The redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge

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Column by Jim Flynn

Despite my disdain for fairy tales and fictional happy endings, I was taken by Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” from first reading. I was captured again by the 1951 best ever movie rendition of the story, starring Alistair Sim.
The seasonal life story of Ebenezer Scrooge is about an emotionally neglected childhood, a relentless rise to success as a money lender, and a lonely life of “humbug” after his only friend and partner, Jacob Marley, had passed away.
The name Scrooge is a contraction of the uncomplimentary words “screw” and “gouge.” The story’s mission of Marley’s first ghost is to cause Scrooge to acknowledge his lifelong loneliness. The woman he loved turned away from him because of his greed. And his dear sister Fan died in childbirth.
Marley’s second ghost, the spirit of the present, intends to shake Scrooge’s conscience by revealing the home life of his under-paid clerk Bob Cratchit and his children. Despite their poverty and the declining health of their lame son, TinyTim, the Cratchit’s emit humble joy over the Christmas season.
The final ghost, of Christmas yet to come, does not speak. Instead he depicts for Scrooge the sadness which the Cratchit family will experience on the passing of Tiny Tim, and by contrast shows Scrooge the lonely and unmourned death which he will suffer for his sins.
When he wrote his “little Christmas book,” Dickens was deep in debt, and his inspiration was undoubtedly his own childhood. He was one of eight children, whose father was a poorly paid clerk like Bob Cratchit. Father and all eight children went to debtors’ prison when Dickens was 12.
Dickens was allowed out to work in a shoe blacking factory to help feed his family in prison. Those were times of cruel child labor, when many orphans lived in the streets.
After their release from prison, the Dickens family lived for a time in a boarding house in Camden Town, the fictional site of the Cratchit household. The Dickenses were eventually evicted again from their meager quarters because they were unable to keep up with the rent.
Dickens suffered some lifelong bitterness about his sense of being abandoned in childhood. Nonetheless, from time to time after he became a successful author, he provided financial support to his family members.
The spiritual message of “A Christmas Carol” is Scrooge’s delight at just being alive on Christmas morning, in appreciation for which he sent a goose to the Cratchits and accepted dinner with his loving nephew Fred. His redemption was evidenced thereafter as a respected and beloved citizen.
Dickens’ real-life contribution to the holy day is remembrance of him as the writer who renewed a spirit of Christmas during terrible times for the working poor and many who lived and died without a job and without hope. Fortunate are we who live in a time when no one is imprisoned for being poor.
Merry Christmas to all.

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