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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Who is Belle in A Christmas Carol and what is her significance to Scrooge?

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In A Christmas Carol, Belle is Scrooge's ex-fiancée who broke up with him because he had changed too much in his pursuit of wealth. They were both poor when they met, and Belle loved the man he was before he became greedy. When Scrooge sees her again through the Ghost of Christmas Past, he is reminded that he lost the love of his life because of his greediness.

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In stave 2, "The First of Three Spirits," of Charles Dickens's classic novella A Christmas Carol , the Ghost of Christmas Past guides Ebenezer Scrooge through memories of the important people in his past, including his beloved sister, Fan; his first employer, the irrepressible Mr. Fezziwig; and Scrooge's fiancée,...

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his first love, and seemingly his only love, whose name, Belle, isn't revealed until later in stave 2.

The Ghost of Christmas Past's intention behind prompting Scrooge to remember this meeting with Belle is perhaps to remind Scrooge of the last person for whom he felt true human emotions. In the scene from the past that the Ghost shows Scrooge, Scrooge has already turned his attention away from other people (such as Belle) and human emotions to the pursuit of money, which is the reason that Belle releases Scrooge from their engagement. Belle says,

I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were.

It doesn't seem that Scrooge ill-treated Belle. She makes no mention of anything untoward between them other than how he no longer seems interested in her. "Another idol has displaced me," she says simply. He has no room in his heart for Belle.

Immediately following this remembered meeting with the young Belle, the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge an apparently real but not remembered scene. Scrooge couldn't have remembered the scene simply because he's not part of it—as he's been in of all the other scenes from his past—and he has no way of knowing it occurred other than the fact that the Ghost of Christmas Past showing it to him.

In the scene, which takes place only seven years in the past, Scrooge sees a young woman who he believes is Belle, "now a comely matron, sitting opposite her daughter." Her name still isn't spoken until the woman's husband enters the room to tell her what he's seen earlier in the day (the only time her name appears in the entirety of A Christmas Carol). The husband says,

Belle ... I saw an old friend of yours this afternoon.

He asks Belle to guess who he's seen, and for some reason Belle ventures a guess that it might have been Scrooge. Her husband replies,

Mr. Scrooge it was. I passed his office window; and as it was not shut up, and he had a candle inside, I could scarcely help seeing him. His partner lies upon the point of death, I hear; and there he sat alone. Quite alone in the world, I do believe.

The scene touches Scrooge deeply, as the Ghost of Christmas Past no doubt intended, and reminds Scrooge of "what might have been" had he chosen Belle instead of the pursuit of money. This is part of the lesson that Jacob Marley hoped Scrooge would learn by the visits of the "Three Spirits" which would give Scrooge "a chance and hope" of escaping Marley's fate.

It's interesting to note that although Scrooge makes a considerable effort at the end of the story to reconcile with his nephew, Fred, and make amends with Bob Cratchit and his family and even with the gentlemen who sought money for the poor in stave 1, Scrooge apparently makes no effort to reconnect with Belle or even to find out what's happened to her or her family.

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Belle was Scrooge’s fiancée in his youth. She was a young woman whom he met when he was just a poor apprentice of Fezziwig’s. She had loved him, and her breaking off their engagement seems like the final straw before Scrooge became overwhelmed by greed. Remember that Scrooge was essentially abandoned as a boy by his family when they sent him away to boarding school, leaving him there for vacations and holidays, too. His conversation with Fan, his sister, seems to indicate that Scrooge’s relationship with their father may have been rocky at best, and perhaps this is the reason why he was neglected.

When Fan comes to get him from school when he is a much older boy, she says, “Father is so much kinder than he used to be that home’s like Heaven!” Meanwhile, Scrooge had spent many holidays alone and embittered, with only his imagination and fictional characters from books to keep him company. He also felt how difficult it was to be poor, as he was accustomed to “getting up by candle-light, and not [getting] too much to eat.” He likely wishes to avoid such feelings of abandonment and poverty as an adult.

Later, when Belle ends their relationship, she claims that only “the master-passion, Gain, engrosses [him].” However, she claims that if his money “can cheer and comfort [him]” as she has tried to do, then she will not grieve. Faced first with his abandonment by his family and now with Belle’s abandonment of him, it seems possible that Scrooge decided to focus on acquisition and gain because he could be certain of never being abandoned again.

