Ebenezer Scrooge (/ˌɛbᵻˈniːzər ˈskruːdʒ/) is the focal character 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, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice, bah humbug."
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 of the modern Christmas traditions.
Several theories have been put forward as to where Dickens got inspiration for the character.Ebenezer Scroggie, a corn merchant from Edinburgh who won a catering contract for King George IVs 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".
It has been suggested that he chose the name Ebenezer ("stone (of) help") to reflect the help given to Scrooge to change his life.
The surname may be from the now obscure English verb scrouge, meaning "squeeze" or "press".
One school of thought is that Dickens based Scrooge's views on the poor on those of demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus.
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).
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.
The man whom Dickens eventually mentions in his letters 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).
The story of A Christmas Carol starts on Christmas Eve 1843 with Scrooge at his money-lending business. He despises Christmas as a "humbug" and subjects his clerk, Bob Cratchit, to grueling hours and low pay (giving him Christmas Day off with pay, begrudgingly and considering it like being pickpocketed, solely due to social custom). He shows his cold-heartedness toward others by refusing to make a monetary donation for the good of the poor, claiming 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. (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 the eldest of the siblings which, again in some films make her the younger sister.) His one solace was his beloved sister, Fan, who repeatedly begged their father to allow Scrooge to return home, and he at last relented. 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 spooky 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 snicker about how it's likely to be a cheap funeral and one associate will only go 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 visits Fred and accepts his earlier invitation to Christmas dinner, gives Bob Cratchit 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 misanthropic and tight-fisted despite the fact Ebenezer Scrooge reformed later.
The character is most often noted for exclaiming "Bah! Humbug!" despite uttering this phrase only twice in the entire 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.