Ebenezer Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge (/ˌɛbɪˈnzər ˈskr/) is the protagonist of Charles Dickens' 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novella, Scrooge is a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas. Dickens describes him thus: "The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice." Towards the end of the novella, Scrooge is transformed by ghosts into a better person who changed his ways to become more friendly and less miserly.

Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge encounters "Jacob Marley's ghost" in Dickens's novella, A Christmas Carol
Created byCharles Dickens
Portrayed bySee below
TitleA Christmas Carol
Business man
FamilyFanny or Fan (late younger sister)
Fred (nephew)

His last name has come into the English language as a byword for miserliness and misanthropy. The tale of his redemption by the three Ghosts of Christmas (Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) has become a defining tale of the Christmas holiday in the English-speaking world. Ebenezer Scrooge is arguably both one of the most famous characters created by Dickens and one of the most famous in English literature.

Scrooge's catchphrase, "Bah! Humbug!" is often used to express disgust with many modern Christmas traditions.


Several theories have been put forward as to where Dickens got inspiration for the character.

  • Ebenezer Scroggie, a banker from Edinburgh who won a catering contract for King George IV's visit to Scotland. He was buried in Canongate Kirkyard, with a gravestone that is now lost. The theory is that Dickens noticed the gravestone that described Scroggie as being a "meal man" (corn merchant) but misread it as "mean man".[1][2] This theory has been described as "a probable Dickens hoax" for which "[n]o one could find any corroborating evidence".[3]
  • It has been suggested that he chose the name Ebenezer ("stone (of) help") to reflect the help given to Scrooge to change his life.[4]
  • The surname may be from the now obscure English verb scrouge, meaning "squeeze" or "press".[5][6]
  • One school of thought is that Dickens based Scrooge's views on the poor on those of demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus.[7][8]
  • Another is that the minor character Gabriel Grub from The Pickwick Papers was worked up into a more mature characterization (his name stemming from an infamous Dutch miser, Gabriel de Graaf).[9][10]
  • Jemmy Wood, owner of the Gloucester Old Bank and possibly Britain's first millionaire, was nationally renowned for his stinginess, and may have been another.[11]
  • The man whom Dickens eventually mentions in his letters[12] and who strongly resembles the character portrayed by Dickens's illustrator, John Leech, was a noted British eccentric and miser named John Elwes (1714–1789).

Kelly writes that Scrooge may have been influenced by Dickens's conflicting feelings for his father, whom he both loved and demonised. This psychological conflict may be responsible for the two radically different Scrooges in the tale—one a cold, stingy and greedy semi-recluse, the other a benevolent, sociable man.[13] Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, a professor of English literature, considers that in the opening part of the book covering young Scrooge's lonely and unhappy childhood, and his aspiration for money to avoid poverty "is something of a self-parody of Dickens's fears about himself"; the post-transformation parts of the book are how Dickens optimistically sees himself.[14]

Scrooge could also be based on two misers: the eccentric John Elwes, MP,[15] or Jemmy Wood, the owner of the Gloucester Old Bank who was also known as "The Gloucester Miser".[16] According to the sociologist Frank W. Elwell, Scrooge's views on the poor are a reflection of those of the demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus,[17] while the miser's questions "Are there no prisons? ... And the Union workhouses? ... The treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" are a reflection of a sarcastic question raised by the reactionary philosopher Thomas Carlyle, "Are there not treadmills, gibbets; even hospitals, poor-rates, New Poor-Law?"[18][n 1]

There are literary precursors for Scrooge in Dickens's own works. Peter Ackroyd, Dickens's biographer, sees similarities between Scrooge and the elder Martin Chuzzlewit character, although the miser is "a more fantastic image" than the Chuzzlewit patriarch; Ackroyd observes that Chuzzlewit's transformation to a charitable figure is a parallel to that of the miser.[20] Douglas-Fairhurst sees that the minor character Gabriel Grub from The Pickwick Papers was also an influence when creating Scrooge.[21][n 2]

Appearance in the novel

The story of A Christmas Carol starts on Christmas Eve 1843 with Scrooge at his money-lending business. He hates Christmas as a "humbug" and subjects his clerk, Bob Cratchit, to gruelling hours and low pay of only 15 shillings on a normal week (giving him Christmas Day off with pay, begrudgingly and considering it like being pickpocketed, solely due to social custom). He shows his coldheartedness toward others by refusing to make a monetary donation for the good of the poor, claiming that the prisons and workhouses are sufficient, and if not they are better off dead, thereby "decreasing the surplus population."

While he is preparing to go to bed, he is visited by the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley, who had died seven years earlier (1836) on Christmas Eve. Like Scrooge, Marley had spent his life hoarding his wealth and exploiting the poor, and, as a result, is damned to walk the Earth for eternity bound in the chains of his own greed. Marley warns Scrooge that he risks meeting the same fate and that as a final chance at redemption he will be visited by three spirits of Christmas: Past, Present and Yet-to-Come.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to see his time as a schoolboy and young man, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These visions reveal that Scrooge was a lonely child whose unloving father sent him away to a boarding school. His one solace was his beloved sister, Fan, who repeatedly begged their father to allow Scrooge to return home, and he at last relented. [23] Fan later died after having given birth to one child, a son named Fred, Scrooge's nephew. The spirit then takes him to see another Christmas a few years later in which he enjoyed a Christmas party held by his kind-hearted and festive boss, Mr. Fezziwig. It is there that he meets his love and later fiancée, Belle. Then the spirit shows him a Christmas in which Belle leaves him, as she realizes his love for money has replaced his love for her. Finally, the spirit shows him a Christmas Eve several years later, in which Belle is happily married to another man.

