Table of contents

A Christmas Carol (2009) 3

Some notes on aristocracy & democracy

The nephew is followed by men coming to ask charity – not for themselves, but for the poor. – On the authority of the laws, which require that the good be generous. The laws appear at Christmas most clearly, because they are least harsh then.

The uncle, stern & angry, is defensive. He was under attack. The nephew came in uncalled. He pressed the claims of family & city. The nephew hides the power of the laws in their good cheer on festive occasions. But Scrooge is undeceived; he may teach us the same. Scrooge is angry because he is not powerful; maybe he fears that the weak rich will be preyed upon… The nephew knows this: So he professes to want nothing from his uncle. But the charity-seeking people teach us that Scrooge is right. What if Scrooge is angry out of public spirit? Without collective selfishness mankind cannot become supremely rich. With it, there is nothing man cannot acquire.

Scrooge’s anger leads him to discuss a political revolution. ‘If I could work my will!’ He would punish fiendishly the generous, for the good of everyone. Would not this tend to help especially the poor? His order would be just, because it would look to each man’s good, each man getting as much good as he can acquire. The less people are deluded by generosity, the less money & time they waste, the more people will pay attention to how hard life is, & how necessary to deal with that hardship. Of course, the rich would be ever richer–but they are already safe from ugly nature. The poor, however, would see an extraordinary improvement under his plan, I feel sure.

Scrooge wants man to be rational, or rationally selfish. He needs to see the ugly facts & confront them as best he can. Art should replace hope & religion. In this world, he says, he must be cross; in the other, he would have the power of punishment: The power of the laws.

The spectacle of his death changes that. Unmourned, robbed by petty little creatures debased by necessity, he has no one, not even family, to reclaim his humanity in death. He fears he will be eaten by cats & mice. His death will also benefit people who owe him money, who will now have bought time.

This fear matters to Scrooge. He joins the democracy – he wants people to enjoy the spectacle of wealth at Christmas, as opposed to really being wealthy, because to rejoice is human, allowed even to the poor. Scrooge learns that there are two feral children, the boy Ignorance & the girl Want, whom he must dread, for on his forehead is spelled Doom.