Merry Christmas Svithery


It's a shame that the name of Scrooge has become synonymous not with rebirth or the Christmas spirit or with a broad love for all, but with stinginess and greed and heartlessness. Isn't the whole point of the story that he left those things behind? That he became a new man?
    He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old City knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and, knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
So for Christmas this year, I say let's look through our memories for names that have been unfairly Scrooged and say, like the man whose -mas this is, "I will be merciful . . . and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."

I think He would like that as a birthday present.

last week's svithe


  1. Scrooge is inherently a negative name: the sounds in Scrooge remind me of scrape, scrimp and stooge. I think Dickens picked the name to sound very negatively to English speakers, even before he loaded the character up with the Christmas Carol mythos.

    So I think Scrooge has been fairly Scrooged: he was set up. We'll have to rename him to restore his honor.

  2. Many times, upon such life-altering experiences, the affected party will take on a new name. Scrooge never did change his name. If you consider how long it took him to build such a reputation of miserliness, it will come of no small surprise that we'd more readily associate the bad with his name.

    We'd be wise to recognize a few different lessons from this. One, it isn't so easy to slough off negative impressions we leave in our wake. Two, we'd be blessed doubly if we but refrain from callous judgments based on passed events without taking account of recent acts. Three, although rare, people do change.

  3. More Scrooge-y words:
    and most importantly: scrofulous

    I don't think you're ever going to redeem the name Scrooge. The roots are bad.

  4. Yes, but A is for Angel, not Adulterer.

    Which only buttresses up NecroDancer's point.

  5. Lots of words start with "A", so you must have missed my point. Scrooge is a name built from English word fragments which are rather infrequent and carry overwhelmingly negative connotations. I don't think we'll ever manage to give the name "Scrooge" a sense of redemption, because the name sounds bad, considered in isolation from The Christmas Carol.

    I should have been more clear: I agree with both Theric and Necromancer. It is too bad that Scrooge is only remembered for his miserly history, and not for his changed heart. It is critical for us to refrain from judging and remember that people do change. I'm not trying to tear down any of their arguments.

    I'm just pointing out that, in my opinion, Dickens named Scrooge with the intent to evoke unpleasant associations. For me, the redemption narrative is overwhelmed by the name "Scrooge", which by its nature is disagreeable.

  6. .

    It's true that Scrooge is designed to be an ugly-sounding name --- Dickens knew how to make names evocative. So yes, the name is naturally bad. But that was hardly my point, Recess. Sheesh.

    Oh. But I see you repented while I was logging into this account.

  7. The internet is a terrible thing. I'm sure that in person I would have managed to get the same thought across without seeming to attack people. =)


  8. For me, the redemption narrative is overwhelmed by the name "Scrooge", which by its nature is disagreeable.

    RecessionCone, I'm so sorry. I actually did NOT miss your point, but you apparently missed both my allusion and point.

    Hester Prynne did not get re-named, either, but the symbol of her filth turned to a symbol of her purity by a lifetime of service and the continual demonstration of a changed heart. Not by her. Not by generations of readers.

    1. We don't know that Scrooge would have retained his born-again status. His change of heart could have been as fleeting as the New Year's chimes.

    2. If he did retain his born-again status, we don't know that he wouldn't have renamed himself.

    Attempting to re-name him apocryphally would be nothing more than fanfic.

  9. And please forgive my cynicism. I neither like nor trust happily-ever-after conversion stories.

  10. Thanks for the explanation, MoJo. I share your skepticism of happily-ever-after stories (of the conversion sort and otherwise) - and I didn't mean to imply that we should attempt to tidy up the loose ends here by renaming Scrooge into something more pleasant. Indeed, renaming Scrooge is pretty much impossible - he's an icon of our literature & culture.

    All I was saying is that to me, his name is a crucial part of my perception of his character - meaning that it's going to be almost impossible for me to think of Scrooge in a positive light, despite his apparent turnaround. Certainly it'll be almost impossible for me to use the name Scrooge as a synonym for rebirth or a broad love for humanity. I just can't get over the name. =)

    Having said this, I still agree with Theric's exhortation to focus on the positive, forgive, and try to make the world a happier place. I'm just not mature enough to overlook Scrooge's name and see him as a transformational figure. =)

  11. .

    Have any of you read this book? It's really short --- only take you an afternoon.

