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Speaking Out: Beware of your ‘inner Scrooge’

By  Angelica Vecchiato, Youth Speak News
  • December 15, 2021

“Bah humbug”

This famous aphorism belongs to the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge, who made his first appearance as the archetypal Christmas cynic in Charles Dickens’ beloved 1843 classic A Christmas Carol.

Scrooge, with his pointed nose, shriveled cheeks and grating voice, looms large as a literary figure nearly 180 years later. For me, A Christmas Carol inaugurates the Advent season. Every year, as the snow begins to fall, I eagerly insert my DVD to watch how the three Christmas ghosts change the heart of misanthropic old Scrooge.

Although I have watched the film more times than I’d like to reveal, I am still taken aback by Scrooge’s ruthless mannerisms. With every re-watch, I always condemn the penny-pinching businessman. How could the well-off Ebenezer intentionally underpay Bob Cratchit when his son, Tiny Tim, is so gravely ill? Could anybody be that unfeeling?

Every year, at the crescendo of his hard-heartedness, I whisper a sigh of relief, “Thankfully, the world has no unrepentant, real-life Scrooges.”

While it is completely natural to be repelled by Scrooge’s indifference and shut down the analysis of his character there, upon further reflection, a more philosophical understanding is lacking in that brief explication of the shrewd business tycoon. I mean no insult to the reader, but in some ways, we have a latent Ebenezer Scrooge within us all.

Allow me to explain.

Dickens’ uses his prowess with the pen to depict Scrooge as a caricature of what might be lurking in our hearts and minds. There’s a very real potential to be just as unfeeling as he — just as cold-hearted, and just as lonely too.

Although it may seem that my argumentation falls prey to the slippery slope fallacy, the idea doesn’t stray from Catholic dogma. As progenitor of original sin, we inherit the “natural stain” of vices, which encompass Scrooge’s many villainies. This is certainly not to say that we are all indifferent misanthropes. However, our current decadent and individualist cultural landscape, Scrooge-like tendencies such as materialism and vanity are encouraged to be unleashed.

On a societal level, the core message of A Christmas Carol and Scrooge’s callous behaviour draw striking parallels to our modern culture. When we prize the “self-made-man” over the poor and marginalized, indulge in the sensationalized consumerist media play of Christmas and choose self over community, we are tempted to take on Scrooge-like traits.

So, how can we overcome our “inner Scrooge’’?

Easy — we must embody the true nature of Christmas. This means living out the true Gospel joy, which stems from our Saviour’s nativity. At the First Noel, the covenantal and miraculous promises of salvation began to be ratified in the birth of Jesus Christ. We should assume the light-heartedness of the divine child Jesus, grateful for the divine hope which His birth inspires. His child-like innocence directly contradicts a fiscally minded society, tackling head-on modern culture’s consumerism and materialistic worldview.

To add to this remedy, we must not celebrate Christmas consumed in our own self-interest. Instead, taking on a hospitable spirit, premised on the birth of Christ, we must shift the socially ingrained focus from self to community, something Dickens’ detailed through Scrooge’s character conversion. Generosity in serving others should be foremost.

This Christmas season, let us conquer our inner Scrooge and live out the true joy of the Christmas season. In the words of Tiny Tim, “God Bless us, everyone.”

(Vecchiato, 16, is a Grade 11 student at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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