Ebenezer Scrooge
A Christmas Carol character
Scrooge (left) encounters "Jacob Marley's ghost"
Created byCharles Dickens
Based onPossibly John Elwes, Daniel Dancer, Jemmy Wood
Portrayed bySee below
Significant otherBelle (fiancée of Scrooge)
  • Fan (late sister)
  • Fred (nephew)

Ebenezer Scrooge (/ˌɛbɪˈnzər ˈskr/) is a fictional character and the protagonist of Charles Dickens's 1843 short novel, A Christmas Carol. Initially a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas, his redemption by three spirits (the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) has become a defining tale of the Christmas holiday in the English-speaking world.

Dickens describes Scrooge thus early in the story: "The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice." Towards the end of the novella, the three spirits show Scrooge the errors of his ways, and he becomes a better, more generous man.

Scrooge's last name has entered the English language as a byword for greed and misanthropy, while his catchphrase, "Bah! Humbug!" is often used to express disgust with many modern Christmas traditions.


Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past [b]

Charles Dickens describes Scrooge as "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint... secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster." He does business from a Cornhill warehouse and is known among the merchants of the Royal Exchange as a man of good credit. Despite having considerable personal wealth, he underpays his clerk Bob Cratchit and hounds his debtors relentlessly while living cheaply and joylessly in the chambers of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Most of all, he detests Christmas, which he associates with reckless spending. When two men approach him on Christmas Eve for a donation to charity, he sneers that the poor should avail themselves of the treadmill or the workhouses, or else die to reduce the surplus population. He also refuses his nephew Fred's invitation to Christmas dinner and denounces him as a fool for celebrating Christmas. He even frightens a young carol singer by gripping a ruler with a fit of energy. Scrooge reluctantly gives Cratchit Christmas Day off, as there will be no business for Scrooge during the day.

That night, Scrooge is visited by Marley's ghost, who is condemned to walk the world forever bound in chains as punishment for his greed and inhumanity in life. Marley tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits, in the hope that he will mend his ways; if he does not, Marley warns, Scrooge will wear even heavier chains than his in the afterlife.

The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, shows Scrooge visions of his early life. These visions establish Scrooge's unloving childhood in a boarding school, where at Christmas he remained alone while his schoolmates returned home to their families. One of Scrooge's happy memories was when his sister Fan — later Fred's mother — came to take him home one Christmas, saying that their hard-hearted father had changed. Scrooge then apprenticed at the warehouse of a jovial and generous master, Mr. Fezziwig. He was engaged to a young woman named Belle, but gradually his love for Belle was overwhelmed by his love for money. Belle realised this and, saddened by his greed, left him, eventually having children with another man. The present-day Scrooge reacts to his memories with nostalgia and deep regret.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present[c]
Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come [d]
Black and white drawing of Scrooge and Bob Cratchit having a drink in front of a large fire
Scrooge and Bob Cratchit celebrate Christmas with smoking bishop.

The Ghost of Christmas Present arrives and shows Scrooge that his greed and selfishness have hurt others as well, particularly Cratchit, who cannot afford to provide his desperately ill son Tiny Tim with medical treatment because of Scrooge's miserliness. The Spirit tells an ashamed Scrooge that Tiny Tim will die unless something changes, and throws back at Scrooge his own heartless words about the poor and destitute. Scrooge and the ghost also visit Fred's Christmas party, where Fred defends his uncle from his guests' snide remarks. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge where his greed and selfishness will lead: a lonely death and a neglected grave, unpaid servants stealing his belongings, debtors relieved at his death, and the Cratchit family devastated by the loss of Tiny Tim. Scrooge asks this Spirit if this future can still be changed, and begs the Spirit for another chance, promising to change his ways – and finds himself in his bed on Christmas Day.

An overjoyed Scrooge commits to being more generous and compassionate; he accepts his nephew's invitation to Christmas dinner, provides for Cratchit and his family, and donates to the charity fund. From then, he is said to have become the embodiment of the Christmas spirit and became a "second father" to Tiny Tim.