  12. It's been a long time since I've read this. It is time to dust off my copy and read it again. I've seen various silverscreen adaptations, some I've liked others I haven't. I've watched some of these movies many times since the last time I've read the book. So much that I can hardly remember what the book has between the covers.

  13. Wow, I'm sorry I missed out on this for so long (in blogger years, that is).

    I'm touched by the sentiment of your post, Th., but I'm more amused by the comments it has drawn. Don't worry, I'm not making fun of you. I just think it's funny how the critic in us sometimes overpowers everything else.

    In the spirit of that criticism, while I'm sure everyone else has read it too, I listen to the end of a reading of this book about every day (it's on a Christmas CD that gets played at my house a lot). I'd just like to add that Dickens does imply that Scrooge's change is long lasting. I'm quoting from memory, but it's something like "and it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge." Clearly, to the people in the story, Scrooge came to stand for something better than he used to.

    There's also a comment about Scrooge's first laugh after his conversion being "the father of a long line of laughs." Truthfully, much of what comes after that seems also to me to be intended to imply the permanence of the change.

    For the record.

    Anyway, doesn't the unpleasantness of the name make the redemption that much more powerful? Doesn't it invoke Juliet's famous question regarding nomenclature, with all its attendant paradoxes and social ironies? In repentance we all take a new name upon ourselves, but we don't ask the world to call us by it in everyday affairs. We do, however, hope that our having taken it shows. Scrooge had a similar experience, in my view. He came to be known not by a Christmassy sounding name, but as a bearer - even proverbially so - of the Christmas spirit. Isn't that a much better renaming?

  14. Your brevity is breathtaking, Th. I hope it starts to rub off on me.

  15. Does 4th Nephi convince you that the Nephites changed? It tells me that the Nephites changed, but doesn't show how that happened.
    Dickens has the same problem here - he spends 90% of the book showing Scrooge in a bad light, gives him a miserable name, and then in a small space at the end of the tale, we're supposed to believe he's all changed (BTW, don't you love the plug for the Total Abstinence Principle =).

    It's much easier to set forth a convincing negative example than it is to show meaningful change. Perhaps this is due to King Benjamin's observation that there are diverse ways to commit sin, but only one righteous path. It's more interesting to read stories about people sinning and making mistakes than it is to read stories about people constantly choosing the right. The difficulty with this approach is that the bad example can be more memorable and persuasive than the redemption, especially when we're not given much detail about how deep and lasting the redemption was.

    Maybe one day I'll grow up to see Scrooge as a redemptive figure, but for now - the negative part of his character is what I remember him by.

  16. It is quite interesting that when people think of conversion stories in the Book of Mormon, Alma is tops on the list of the dramatic. Sure, there are other instances that certainly nearly match his - King Lamoni for one. However, Alma's stands out in the mind as special. His change of heart was dramatic and I'd venture to suggest everlasting. The people of King Benjamin experienced a change of heart no less dramatic.d

  17. .

    Yes and no, RC. You could argue that 90% of the book we see Scrooge in a bad light, but, much more importantly, throughout the whole book we watch him change. From early on we are watching him undergo "meaningful change." He's not anxious to change at the beginning, but as the book proceeds he becomes desperate to become a new man. It's a beautiful story.

    Read it. Even in our lavishly illustrated edition it barely breaks 150 pages. I think you'll be surprised.

    The reason the book has been so successful over the years is just that reason: we really do see Scrooge change in a convincing way.

    Man. The purpose of this post wasn't to evangelize Dickens, but now I'm feeling obliged.

  18. I agree with your point about 4th Nephi telling rather than showing, Recession Cone, but it does tell in a rather convincing fashion. Dickens' ending may feel similarly like a glossy epilogue, but, as you observe, who would have been interested to read about all the good things Scrooge did afterwards? If they were all enumerated from the time of his rebirth to the time of his death, the book would be much longer and less beloved, probably.

    Also, I agree with Th. about the transformation occurring throughout the entire text. That makes the ending a little more solid.

    Maybe one day I'll grow up to see Scrooge as a redemptive figure

    I'm not trying to change your view on Scrooge or suggest that it's immature in any way. I'm just pointing out that I see him differently. That's okay. Merry Christmas. :)

  19. .

    Scrooge is shorthand for, well, scrooge in our culture. That's useful and fine.

    But the book is different and . . . it was all a metaphor, all a metaphor . . . .

  20. As originally published, the book was only 80 pages long. It is definitely something even someone who reads as slowly as I could finish in one evening. Even the best dramatization pales to the words written by Mr. Dickens.