Table of contents

A Christmas Carol (2009) 2

The question of soul

So here is the work of reason: If we identify the good as the useful, then money is the most useful thing, allowing the acquisition of all others. The practical economist should rule – Scrooge! By his practice & example, mankind would do well. He rules by excellence, not by charity or any other religious claims. He implicitly denies Christ is God: It is stupid, not divine to suffer for others, & sacrifice one’s life. The nephew is comparatively humble, happy to live a mortal life, less divine, but less demanding than Christ’s. He does not challenge Christ’s rule over men’s souls. Scrooge denies there is soul.

The kindly persuasion of the generous nephew failed. He refused to identify the good with the useful, denying therefore that one should always think of profit, or acquisition. But he failed to offer a measure or reasoning for his understanding of the good as obvious as the uncle’s. Now fear will compel. Like Odysseus with Achilles, Scrooge hears from Marley what a horrible fate death is. He lives in Marley’s house. He sees his ghost, chained down by the profits he had acquired.

Apparently, life for human beings is such that ‘you can’t take it with you’ only tells half the story. You cannot let go either. The choices human beings make can destroy their freedom of movement. They suffer tremendously as a consequence. Marley’s ghost cannot tell Scrooge about the sacrifice of Christ or about heaven & the rewards for the just. His example is only the terror death holds for the unjust.

Scrooge again tries to reason with him: Marley was always a good man of business – why should he be punished! Only now does the good, in pursuit of which men busy themselves, become a problem. Marley’s ghost cries in agony & despair that the public good was his business.

Marley’s ghost says that all those who died without moving among their fellowmen to improve their lot suffer the same helplessness. His suffering seems to be powerlessness: In life, he could have done much that would have been of consequence, but did nothing, & now that is all he can do. There is nothing by which mankind will remember him. He has moved no one to gratitude; no one grieved after him.

This sets in motion Scrooge’s return to humanity. He is like Marley – a worse offender against all that is beautiful, but, as luck would have it, still alive. The spirit of Christmas humbles him: He sympathizes with those like him; remembering the pleasures & pains that attend on human life; suffering for all that he has lost, but which he could have gained. Soul emerges in attending on stories.