Several theories have been put forward as to where Dickens got the inspiration for the character.

Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie was supposedly a merchant from Edinburgh who won a catering contract for King George IV's 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" (grain merchant) but misread it as "mean man."[1][2] This theory has been described as "a probable Dickens hoax" for which "[n]o one could find any corroborating evidence".[3] There is no record of anyone named Scroggie in the Edinburgh census returns of the period.[4] 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 model for Scrooge.[5] The man whom Dickens eventually mentions in his letters[6] and who strongly resembles the character portrayed by Dickens' illustrator, John Leech, was a noted British eccentric and miser named John Elwes (1714–1789).[citation needed] Another suggested inspiration for the character of Scrooge is Daniel Dancer, who Dickens mentions, along with Elwes, in Our Mutual Friend.

It has been suggested that he chose the name Ebenezer ("stone (of) help") to reflect the help given to Scrooge to change his life.[7][8] Commentators have suggested that the surname was partly inspired by the word "scrouge", meaning "crowd" or "squeeze".[8][9][10] The word was in use from 1820.[11]

Kelly writes that Scrooge may have been influenced by Dickens' conflicting feelings for his father, whom he loved and demonised. This psychological conflict may be responsible for the two radically different Scrooges in the tale—one a cold, stingy recluse, the other a benevolent, loving man.[12] Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, a professor of English literature, considers that in the opening part of the book portraying young Scrooge's lonely and unhappy childhood, and his aspiration to rise from poverty to riches "is something of a self-parody of Dickens's fears about himself"; the post-transformation parts of the book are how Dickens optimistically sees himself.[13]

One school of thought is that Dickens based Scrooge's views of the poor on those of political economist and demographer Thomas Malthus, as evidenced by his callous attitude towards the "surplus population".[14][15] "And the Union workhouses? ... The treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" are a reflection of a sarcastic question raised by the reactionary philosopher Thomas Carlyle: "Are there not treadmills, gibbets; even hospitals, poor-rates, New Poor-Law?"[16][e]

There are literary precursors for Scrooge in Dickens's own works. Peter Ackroyd, Dickens's biographer, sees similarities between Scrooge and the title character of Martin Chuzzlewit, although the latter is "a more fantastic image" than the former; Ackroyd observes that Chuzzlewit's transformation to a charitable man is parallel to that of Scrooge.[18] Douglas-Fairhurst sees that the minor character Gabriel Grub from The Pickwick Papers was also an influence when creating Scrooge.[19][f]


Scrooge's character, particularly how it changes throughout A Christmas Carol, has been the subject of several analyses.[21][22][23]

The psychological phenomenon of increased generosity and altruism following encounters with mortality or existential dread is called the Scrooge effect.[24]

In other media


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See also


  1. ^ Scrooge's type of business is not directly stated in the original work. Victorian-period adaptations often depict him as a money-lender, but also as a mercantile executive (1951) or commodity trader (1984).
  2. ^ Illustration by Sol Eytinge Jr. (1868)
  3. ^ Illustration by John Leech (1843)
  4. ^ original illustration by John Leech (1843)
  5. ^ Carlyle's original question was written in his 1840 work Chartism.[17]
  6. ^ Grub's name came from a 19th century Dutch miser, Gabriel de Graaf, a morose gravedigger.[20]