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In Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, Belle is the beautiful young woman to whom Scrooge was once engaged. Scrooge manages to see Belle again when the Ghost of Christmas Past reveals a pivotal moment from their relationship.

Belle is described as a "fair young girl in a mourning dress... in whose eyes there were tears." Belle tells Scrooge that he has too much fear of the world and that everything important to him has receded in the face of his desire to be beyond the world's reproach. Belle claims that Scrooge's noble aspirations have been left behind and that he is only interested in gaining. 

The two had entered into their engagement when they were both poor. Since Scrooge has developed an obsession with accumulating wealth, he has changed dramatically. Belle, thus, decides to end their engagement, citing his "changed nature" and telling him that she is still full of love for the man he once was. 

This is significant to Scrooge because it shows him exactly what his greed has cost: the love of his life and his only chance for marital bliss. 

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Belle is Scrooge’s former fiancée. She was visited by Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas past. When Scrooge sees Belle, he is reminded of his greed. Because he loved money more than love, he lost Belle and therefore he lost the only happiness he had in his life.

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In the section of A Christmas Carol with the ghost of Christmas past, we learn that Belle was once Scrooge's girlfriend. She rejected him because he changed too much. She tells him:

"Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.”

“What Idol has displaced you?” he rejoined.

“A golden one.”

In other words, the love of gold or money has replaced Scrooge's love for her and so she breaks off their relationship. Scrooge later sees a vision of Belle who has married someone else and is surrounded by loving, happy children.

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What is the role of Belle in A Christmas Carol?

The classic story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens tells of the selfish miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited on Christmas Eve by three ghosts that reveal to him past, present, and future in an attempt to transform him into a kinder man. Belle appears in Stave Two of the book, in which the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge events in his life that have already transpired. Belle's role is crucial in Scrooge's transformation, as the scenes show Scrooge what he might have had in his life if he had not been so avaricious.

Accompanied by the ghost, Scrooge first sees Belle as she sorrowfully breaks off her engagement with him when he was a younger man. She tells Scrooge that he has changed and that he now loves money more than he loves her. Rather than apologize, Scrooge justifies his actions by stating that there is nothing worse than poverty and nothing better than the pursuit of wealth. He attributes the change he has undergone to maturity, not greed. This scene of parting with Belle hurts the elderly Scrooge so much that he tells the ghost, "Why do you delight to torture me?"

The ghost then takes Scrooge to another scene in which Belle is married to another man and has children. The family is obviously joyously happy celebrating Christmas together. Scrooge looks on the family scene and realizes that he might have had such a life.

And now Scrooge looked on more attentively than ever, when the master of the house, having his daughter leaning fondly on him, sat down with her and her mother at his own fireside; and when he thought that such another creature, quite as graceful and as full of promise, might have called him father, and been a springtime in the haggard winter of his life, his sight grew very dim indeed.

Belle's husband then tells Belle that he saw Scrooge, whose his partner was on the point of death, and that Scrooge seemed very lonely. "Quite alone in the world, I do believe." This experience of seeing Belle as she first breaks their engagement and then is together with her family so devastates Scrooge that he begs the Ghost of Christmas Past to take him away from there. The incidents help him realize what all the selfish decisions in his life have cost him.

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What is the role of Belle in A Christmas Carol?

Belle is only a minor character in this novella, as she only appears in the visions that are showed to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Past. However, her importance lies in representing how Scrooge has changed since his youth, and how he exchanged hope of happiness and companionship for his all-encompassing greed. This section details how Belle and Scrooge used to be engaged. However, one of the memories that the Ghost of Christmas Past conjures up for Scrooge's reflection is Belle's decision to break the engagement. Note her reasons for this:

You fear the world too much... All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?

Belle therefore is an important character in terms of tracing the moral degradation of Scrooge, and identifying what led him to become the money-obsessed, avaricious character that is presented to the reader at the beginning of the story. She represents a key moment of Scrooge's history and also details how Scrooge began his lonely journey towards the present through his increasing obsession with money. However, at the same time, her importance lies in the way that she is testament to a different Scrooge, who used to be characterised by happiness, generosity, and a giving spirit. This also establishes that a moral regeneration is possible and gives the reader hope that the Scrooge of the past may return and impact the Scrooge of the present. 

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