I don’t really have to go over the plot of Charles Dickens 1843 story ‘A Christmas Carol’ as its embedded more in the film versions like the black and white version 1951 ‘Scrooge’ starring Alastair Sim, although other versions are available. Essentially, it takes 4 ghosts from the past and future to convince the miser, formerly Ebenezer Scrooge, to become a better person and a fable for public consumption.
An early fantasy story although I suspect Dickins would have been surprised to have the story classified as such considering sub-genres didn’t really exist in his time.
The odd thing is that although others have also borrowed the Scrooge scenario, no one really plays with the plot. Considering it is in the writer’s vocabulary to do so, if for no other reason to have their own take on the plot and not plagiarise. Maybe its too recognisable and readers/viewers don’t want it to change. The ability for someone to change for the better is also a standard plot, probably long before Dickens.
Oddly, I doubt if we look at misers and other such types of people and wish they were better, so the plot doesn’t work on that level. No doubt, it works counter to the adage, a tiger never changes its stripes or is it a leopard never changes its spots. The meaning is there in that the worse people don’t really change, especially if they have power over other people. We simply don’t expect such people to change, based on observation. That doesn’t mean there are exceptions but often their motivation becomes complicated.
Look at the number of billionaires who’d rather give their money away than leave it all to their off-spring. Yes, they think so much money will make them spoilt but to leave nothing at all still looks like some form of cruelty. Maybe the off-spring will do well. They have the name and might have some of the same talent. Doesn’t mean they might do well unaided but they lack the main chance their parent had that made their fortunes.
That’s getting off the track. Consider also that even when we remember our dreams, they quickly fade when we wake up. Both things work against the Scrooge scenario. People shrug and go on with their lives. Would misers be any different? It’s a radical change of character. Do heroes become villains? Hmm…Do villains become heroes? Yeah, all right, that happens mostly in the super-hero universes.
Scrooge is a normal person with a lifetime of giving his staff low wages, counting his money with glee (other TV series are available) and generally seeing this as the norm. Not that far removed from some bosses we have in our world. Do they change overnight? The rich prefer to stay rich and don’t even fear the taxman until they knock on their doors finally catching them out.
So why don’t we have Scrooge wake up and just carry on as before? That would probably be true. The world or its people doesn’t change. It re-enforces the true scenario. Aspiration lost out to reality. What we would like to happen is the least likely to happen. The myth is supported simply because that is what we would like to happen.
Why single out Scrooge anyway? Victorian London must have been rife with miser bosses at the time, if not equal to him certainly worse. Would his example change others? One only has to look at modern day rich philanthropists giving their money to charities and other causes and realise they are still out-numbered by those who don’t and who still don’t give their employees better wages to realise the Scrooge aspect is alive and doing well today.
If you plan to apply the Scrooge scenario, look over the plot elements and see if you can either improve the scenario or rationalise the logic better. I mean, why should all 4 ghosts have the same reasoning. Why shouldn’t the past ghosts be as miserly as Scrooge? Good and bad demons on your shoulders if you like. Make people think. That’s what Dickens did in his day. Will it change people? We’ll only know if any revised plots get into the public consciousness.
Would I use the Scrooge scenario? Probably not. I have enough plots to play with not to do something that has been repeated time and time again. Equally, I don’t bathe in humbugs.
© GF Willmetts 2022