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Lamothe, R. (2003). Poor Ebenezer: Avarice as Corruption of the Erotic and Search for a Transformative Object. Psychoanal. Rev., 90(1):23-43.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Review, 90(1):23-43

Poor Ebenezer: Avarice as Corruption of the Erotic and Search for a Transformative Object

Ryan Lamothe, Ph.D.

Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction. (Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, 1941, p. 136)

Charles Dickens’ (1938) story, A Christmas Carol, is a cautionary tale about the consequences of a single-minded, greedy pursuit of money. It is, as well, a parable of a transformation from the self-imposed isolation of avarice, and its concomitant sense of deadness, to vital companionship. In the story, Ebenezer Scrooge's greed is accompanied by a vicious and sadistic hostility that leaves nearly everyone, even dogs, running for cover. A reader is not initially moved to pity Scrooge, but can readily recognize the poverty of his existence. Although a wealthy man, he is indeed poor and only after being confronted by the Spirits does Scrooge acknowledge how his avarice has made him poor. Although a greedy character does not evoke pity, Dickens, like any good writer, was able to make Scrooge into a sympathetic, though pitiful, figure. The late-night visits by the Spirits help us see how loss, loneliness, and the fear of further loss motivated Scrooge's greed.

In this article, I briefly review Western views on the problem and consequences of greed before delving into psychoanalytic perspectives on greed. Philosophical and Western Christian depictions of greed provide insights into the dynamics and consequences of greed in human life.

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