illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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What do Fan and Belle say to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol?

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In the beginning of stave 2 of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge's younger sister, Fan, comes to Ebenezer's boarding school at Christmastime to tell him that their father has agreed that Ebenezer can come home, "for ever and ever." Towards the end of stave 2, Belle meets with an older Ebenezer to release him from their engagement to be married, telling him that his love for her has been replaced by his "master-passion" for money.

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Ebenezer Scrooge's younger sister, Fan, and his one true love, Belle, both appear in stave 2, "The First of the Three Sprits," of Charles Dickens's classic novella A Christmas Carol.

Fan appears early in stave 2, to rescue young Ebenezer from the cold, forbidding, and desolate boarding school where he was sent by his father, who, according to Fan, "is so much kinder than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven!" The reader can only imagine what young Ebenezer's home life was like and what sort of family discord ruled the home that caused his father to send him off to boarding school.

Fan finds Ebenezer sitting alone at a desk near a feeble fire in a dark, dirty, deserted classroom. She bursts into the room, throws her arms around his neck, kisses him repeatedly, and shouts, "I have come to bring you home, dear brother!"

Ebenezer can hardly believe it, but Fan reassures him. "Home, for ever and ever," she says, clapping her hands and laughing, "and are never to come back here; but first, we're to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world."

Dickens's own older sister, Frances Elizabeth Dickens, was called "Fanny." To keep even more of the characters in A Christmas Carol in the Dickens family, Charles Dickens's youngest brother was called "Tiny Fred"—Scrooge's nephew is named Fred—and Fanny's disabled, invalid son, Henry, is believed to be the inspiration for Tiny Tim.

Belle appears in stave 2 shortly following the boisterous Christmas Eve party given by kindly, jovial Mr. Fezziwig, to whom young Ebenezer was apprenticed as a young man. After the party, the Ghost of Christmas Present leads Scrooge into the open air, where he sees himself as a young man—this time with a look of care and avarice in his face and "an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye"—sitting next to "a fair young woman... in whose eyes were tears," which is quite a contrast to the recent festivities in Fezziwig's warehouse.

Belle (whose name doesn't appear in the scene and isn't spoken by Scrooge) is meeting with Ebenezer to tell him that she's decided to end their engagement. "Another idol has displaced me," she says. "A golden one."

Ebenezer tries to explain that the world has made him the way he is. He says, "There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty," and this is why he's devoted himself to making sure that he'll never be poor again, so the world never takes advantage of him.

Belle responds that Ebenezer has taken his fear of the world to extremes and that now, the only thing he truly cares about is money. She reminds him, "Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and content to be so," but she says that he's changed so much since then that he's like another man. For these reasons, she releases him from his promise to marry her, "With a full heart, for the love of him you once were."

"May you be happy in the life you have chosen," Belle says, and she leaves him sitting alone, in much the same way that Fan found him, although older now, sitting alone and forlorn in the boarding-school classroom.

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Upon first glace, the role of women in A Christmas Carol seems very limited.  However, while the majority of the narrative focuses on Scrooge, minor characters such as Scrooge's sister Fan, his ex-fiancée Belle, and even Mrs. Cratchit play significant roles in his development.  Of these three characters, two of them have direct interactions with him, both occurring during the memories conjured by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Fan, Scrooge's younger sister and mother of Fred, who is now Scrooge's only living relative, played a major part is Scrooge's childhood.  As a young boy, Scrooge was sent away to boarding school.  While the reader is never given a specific reason why, Fan's words suggest that Scrooge's home life was far from ideal.  Scrooge views one memory of himself in which Fan arrives at the boarding school, hugs him and claims "I have come to bring you home, dear brother!"  She goes on to state,

"Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home's like Heaven!  He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you.  And you're to be a man!"

Fan's words illuminate her close relationship with Scrooge.  However, this happy memory is cut short by the spirit's statement that "She died a woman."  One of the most loving relationship that Scrooge experienced ended in a heartbreaking loss, which could explain why he has distanced himself from Fred.  He very well could be afraid to allow family in.

As Scrooge grew, he started to develop a different type of relationship with Belle.  After the spirit takes Scrooge through the revelry of Fezziwig's Ball, he shows Scrooge a much bleaker scene.  In this memory Scrooge is older, "in the prime of life" and sitting beside Belle, with whom he had fallen in love.  As was the case with Fan, Belle's words reveal the truth of the memory.  Belle states, "Another idol has displaced me," meaning that Scrooge has come to love money as he once loved her.  Scrooge protests, but Belle continues,

"[...] if you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl - you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your repentance and regret would surely follow?  I do; and I release you.  With a full heart, for the love of him you once were."

Thus, Belle ends the relationship because she no longer wants him to feel obligated to someone he no longer loves.  For the second time, the reader sees a once beautiful become tarnished, this time by greed.  These two instances mark two of the major reasons for Scrooge's misanthropic view of the world.  One love was taken away by death, the other by his growing greed. While their words to Scrooge are few, they speak volumes.  His loss of the love represented by the two women is one of the major reasons he became the cold, hateful man we meet at the start of the tale.

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