‘A Christmas Carol’, Scrooge & Parental Alienation

Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge. A protagonist that is initially presented in the above tale as a cold-hearted, bitter individual.

Scrooge’s persona has resulted in the use of his name in the English language as a byword for cruelty and misanthropy.

The Story

On a bleak Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley. Jacob informs Scrooge that he has been condemned to spend eternity experiencing an “incessant torture of remorse.” Jacob attributes this punishment being due to a life spent obsessing over money and mistreating those less fortunate.

Jacob tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits and warns Scrooge to listen carefully to each of them. It will be Scrooge’s only chance to avoid a much heavier punishment than that currently being inflicted upon his late business partner.

The first spirit to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Past. Scrooge to numerous scenes of his childhood, including when his one-time fiancé ended their relationship. Scrooge’s neglect of her and his obsession with money were the reason. Scrooge is then taken to a scene that depicts the same woman married with a large and happy family on Christmas Eve. Scrooge is upset by what he sees and demands the ghost remove him from the scene.

Scrooge is then visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present who takes him to see various scenes in an attempt to prompt the old miser to repent. However, Scrooge declines these numerous prompts.

The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, takes Scrooge to a Christmas day in the future, revealing a number of scenes. They visit the funeral of a disliked man where the apparent mourners are only there due to the offer of a free lunch. The final scene that the ghost shows Scrooge is that of a tombstone bearing Scrooge’s name. The grave is very neglected. On seeing this, Scrooge weeps and promises to change his ways.

The following morning Scrooge awakens a new man. Throughout the day he engages with many characters from the story in a compassionate and kind way, visiting family, and gifting the largest turkey to his poor colleague’s family. Dickens presents Scrooge’s new behaviour and zest for life as an embodiment of Christmas spirit.

Scrooge and Parental Alienation

How does this tie in with parental alienation? How does it compare with a parent being denied a loving relationship with their own child? For a detailed definition of parental alienation see here.

Dicken’s tale has several parallels with the dynamics of parental alienation, particularly at Christmas time.

I view the character of Scrooge being incredibly similar to that of an alienating parent. Both characters require a cold-hearted, bitter view on life.

When visited by the first spirit Scrooge selfishly demands he be removed from the last scene due to the upset he felt. He did not appear to reflect on his past behaviour that had upset those around him. As anyone adversely affected by parental alienation will know, the targeting parent will always put their own needs above those of others; even their very own children.

When Scrooge was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, he refused to repent. Such is the same response for alienating parents. They not only out-rightly refuse to change their ways, they will also all too often project blame out onto those they despise. Rather callously, they will reward those that support their negative and abusive behaviours.

The visit by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is where the parallels end. Alienating parents are unable to envisage the future. They are unable to comprehend the emotional damage they are inflicting on their children by denying them a loving relationship with the targeted parent. Alienators simply do not have the insight needed to understand the long-term damage they are doing to their children.

Tragically, unlike Dickens’ Christmas tale, all of us adversely affected by parental alienation know that alienators are not capable of any such epiphany. Ironically, like Scrooge’s former business partner, who is destined to experience eternal torture, in the most severe cases it is the children that will be left to experience the emotional torture; not the perpetrators, the alienating parents.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

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