A Christmas Carol Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol book cover
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What is meant by the phrase "…and Scrooge’s name was good upon [the exchange], for anything he chooses to put his hand to"?

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This line comes from the beginning of A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is signing Jacob Marley's death warrant:

Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

The line is partly descriptive and partly ironic. It establishes Scrooge as a man of business who has found success on the exchange. His name being "good" means he is viewed as a trustworthy man, if nothing else, since he is respectable and wealthy.

However, the line is also rather sarcastic; at least, it is in hindsight once Dickens reveals more of Scrooge's characterization. As the first chapter progresses, the reader comes to learn that Scrooge is an unpleasant, unkind man with no friends, save for Marley, and even Scrooge and Marley's relationship was purely based on a shared profession and desire for money. Saying his name is "good" is thus ironic, since it is only good in a business sense. As a person, the last thing Scrooge could be described as is good: he has no compassion for others and is willfully blind to the suffering of his employees and his clients.

These lines are echoed at the end of the story, after Scrooge repents and becomes a better man:

[Scrooge] became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Now, Scrooge truly is as good as his name and his word. His character exceeds his good reputation as a businessman.

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