  1. ^ "Revealed: the Scot who inspired Dickens' Scrooge". The Scotsman. 24 December 2004. Retrieved 14 January 2020. Details of Scroggie's life are sparse, but he was a vintner as well as a corn merchant.
  2. ^ "BBC Arts – That Ebenezer geezer... who was the real Scrooge?". BBC. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. ^ Pelling, Rowan (7 February 2014). "Mr Punch is still knocking them dead after 350 years". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  4. ^ Melvin, Eric (2014). A walk through Edinburgh's New Town. Scotland. p. 63. ISBN 9781500122010.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  5. ^ Silence, Rebecca (2015). Gloucester History Tour. Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 40.
  6. ^ Dickens, Charles (1999). "Letter to George Holsworth, 18 January 1865". In House, Madeline; Storey, Graham; Brown, Margaret; Tillotson, Kathleen (eds.). The Letters of Charles Dickens. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 7.
  7. ^ Kincaid, Cheryl Anne (2009). Hearing the Gospel through Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" (2 ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-1443817981. Archived from the original on 4 June 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  8. ^ a b Pearson, Richard (9 December 2014). "Why did Charles Dickens invent Scrooge?". The Independent. Retrieved 30 November 2020. Scrooge is also a real word. Spelled slightly differently, 'scrouge' 'scrowge' or 'scroodge' is an old word meaning to squeeze someone, to encroach on their space, making them feel uncomfortable...
  9. ^ Cereno, Benito (14 December 2018). "The real man who inspired Ebenezer Scrooge". Grunge.com. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  10. ^ "Definition of SCROUGE". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  11. ^ "Why did Charles Dickens choose the name Ebenezer Scrooge?". www.londonguidedwalks.co.uk. Retrieved 30 November 2020. The word is also a blend of 'scrouge' the verb to squeeze or to press, used 1820–1830 (itself being a blend of crew and bruise) and gouge...
  12. ^ Kelly 2003, p. 14.
  13. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xix.
  14. ^ Elwell, Frank W. (2 November 2001). "Reclaiming Malthus". Rogers State University. Archived from the original on 24 March 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  15. ^ Nasar, Sylvia (2011). Grand pursuit : the story of economic genius (1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York City: Simon & Schuster. pp. 3–10. ISBN 978-0-684-87298-8.
  16. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xiii.
  17. ^ Carlyle 1840, p. 32.
  18. ^ Ackroyd 1990, p. 409.
  19. ^ Douglas-Fairhurst 2006, p. xviii; Alleyne 2007.
  20. ^ Alleyne 2007.
  21. ^ Clarke, Joseph (Jody) H. (December 2009). "The Metapsychology of Character Change: A Case Study of Ebenezer Scrooge". Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health. 11 (4): 248–263. doi:10.1080/19349630903310039. ISSN 1934-9637. S2CID 145082385.
  22. ^ McReynolds, Joseph Clayton (2020). "From Humbug to Humility: Learning How to Know with Ebenezer Scrooge". Dickens Studies Annual: Essays on Victorian Fiction. 51 (1): 20–39. doi:10.5325/dickstudannu.51.1.0020. ISSN 2167-8510. S2CID 216343006.
  23. ^ Smith, Joanmarie (Summer 1983). "The Religious Conversion of Ebenezer Scrooge". Religious Education. 78 (3): 355–361. doi:10.1080/0034408300780307.
  24. ^ Jonas, Eva; Schimel, Jeff; Greenberg, Jeff; Pyszczynski, Tom (October 2002). "The Scrooge Effect: Evidence that Mortality Salience Increases Prosocial Attitudes and Behavior". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 28 (10): 1342–1353. doi:10.1177/014616702236834. ISSN 0146-1672.
  26. ^ Boulware, Hugh (30 November 1987). "For These Lads, 'Carol' Seems Like Play". Chicago Tribune.
  27. ^ Fleming, Michael. "Jim Carrey set for 'Christmas Carol': Zemeckis directing Dickens adaptation", Variety, 2007-07-06. Retrieved on 2007-09-11.
  28. ^ "Doctor Who Christmas Special – A Christmas Carol". Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  29. ^ "Christmas Day". Radio Times. 347 (4520): 174. December 2010.
  30. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Saturday Drama, A Christmas Carol". BBC.
  31. ^ Heymont, George (29 January 2016). "Rule Britannia!". Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  32. ^ "From Charles Dickens to Michael Caine, here are the five best Scrooges". The Independent. 19 December 2018.
  33. ^ Cremona, Patrick. Mark Gatiss's A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story is coming to cinemas, Radio Times, October 2022