a christmas carrel

January 6, 2011

Why did Scrooge change his ways? It is certainly not the fact of his having been told that he was being greedy. He had been told many times and ignored all warnings, ba-humbugging them. It was rather the fright that did it. The paranormal activities, the fact of ghosts and their magical abilities to uproot, disorient, decontextualise him made Scrooge believe. The ghosts, these metaphysic adjudicators, forces that had nothing to gain, made impossible things happen in real, tangible, undeniable life. He could feel for real, and since he really was who he was, as was made horribly evident all at once by everything he had hitherto brushed off as unrealistic fantasy, he got scared. He remembered, and it meant something because he understood now again that he did indeed have a soul. What the world told him was all of a sudden consequential.

The only equivalent replication possible (for we have our share of Scrooges in our own communities), would have to be a sort of prank, an appeal to the authorities that the rich fear. But what are these authorities? who do the rich fear that might, if awakened, shake the foundations of their disbelief? and what would these ghosts do? perhaps we could summon them, offer ourselves as surrogates, at least for some time, sometimes. We could be a part of them. I wonder whether Scrooge never saw his ghosts again. I imagine he did, every morning and every night.

I any case, however relevant this lesson may be, there might also be another one behind it. That the ghosts are meant to teach Scrooge a lesson is at least to some extent a projection on behalf of the reader, me (though I haven’t actually read the book). It could be that this fright of ghosts is something that Scrooge feels for the benefit of the Common reader. That would make him much more generous than we give him credit for. We’re so rude. A “true” Scrooge might not respond as Disney’s or Dickens’ did. Theirs might be the reader’s inner Scrooge. Perhaps culture that is meant for, that makes sense to, the “real” Scrooges would better detail their fear. But that is assuming Scrooge is different from us, or, in other words, that a part of our inner self is different from another configuration or our same self, that we are different from ourselves.

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