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We still have much to learn from Ebenezer Scrooge


On December 19th, 1843, a “ghostly little book” appeared in England in the form of A Christmas Carol In Prose: Being A Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens. It took the country by storm immediately and has since become part of the Christmas traditions of the Western world, if not through the original book but through its representations in film. Equal to the story itself is its main character: Ebenezer Scrooge, that “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.” He is so ingrained in our consciousness that we refer to any hard-hearted miser as Scrooge. And I wondered, as reading the story again this year, if Scrooge can teach us anything after 172 years.

When Dickens took up his pen to write A Christmas Carol, the Industrial Age had consumed Britain’s major cities. With it came the quest for material prosperity and a shift in moral sensibilities to accommodate that quest. An expedient Utilitarianism took preeminence. Humans were dehumanized and regarded as assets, little more than machines. Women and, tragically, children were exploited in the factories and mines. The average Industrialist readily turned a blind eye to anything that might encroach on profits. The lack of sanitary or safe working conditions, the education, diet or health of workers was of little concern. Charles Dickens saw all of these things first-hand and embodied them in the person of Ebenezer Scrooge. Little wonder, then, that a Karl Marx emerged to create a philosophy for the oppressed workers.

Read more at National Catholic Register.

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