You know what always gets me about Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale A Christmas Carol?

Scrooge never gets another chance with Belle.

Maybe I’ve been poisoned by too many Hollywood romances, but I always wished Scrooge could somehow be reunited with the woman who clearly was the love of his life. Maybe a chance encounter in the town square or through some mutual acquaintance. Once he loses her in the story, though, she’s just gone. We never get to see him apologize to Belle or tell her he has realized the error of his ways. They were … and then they weren’t.

scroogeIn every adaptation of the Dickens story, Scrooge is very obviously undone by the memory of his lost love. The book actually goes even further than most film or television adaptations by allowing Scrooge to see Belle living in domesticated bliss with another man. Scrooge is an old man in the present, so the fact that a love from his younger years would still mean so much to him is very telling.

Somehow, though, by Christmas Day, he seems to be over the whole thing.

I’ve always wondered what Ebenezer Scrooge was like the day after Christmas … and the day after that … and the day after that … and so on and so on. Dickens explains that Scrooge’s change was permanent in the following passage:

“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.”

Still, I wonder how Scrooge was able to maintain the Christmas Day feeling for the rest of his life. I know I’ve felt that sense of jubilation around the holidays before, only to see it rapidly fade as the days and weeks stretch on. Somehow, Scrooge was able to radically change his entire life and maintain that change. Yes, the spirits did the work of making him open his eyes to the changes which needed to be made, but it was Scrooge himself who had to do the transforming.

The only explanation I can think of is this: Scrooge’s maladies were self-inflicted. He was not a joyless man; he had only misplaced his joy in greed and money and stinginess in all things. There did not seem to be an outside force causing him distress. He was a man very much in control of his own faculties, confident in whatever he did. When he was against Christmas, he was dead-set against it. When he was for it, he kept “Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

What if Scrooge had been a manic-depressive, however? What if agoraphobia made it difficult for him to leave his house? What if he was crippled by anxiety attacks? What if he suffered from trauma stemming from some horrible childhood incident? Could he have commanded his personality to undergo such a radical transformation?

Perhaps he could have, but there are a great many more who cannot. They feel the joy of Christmas Day quickly replaced by the same dull gray they feel the other 364 days of the year. Depressed people often become stuck on past events or hurts or traumas. The memories which propelled Scrooge toward a life of change could be the very memories which would cause another person to drown in regret and self-doubt. To his credit, Scrooge did not let his past weigh down his future. If we could only all be so fortunate.

I think this is why I root for a Scrooge/Belle reunion. There’s something in that relationship I don’t want to let go of. I want Ebenezer to have another chance at love because I would want another chance at it. I want him to go looking for his lost love because I would go looking for her. I don’t believe that makes me right or Scrooge wrong. I just believe that each one of us is wired a bit differently.

God bless us, every one.


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