In Defense of Ebenezer Scrooge

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Written by Robert Folsom

Elliott Wave International

Why it’s time to view the Christmas curmudgeon in a new light.

Christmas is no time for insults, but somehow it’s the only season when someone can slap you with the one name that really hurts:


Simply say the word and there’s no explanation necessary. “Scrooge.” It’s often a playful insult, but when spoken seriously you know what it means: Heartless. Unforgiving. Spiteful on a day that calls for generosity.

Well, this holiday season, I wish to go where even a “contrarian” may fear to tread: I wish to defend — yes, defend — Ebenezer Scrooge.

A while back I saw a version of “A Christmas Carol” on TV, with Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame) as Scrooge. The obvious challenge of this role is to be as unlikable as possible, and Mr. Stewart was all that and then some. He was loathsome: his Scrooge bristled with a hatred that was hard to watch.

There was even a moment when I wondered why an actor would take such a part. Right away, however, I remembered that Patrick Stewart is just one of many gifted and famous actors who have interpreted Scrooge over the years — George C. Scott, Albert Finney, and even Mr. Magoo among them.

A Christmas Carol

In fact, apart from Shakespeare and The Bible, I can’t think of an English-language story whose popularity has endured like “A Christmas Carol.” It has been performed and adapted into musicals, operas, stage plays, television productions and movies, including several silent-era films beginning in 1901. Then, there’s the radio dramatizations, top-selling LP records, audiobooks, graphic novels, etc.

Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, and the first public performance of the story came in 1852. That performance was by none other than Dickens himself. At first, it was just a reading. But apparently he was really good at it and turned it into a kind of one-man show. His performance became so popular that Dickens took “A Christmas Carol” on the road. For years, he did public reading tours all over the United Kingdom and United States.  

The Transformation Of Scrooge

So back to the question: Why would an actor play Scrooge? “A Christmas Carol” itself gives the best reply to why the role has had so much dramatic appeal: It’s a redemption story. And that’s why he deserves a word of defense. Ebenezer Scrooge changed for the better. He emptied his own repulsive character, and filled himself instead with goodwill and charity.

Scrooge experienced the spiritual transformation that was first explained to a fellow named Nicodemus a very long time ago. Charles Dickens knew this when he wrote “A Christmas Carol,” and I suspect he would find it a curious irony indeed that we remember who Scrooge was, instead of the new person he became.

Find More From Robert Folsom

Robert Folsom co-hosts the videocast “Pop Trends Price Culture” and is a senior writer at Elliott Wave International, the world’s largest independent technical analysis firm. 

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