Scrooge is then visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows him the whole of London celebrating Christmas, including Fred and the impoverished Cratchit family. Scrooge is both bewildered and touched by the loving and pure-hearted nature of Cratchit's youngest son, Tiny Tim. When Scrooge shows concern for the sickly boy's health, the spirit informs him that the boy will die unless something changes, a revelation that deeply disturbs Scrooge. The spirit then uses Scrooge's earlier words about "decreasing the surplus population" against him. The spirit takes him to a graveyard. There, the spirit produces two misshapen, sickly children he names Ignorance and Want. When Scrooge asks if they have anyone to care for them, the spirit throws more of Scrooge's own words back in his face: "Are there no prisons, no workhouses?"

Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come/Future shows Scrooge Christmas Day one year later (1844). Just as the previous spirit predicted, Tiny Tim has died; his father could not afford to give him proper care on his small salary and there was no social health care. The spirit then shows Scrooge scenes related to the death of a "wretched man": his business associates snigger about how it is likely to be a cheap funeral and one associate will go only if lunch is provided; his possessions are stolen and sold by his housekeeper, undertaker, and laundress, and a young couple who owed the man money are relieved he is dead, as they have more time to pay off their debt. The spirit then shows Scrooge the man's unkempt tombstone, which bears Scrooge's name.

Scrooge weeps over his own grave, begging the spirit for a chance to change his ways, before awakening to find it is Christmas morning. He immediately repents and becomes a model of generosity and kindness: he meets the charity collectors from the day before and makes a generous donation; he visits Fred and accepts his earlier invitation to Christmas dinner; he anonymously sends Bob Cratchit a giant turkey and later gives him a raise, and becomes like "a second father" to Tiny Tim (providing him the medical care he needed to live). As the final narration states, "Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him...it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge."


Scrooge has been portrayed by:

The name "Scrooge" is used in English as a word for a person who is miserly and tight-fisted.[31]

The character is most often noted for exclaiming "Bah! Humbug!" despite uttering this phrase only twice in the story. He uses the word "Humbug" on its own on seven occasions, although on the seventh we are told he "stopped at the first syllable" after realizing Marley's ghost is real. The word is never used again after that in the book.

A species of snail is named Ba humbugi after Scrooge's catchphrase.[32][33]

See also


  1. Carlyle's original question was written in his 1840 work Chartism.[19]
  2. Grub's name came from a 19th century Dutch miser, Gabriel de Graaf, a morose gravedigger.[22]


  1. "When A Christmas Carol, one of Dickens’ finest works, was published in 1843, it featured Ebenezer Scrooge, a "mean man" erroneously based on Ebenezer Scroggie." "He won the catering contract for the visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822... ", The Scotsman, 24 December 2004
  2. "BBC Arts - That Ebenezer geezer... who was the real Scrooge?". BBC. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  3. "Mr Punch is still knocking them dead after 350 years". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-06-16.
  4. Kincaid, Cheryl Anne. Hearing the Gospel through Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" (2 ed.). Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 7–8. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  5. "Scrouge - Define Scrouge at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com.
  6. ""Ebenezer Scrooge" – The Meaning of the Name". Mark D. Roberts.
  7. Frank W. Elwell, Reclaiming Malthus, 2 November 2001, accessed 30 August 2013.
  8. Nasar, Sylvia (2011). Grand pursuit : the story of economic genius (1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 3–10. ISBN 978-0-684-87298-8.
  9. "Real-life Scrooge was Dutch gravedigger", 25 December 2007, archived from the original 27 December 2007.
  10. "Fake Scrooge 'was Dutch gravedigger'", 26 December 2007, archived from the original 6 December 2008.
  11. Silence, Rebecca (2015). Gloucester History Tour. Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 40.
  12. The Letters of Charles Dickens by Charles Dickens, Madeline House, Graham Storey, Margaret Brown, Kathleen Tillotson, & The British Academy (1999) Oxford University Press [Letter to George Holsworth, 18 January 1865] pp.7.
  13. Kelly 2003, p. 14.
  14. Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xix.
  15. Gordon 2008; DeVito 2014, 424.
  16. Jordan 2015, Chapter 5; Sillence 2015, p. 40.
  17. Elwell 2001; DeVito 2014, 645.
  18. Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xiii.
  19. Carlyle 1840, p. 32.
  20. Ackroyd 1990, p. 409.
  21. Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xviii; Alleyne 2007.
  22. Alleyne 2007.
  23. Some film adaptations say Scrooge's mother died giving birth to him, which is the source of his father's grudge. This would make his sister Fan older than Scrooge, while in some films Fan is portrayed as younger.)
  24. Fleming, Michael. "Jim Carrey set for 'Christmas Carol': Zemeckis directing Dickens adaptation", Variety, 2007-07-06. Retrieved on 2007-09-11.
  25. "Doctor Who Christmas Special – A Christmas Carol". Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  26. "Christmas Day". Radio Times. 347 (4520): 174. December 2010.
  27. "ERB News - Epic Rap Battles of History No. 39". Erboh.com. December 19, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  28. "BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Drama, A Christmas Carol". BBC.
  29. Heymont, George (29 January 2016). "Rule Britannia!". Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  30. "From Charles Dickens to Michael Caine, here are the five best Scrooges". The Independent. December 19, 2018.
  31. "Scrooge, Ebenezer - definition of Scrooge, Ebenezer in English from the Oxford dictionary".
  32. "Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature". Archived from the original on 2011-07-09. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  33. Fountain, Henry (2005-02-20). "Ba Humbugi! Let's Nameus That Speciesus". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
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