The Solipsism of Scrooge

ScroogeThere is a great deal of evidence in Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol” to suggest that Ebenezer Scrooge lives within a solipsistic universe. Solipsism is the theory that the self is all that can be known to exist and possibly all that does exist. If Scrooge did in fact live in a solipsistic universe then the world he perceived himself to live in including all the other people inhabiting that world would be merely creations of his own mind. They would therefore have no real form or substance of their own. In his solipsistic universe only Scrooge would exist. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the idea I am going to relate. For the purpose of understanding I submit the following exhibits into evidence.

Exhibit A – Solitary as an Oyster

Scrooge himself felt very alone in the world. Dickens describes him as “solitary as an oyster” and that “… the very thing he liked [was to] edge his way along the crowded paths of life warning all human sympathy to keep its distance…” He lived alone in a dark, empty, “gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had little business to be …” hidden behind other houses. I have read many books on dream interpretation that interpret a house in a dream to represent the human mind. If it was Dickens’ intent to have Scrooge’s house represent his mind I think the metaphor is apt. Finally, Scrooge pushed all other people aside as if they were truly “surplus population” and not entirely real to him. We see this when his nephew comes to his office to invite him to dinner, when the two solicitors visit and when the child sings a carol on the steps of his office. We also see it quite clearly in the way he treats his clerk, Bob Cratchit.

Exhibit B – Bah Humbug

Scrooge’s go to catch phrase is “Bah Humbug.” In my last post we discussed how the actual definition of “Humbug” is “language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive…” It is this deception that lies at the heart of the solipsistic universe. In other words, the other people in Scrooge’s world are not separate beings but rather creations of Scrooge’s mind. The fact that they appear to be separate on the surface level is the deception. Scrooge sees his universe as a humbug because the truth of it is not how it actually appears. In a sense there are two minds at work; one that is of the universe and lives within it (i.e, his ego) and one that is aware of the falseness of the universe (i.e., his true self).

Exhibit C – Jacob Marley

Marley’s ghost tells Scrooge that the purpose of his visit is to warn Scrooge that he has a chance to escape Marley’s fate. Scrooge sees that Marley is fettered with a ponderously long and heavy chain. Marley tells Scrooge he wears the chain he forged through his neglect of his fellow man and that Scrooge’s chain was as heavy as Marley’s chain currently appears to be seven Christmases ago. Scrooge is not aware of his own chain but the implication is clear that he will become painfully aware of the chain once he dies.

When Marley first appears, Scrooge explicitly states that he does not believe Marley is real and that he assumes Marley is a creation of his own imagination. There is then a dialog where Marley’s ghost attempts to convince Scrooge that he is real. Scrooge argues that Marley is probably the byproduct of poor digestion. This is not particularly convincing but it illustrates the point that Scrooge assumes himself to live in an (at least somewhat) solipsistic universe. Marley finally frightens Scrooge into admitting he believed in Marley. But what exactly does this mean that Scrooge “believed” in Marley? I think the only logical answer to this question is that when Scrooge says he believes in Marley he means to say he believes Marley is a separate person and therefore repudiates his own belief that he lives in a solipsistic universe. Perhaps this is repudiation is necessary in order for Scrooge to believe the redeeming power of the apparition. Perhaps this belief is necessary for his redemption.

But even if Scrooge is forced to admit that he does not live in a solipsistic universe this does not necessarily prove that his universe is more than just his mind. Consider the question, why was there no ghost that appeared to Marley before he died? Why does Scrooge deserve this chance at redemption and not Marley? It could be argued that Scrooge actually deserves redemption less than Marley given the relative sizes of their respective chains. The fact that Marley appears for Scrooge’s sake but no ghost appeared for Marley’s sake appears to be evidence that Scrooge does in fact live in a solipsistic universe.

Exhibit D – Your Past

The final piece of evidence I will present to support the argument that Scrooge lives in a solipsistic universe is what the Ghost of Christmas Past says to Scrooge when he makes his introduction. When he tells Scrooge who he is, Scrooge replies, “Long past?” to which the ghost counter-replies, “No. Your past.” The ghost is in effect telling Scrooge that his whole reason for being is for Scrooge’s benefit. In a sense the ghost would not have a reason for being if Scrooge did not exist. This only makes sense if Scrooge lives in a solipsistic universe. One can assume the subsequent ghosts exist for the same reason.

Conclusion

I think it is important that Scrooge’s universe is solipsistic because it explains both how and why his redemption takes effect. First of all, there must have been a repressed subconscious part of Scrooge that desired redemption. This subconscious part of him was his true self that had been suppressed by an overbearing ego. This ego had its genesis in Scrooge’s mother who died in childhood and his father who blamed him for his mother’s death. Scrooge “feared the world too much” and built up defenses against it by allowing his ego to take control. With the onset of advanced age his true self reached a point where either redemption happened now or it would never happen. Because Scrooge lived in an egocentric solipsistic universe his subconscious true self was able to send Marley and the three ghosts to ferry Scrooge through the redemption process.

This redemption process, however, was a transformation from solipsism to a world where the other had real form and substance. In a solipsistic universe, there is only the self. The “others” cohabitating this universe have no real existence. As such, they can be easily marginalized as “surplus population” and treated as lesser beings. But this is a lonely, dark, hostile and ultimately undesirable world to live in. When one lives in that world for too long he becomes like Scrooge; angry, bitter, afraid and distrustful of the other. Redemption can only happen when one frees himself from the shackles of the ego and migrates from its self contained, solipsistic universe into the real world in which the other exists with real form and substance. In order for the command to love thy neighbor to be meaningful, the neighbor must be real and other. Otherwise love of neighbor is merely a love for a phantom created by the mind.

