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What Made Scrooge Scrooge?

Scrooge has become the tight-fisted, hard-as-nails man who cares only about financial gain. What has driven him to this? Partly it's his recognition of how difficult poverty is. This came for Scrooge, as it did for Charles Dickens, from his own bitter experience. And it has led him to be consumed, not just by materialism, but by fear. He is so afraid of poverty's lash that he has abandoned his "nobler aspirations," including the desire to marry the woman he loves and who had once loved him.

No doubt the rejection Scrooge experienced from his fiancée hardened his heart still further. Love itself was to be scorned, which is exactly what Scrooge had done in Stave 1, when his nephew admitted to marrying because he fell in love: "'Because you fell in love!' growled Scrooge, as if that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas."

The hard-hearted, grasping Scrooge found strength and solace in the social philosophy of his day that thought of the poor as deserving their sorry fate, and even as being a threat to the well-being of the world. When, in Stave 1, Scrooge rejects the request of the two "portly gentlemen" for a charitable gift for the poor, he suggests that the poor might die "and decrease the surplus population." Here Scrooge echoes the views of the influential economist Thomas Malthus, whose theories would have allowed a man like Scrooge to defend his greed and lack of compassion for the poor.

So, what made Scrooge Scrooge? You start with an unhappy childhood: mother dead; cruel father; sent away from home to overly strict boarding schools; no friends among classmates; only solace in books; the only student not going home for Christmas. Then you throw in a strong fear of poverty along with a growing love for material gain. Add the rejection of a fiancée. And top it off with popular philosophy that praises acquisitiveness and derides the poor as deserving of their condition. What have you got? Scrooge! Scrooge: whose heart has been squeezed by the impact of a sorry life and his own sorry choices. Scrooge: who squeezes his hand around the only thing that gives him meaning and security in life . . . money.

So if this explains, at least in part, how Scrooge became Scrooge, now the question is: What caused Scrooge to change?

 

Mark D. Roberts, as Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, is an advisor and frequent contributor to TheHighCalling.org. A Presbyterian pastor, Mark earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard University. He has written six books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer (WaterBrook, 2005). This series of reflections on A Christmas Carol were previously posted on his blog, www.markdroberts.com, and are reprinted with permission.

12/2/2009 5:00:00 AM
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