Ebenezer Scrooge

  • Miserable
  • Tight-fisted
  • Redeemed by the end
Scrooge is visited by Marley

Scrooge is the main character of Dickens's novella and is first presented as a miserly, unpleasant man. He rejects all offerings of Christmas cheer and celebration as 'Humbug!'.

On Christmas Eve he is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley, who warns that he will be visited by three ghosts. Each of the ghosts shows him a scene that strikes fear and regret into his heart and eventually he softens.

By the end of the story, Scrooge is a changed man, sharing his wealth and generosity with everyone.

How is Scrooge like this?EvidenceAnalysis
Cold-heartedAccording to Dickens's description, Scrooge is cold through and through.No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him.Dickens uses pathetic fallacy to represent Scrooge's nature. The weather is a metaphor for Scrooge's behaviour as he cannot be made either warmer or colder by it.
MiserlyScrooge is stingy with his money and will not even allow his clerk Bob Cratchit to have a decent fire to warm him on Christmas Eve....as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part.The indirect speech shows that Scrooge is threatening and in charge. He will not give permission for Cratchit to take more coal.
Ill-manneredHis nephew visits to wish him a 'Merry Christmas' and Scrooge is rude to him in response."Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."Scrooge's response is comical, but unpleasant. He cannot accept the generosity that is offered him and instead turns images of Christmas into images of violence.
Self-deludedWhen he sees Marley's ghost, Scrooge tries to deny its existence by attributing the vision to something he has eaten."You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese..."Although Scrooge is afraid of the ghost, he tries to maintain his authority even over his own senses.

Social and historical context

View of a workhouse
A courtyard of a Victorian workhouse

In Victorian times, when Dickens was writing, poor children would often be sent to live in workhouses.

In 1861, 35,000 children under 12 lived and worked in workhouses in Britain. Living conditions there were unpleasant and the work was tough such as 'picking out' old ropes. Discipline was harsh and punishments included whipping. Food was basic and barely enough to sustain the children.

The 'portly gentlemen' who visit Scrooge ask for a Christmas donation to help the destitute orphans.

Analysing the evidence

quote
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.Dickens's description of Scrooge
Question

How does Dickens introduce the character of Scrooge?

'Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.'

  • 'Oh!' - this exclamation suggests that even the narrator is overwhelmed by how outrageously unpleasant Scrooge is. The exclamation mark draws our attention to the description that follows.
  • 'a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!' - the list of adjectives emphasise how awful he is. Notice how each adjective is also connected with the hands. We see how he holds tightly to everything he has.
  • 'solitary as an oyster' - oyster shells are calcified, hard and irregular in shape. This simile suggests that Scrooge also has these tough and strange qualities and that he is hard to 'open'.