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Early in his encounter with the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge is obsessed with the day-to-day imperatives of running a profitable business, even at the expense of those upon whom he is dependent. Business is Scrooge's entire existence. He has relations, but he pays them no mind, and he treats his employee, Bob Cratchit, as though the latter had been sentenced to a life of indentured servitude, which was, in a very real sense, an apt description of the relationship between boss and subordinate. When Scrooge is awakened by the arrival of the ghost of Jacob Marley, the latter, referencing the chains he drags around, responds to Scrooge's astonishment at his late-business partners condition by observing, “I wear the chain I forged in life.” Marley's ghost has arrived, of course, for the purpose of warning Scrooge about the perils that lie ahead unless the elderly miser reforms his ways:
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
Scrooge profits at the expense of the broader context of his life. He is the proverbial 'island' existing in less-than-splendid isolation, his business the only component of his life that engages his interest. He has prospered at the expense of those around him, and sees no connection between himself and the welfare of the society he inhabits. Marley's ghost is warning Scrooge against continuing his obsession with business at the expense of the world around him. The business that subsumes Scrooge, the ghost advises, cannot be the totality of the former's existence. Scrooge, like the late Jacob Marley, will drag chains throughout eternity unless he changes his ways and views himself as a benevolent member of society engaged with humanity as an equal rather than as a bitter if wealthy old man living an isolated existence.
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