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15 Comments

Filed under A Christmas Carol

15 responses to “The Solipsism of Scrooge

  1. thordaddy

    The problem for the modern Christian though is when his neighbor is a geniune white Supremacist. Then he MUST submit to liberal ideology. There are many parallels between the stunted reality of Scrooge and the stunted reality of your everyday liberal “Christian.”

    • Sigh… I knew you’d be back. Okay, what are these parallels you see between the stunted reality of Scrooge and your everyday liberal Christian?

      • thordaddy

        Scrooge is only “scrooge” because his neighbors are not interpreted as “racists.” If, in the liberal interpretation, said “neighbors” were such “white supremacists” then the liberal interpretation of “love thy neighbor like thyself” would collapse and Scrooge would be a good individual whether his judgement was sound or delusional. If Scrooge really disliked Christmas for its inherent “white supremacy” then Scrooge is, amongst liberals, a real hero whether he saw things in full or in stunted fashion. His “anti-racist” stance would absolve Scrooge of all other personal failures in judgement.

        Of course, the liberal interpretation of Scrooge is of a “racist” “conservative” “white male” hateful of his liberal neighbors’ absolute abundance of love during the Christmas time. Seen in hindsight all these decades later, “Scrooge” appears as nothing more than the Corporate autonomists’ first primitive memetic media attempt at mass economic manipulation of the American public. A meme still literally in effect over half a century later…

      • I’m not sure what your point is. Race has nothing to do with this story. Every character as far as I can tell is a white Christian. Scrooge or Bob Cratchit may very well hate black people based solely on their skin color but I see no evidence of this in the story.

      • thordaddy

        wS…

        My point is very simple… The contemporary interpretation of Scrooge IS A LIBERAL ONE and it all hinges on the nature of his INTERPRETED liberal “neighbors.”

        IF THOUGH, Scrooge’s neighbors were seen, whether real or perceived, as “white supremacists” reveling in their “white supremacy” via their extravagant celebration of Christ’s Mass THEN everything changes about interpreting Scrooge.

        So in fact, YOU are not the liberal “Christian” that you say you are when you quote”love thy neighbor as thyself” BECAUSE if said neighbor was a genuine white Supremacist then your whole interpretation of Scrooge must either collapse OR you will have rejected liberal dogma and shown yourself to be allied with white Supremacy. The REAL radicals leave you no wiggle room.

      • When did I say I was a liberal Christian?

      • thordaddy

        wS…

        When you say you are a Christian, but not a genuine white Supremacist.

      • So you are saying all conservatives are racist?

      • thordaddy

        wS…

        Most modern “conservatives” are just less belligerent liberals… A traditional white conservative could be at one point conceived of as a genuine white Supremacist and thus perceived as a “racist” by any degree of liberal.

      • I suppose using that definition you, the Taliban and the Islamic state can enjoy the title of conservative.

      • thordaddy

        We are getting off topic though which HINGES on the interpreted nature of the “neighbors” that Scrooge abhors…

        IF they are, in fact “white supremacists” (not JUST in skin color, but manners and mores) THEN Scrooge IS GOOD according to the liberal…

        THIS PRESENTS A DILEMMA for liberal “Christians” who interpret “love thy neighbor as thyself” in the most radically liberal manner….

        IT TELLS THEM to love the white Supremacist AND THUS render one’s self illiberal…

        But in fact. YOU HAVE LEARNED Scrooge to be bad and facing grave punishment in the form of eternal loneliness for his irrational hatred for those reveling in the celebration of Christmas… So in this sense, Scrooge is anti-Christian. Obviously, decent people should reject Scrooge.

        Yet the meme… “Don’t be a Scrooge” is, in fact, a microaggression against the discriminating and discerning judgements of “old white males.” So Scrooge is, in his own cantankerous way, emblematic of white Supremacy and thus not anti-Christian at all, but anti-liberals who appropriate Christ’s Mass for their own self-benefit.

      • Scrooge is anti Christian in the beginning of the story. Scrooge’s nephew is Christian in the true sense as is demonstrated by him inviting Scrooge to dine with him despite his uncle’s rebuffs.

      • thordaddy

        wS…

        Scrooge is interpreted as anti-Christian WHICH SHOULD make him a FRIEND of modern liberals. But in fact, modern liberals despise Scrooge NOT for his anti-Christianity, but for his old, white, discriminating ways… They despise Scrooge as anti-liberal… And as a small child you definitely took to the message that an anti-liberal Scrooge was equal to an anti-Christian Scrooge. You were mislead.

      • According to you, I am a modern liberal but I’ve always had compassion for Scrooge. I love his conversion especially the scene where he shows up to the dinner party he rejected.

        That could be you Thordaddy…. That could be you.

  2. thordaddy

    wS…

    You simply don’t see Scrooge as the overly discriminating, discerning and cynical “old white male” RESISTING self-annihilation in the absolute sense of not immersing himself in an unholy and spectacularly gussied up degeneracy disguised as a time of deep existential introspection and indissoluble loyalties… Scrooge is “scrooge” because he will not sacrifice himself on the Altar of Liberal Society. The immersion into a Christmas theme is the psychops to be included such that now Scrooge appears to be unwilling to self-annihilate for salvation (for a “good” cause). Bah humbug!

    You’re still reading a children’s story as a child would.

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