not making this a therapy session). And because I want to include the trademark line of the main protagonist, here you go.
The main problem I have is that the story presents Scrooge’s flaws as significant problems that he can’t help and that everyone in the story has no flaws at all. It is as if Scrooge is the scapegoat in his own story. He is the hero. He is the one who we should be rooting for. But it doesn’t feel like that for most of the book. In fact, when we get to the end with the tombstone of Scrooge, some of us are probably happy to see the old bastard dead.
Every time there is a significant point in Scrooge’s life, he is blamed for it for no reason at all.
First off, his sister’s death. The book doesn’t detail it, but her death seemed to profoundly affect the guy. She was the only person he liked, and she died. Life is not fair, Scrooge learned.
Second, his girl leaving him. When he needs her because things are getting tough at this point in his life, she gets up and goes. She leaves him. She doesn’t tell him that they can work it out. Or that she knows he can change. Nope, she is out, just like that. We are told it is because he is so cold that it is fair to say that, yes, Scrooge was getting a little colder, but the book doesn’t make it clear that his meanness was towards his woman. Basically, Scrooge was getting hard because he had to, not because he wanted to, necessarily. From what we know of the situation, he wasn’t mean to his woman or gave her any reasons to leave like that, so her getting up and going is probably a surprise to him. Why doesn’t the woman get blamed here? She doesn’t, in our eyes. Scrooge is mean, and that is all there is, so we move on.
The third major event in the guy’s life is Marley’s death, his business partner. Even in death, Marley blames Scrooge for his faults. When Marley died, if we can assume how he was treated towards the other events in his life, people probably blamed Scrooge for the whole thing, somehow citing his meanness as the cause of Marley’s death. Scrooge got no love from everyone, only blame.
He lost his favorite person. He lost his girl. He lost his business partner. In each major event in his life, Scrooge was blamed for it. Not offered a helping hand. He blamed himself for his sister’s death. He was accused of a bad marriage. He was blamed for his partner’s death. Scrooge is a bad guy, which is the motif you see. My god, it is almost as if he was written as a villain in the story, more than an actual hero.
And now for the ghosts. Ah, the spirits, they are the reasons he changes. And I don’t really get it.
The Ghost Of Christmas Past shows Scrooge his life. Having regrets doesn’t make Scrooge a lousy person. It makes him human. We all have regrets. The scenes start in Scrooge’s youth, specifically in an orphan home for young boys. Scrooge had a lousy home life; although the book never details it, Scrooge’s dad probably beat his kids. That is why it is so heartbreaking for him to hear of his father’s changes. He doesn’t buy it. He thinks he will have to fend off the old man again if he returns.
Scrooge never says anything of Fan, his younger sister’s death, then. But he must have hated that it was her that died, not his awful father. So if you want to know where Scrooge learned that the world is a cruel, unforgiving place, you should start here. His loving sister died, and his drunk father got to live.
Then Scrooge is shown his apprenticeship and Fezziwig. And I guess the ghosts don’t consider gluttony to be that bad of a sin because he and his wife were eating tables’ worth of food. But are they condemned for it? Is anyone saying that the party is excessive and that he should have given to charity instead? No. Fezziwig is seen as an ideal boss. More importantly, in that scene, Scrooge meets his future wife.
And I already told you what I thought of the scene where she leaves him. If she really loved him, wouldn’t she stay? Or, at the very least, shouldn’t we call her out on going too? She ended the relationship as much as Scrooge did, and yet we blame Scrooge, not her.
We then go to the Ghost of Christmas Present. Although I may be off in the exact timelines of the events, here is who he meets.
His employee Bob Cratchit – Who, let’s say it for what it is. The guy is a bum, and Scrooge probably is happy that the guy shows up to work on time and not drunk. His characteristic of kindness is all he has because you know he isn’t smart or hardworking. But are we supposed to see him as the loser that he is? No, instead, he is the hero. The guy bitched to Scrooge about working a little late on Christmas. Like he didn’t see it on the schedule. Scrooge thinks so little of the guy that he feels that having him work on Christmas is a favor to him. If he thought otherwise, he would probably help Cratchit, right?
In this, we are also shown Tiny Tim, who Scrooge doesn’t know anything about, and the Ghost gets all upset about him for that. Scrooge is terrible for not asking his employee about his kid. Where is the blame on Cratchit here? What if he had brought up his ill son to Scrooge? The guy complains about working and then holds it against Scrooge for not asking about his sick son; That’s not fair. It’s not like Scrooge knew of Tiny Tim and then decided to neglect him. He didn’t know of Tiny Tim. That is different.
The villain is then shown the Christmas of his sister’s family. It is them all enjoying Christmas, and if I remember correctly, don’t they mock Scrooge at the party? So Scrooge being a loner is now a bad thing? He is 75 years old (not an exact number), and of course, he doesn’t want to go to the Christmas party of someone he never met. What 75year old does? Oh, and why doesn’t he want to visit his nephew? Because that guy’s birth is what ended Scrooge’s sister’s life. Do you know that sister that Scrooge loved? Yeah, that sister. I will say that the nephew is the only one in the book who thinks that Scrooge can change if given a chance. So I got to give him credit there. He saw that Scrooge wasn’t a nasty dude, only given the short end of the stick.
Then the Ghost is really a prick to Scrooge and shows him two themes: as if we are learning about Greek Mythology. They are Ignorance and Want, and Scrooge is made to feel wrong about them. As if those are his fault.
You can say that Scrooge is terrible, but you can’t blame him for all the bad in the world.
That is just being a dick, really.
And last and not least, the final Ghost. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, which is Death.
Scrooge fears death, which is, once again, something we all do. Being afraid to die is not a trait of a bad person; it is just human. And I should mention that it isn’t really clear here if Scrooge is afraid to die or die alone and have no one visit his funeral or both. It could be both. Either way, acknowledging that you will die and being uncertain about it doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, Scrooge even asks the question of Tiny Tim’s death. If Scrooge was a bad guy, he wouldn’t be asking about Tiny Tim’s death. He wouldn’t care. But he does.
Now let’s talk about the one thing that Scrooge did in the book that could be considered wrong.
He didn’t donate to charity. Two men come into his workplace and ask him to give them some money, and when he refuses, they are appalled. Boy, if that is what qualifies someone as good or bad, then everyone one of us that passes by a Santa asking for some change is like Scrooge here.
If I am right in claiming that Scrooge was never really a bad guy but more a tragic character who got scapegoated in many scenarios, then he would have no trouble turning good, given a chance. If life gave him a fair shot, then he would gladly take it. And what happens? He changes. Yeah. Because he was never bad, to begin with. I say this knowing that some characters would have been given a chance and not taken it. They would have let Tiny Tim die and feel no remorse over it. They would not have tried to help others. Scrooge didn’t do that. He changed. That proves that there was goodness in him all along. If the story stopped blaming him for two seconds, then maybe we could have seen it sooner.
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