Archive for December 16th, 2022

“Bah Humbug!” Was Ebenezer Scrooge neurodivergent? Maybe…

Friday, December 16th, 2022
Share

Ebenezer Scrooge is a nasty misanthropic miser, unworthy of our sympathy. He’s cruel to everyone around him, right? Not so fast. One Notre Dame professor is turning the tables on who may be the victim in Charles Dickens‘s A Christmas Carol. “Is Scrooge experiencing his behavioral traits negatively, or is he experiencing the effects of the social stigma of these traits?” asks Essaka Joshua, associate professor of English at the University of Notre Dame.

But was this encounter *consensual*?

From Notre Dame’s Medical Xpress:

In a new analysis of Scrooge … Joshua offers an unexpected perspective, by asking a simple question: What if we were wrong about Scrooge? What if it is, in fact, the characters who surround him who may need more empathy for their fellow man—particularly if that man is neurodivergent?

Joshua, whose research and teaching focus on disability studies, is now researching how the reading of A Christmas Carol changes if Scrooge is seen in this way. 

“It does not matter what condition Scrooge may or may not have. These diagnoses change over time,” she said. “But what happens if we think of Scrooge’s lack of sympathy and other traits as a legitimate part of his personality? Does Scrooge cause harm to himself or others? And is his ‘cure’ consensual or desired?”

Scrooge’s personality is characterized by his lack of compassion, his solitariness, his reluctance to spend money and his frustration with the expectation that he should conform to societal behavioral norms. Examining which of those behaviors actually need correcting helps the reader understand how Dickens presents normative personality types and how non-normative behavior is stigmatized, Joshua said.

“In places, the text is quite explicitly nasty about his negative behavior, but in other places, there is more ambiguity,” she said. “He eats the same melancholy meal each day at the same melancholy tavern—and we have to join the dots on that one and say ‘because he’s mean.’ But it may well be that we shouldn’t infer that at all, and we should just say ‘because he has to, because that’s his routine and that’s what he needs.’  … In fact, Joshua argues, many of Scrooge’s behaviors can be seen as cognitive and behavioral coping strategies commonly used by neurodivergent individuals to reduce anxiety, by avoiding social interactions, sticking to routines and using verification rituals to calm himself.

Read the whole thing here. And Merry Christmas, Uncle Ebenezer! There’s a little bit of him in us all!