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Kardamom's avatar

Why did Ebenezer Scrooge become crotchety and selfish?

Asked by Kardamom (31346points) December 28th, 2018 from iPhone

Short version: why was Scrooge such an asshole, while Fezziwig wasn’t?

Long version:
I love Charles Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol, and have read the book, and have seen many movie versions, and many animated versions, and even listened to the book being read, on Youtube last night.

When you hear the name Scrooge, most people automatically think of a stingy, mean old grouch. But the story unfolds and tells the entire life story of Scrooge. He starts out as a sad, lonely little lad, then becomes a happy young man when he is apprenticed to Mr. Fezziwig, and falls in love with Mr. Fezziwig’s daughter Isabelle.

He sees Fezziwig as a kind, and generous man, even though Fezziwig is rich, but when Ebenezer, himself, becomes succesful financially, he takes a turn for the worse, and becomes selfish and mean.

What happened to Scrooge at that point? Fezziwig, with his monetary success was happy, and giving, and kind, so it could not have just been all about the money. What happened to Scrooge? Are we missing a scene in the story? Why didn’t he simply follow Fezziwig’s example?

It is not until the end of the story that Scrooge is made to see the error of his ways, and how much his own kindness could make a difference in the lives of other people. He had to be forced by ghosts to take a hard look at his life, and the impact that his choices made on other people.

Meanwhile, old Fezziwig was fat, and rich, and happy, and kind, and generous. He didn’t need three spooks and a dead co-worker showing up at his house in the middle of the night.

To what do you attribute the difference in the way that these two men treated people, when they were in a similar position?

This is what Scrooge finally figures out (decades later) about good old Fezziwig. Scrooge says, “He has the power to render us happy, or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives is as great as if it cost a fortune.”

Why couldn’t Scrooge see what seems to be obvious, until he was forced to by the insomniac spirits?

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14 Answers

Kardamom's avatar

Was Scrooge just a bad seed? Was Scrooge simply emulating his own cold-hearted father? Was he just oblivious? Did he really have to be dragged out into the snow in his nightgown, to figure this out?

Is this what it would take for Donald Trump to figure it out, or is he too far gone?

I didn’t mean for the question to be a political Q, but after I posted it, I realized that Donald Trump is a lot like Scrooge, so that’s why I mentioned it, but I truly am curious about the literary character, and how he ended up so different from Fezziwig.

ragingloli's avatar

He picked up a copy of The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition and was enlightened.
Too bad he lacked the moral fortitude to resist the bullying, underhanded scare-tactics, and ultimately, brainwashing of those communist ghosts.

Dutchess_III's avatar

He was abused as a child and had a drunken father.

flutherother's avatar

He suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder after being abducted by aliens on Christmas Eve 1843.

stanleybmanly's avatar

One man’s meat is another’s poison. Point of view. Happy pauper—wasteful fool. Which description is appropriate and how would you argue that a smiling beggar is sane, let alone to be admired or tolerated? To Scrooge and his ilk, the poor are by definition defective and the choice to exhibit that defect is solid proof of the matter. All that begging is merely an effort to render those assaulted as destitute as themselves. Good luck in disproving these arguments.

Kardamom's avatar

^^ But he wasn’t always that way. He was happy when he was a poor apprentice working for Mr. Fezziwig, and he could see how that kindness affected everyone, including himself at the time.

That’s the part I’m trying to figure out. What happened to him after he left Fezziwig’s employ, and why didn’t he try to emulate Fezziwig’s example, when he became financially successful?

kritiper's avatar

Because he drove the loved ones of his life away with his greed for wealth. It had become everything for Scrooge. The more they turned away from him, the more he turned away from them until money was the only important thing in his life.
Fezziwig wasn’t as concerned about money like Scrooge became. For Fezziwig, people and their happiness was paramount to the money, but Scrooge came to see only the money, not what the money could do to and for the happiness of others.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Yes, but you notice that Scrooge was happy BUT poor. Fezziwig was kind and perhaps mildly prosperous, but he was not rolling in wealth, nor likely to ever be filthy rich because he was both kind and generous. Attention to and compassion for the needs of others—-idealism itself is hell on the bottom line.

So would you rather be rich and despised or content well loved and broke? The parable is that by the time Scrooge became successful he had discovered the priceless lesson that you can’t grow richer by giving it away, and he should be the patron saint of penny-pinchers everywhere.

Patty_Melt's avatar

While he did enjoy the ways of Fezziwig, there is the ever present, overwhelming pressures from his dad to prosper, and to measure up. Nothing paralyzes a young man like the expectations of his father.
Then there was his final business partner, who was miserly, and much like Scrooge’s dad.

ucme's avatar

He lost focus & became too money orientated, losing the love of his life as a result left him bitter & filled with self loathing which ate away at him.
Classic case of willfully hitting the self destruct button as a form of punishment for a lost life.

mazingerz88's avatar

@Kardamom Great question. Did you get your answer? Just curious.

Kardamom's avatar

I think ucme had the most likely answer. He lost focus. Then is when everything went bad. It wasn’t the money itself that caused the problem. He lost focus, and then because of that, his fiancee grew weary of his new obsession, and when she left, he didn’t have any other reason (that he could see, because his focus was gone) to be a good guy, even though many people could have been helped by his generosity, including his own nephew.

Being poor doesn’t make one happy, being rich doesn’t make one happy (although it does afford you many more opportunities) but having good intentions and decent priorities (like Fezziwig did) can make yourself, and others, a little bit happier.

Thanks @ucme : )

ucme's avatar

Not a problem :)

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