The central character of A Christmas Carol is Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly London-based businessman, described in the story as "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!" Kelly writes that Scrooge may have been influenced by Dickens's conflicting feelings for his father, whom he both loved and demonised. This psychological conflict may be responsible for the two radically different Scrooges in the tale—one a cold, stingy and greedy semi-recluse, the other a benevolent, sociable man. The professor of English literature Robert Douglas-Fairhurst considers that in the opening part of the book covering young Scrooge's lonely and unhappy childhood, and his aspiration for money to avoid poverty "is something of a self-parody of Dickens's fears about himself"; the post-transformation parts of the book are how Dickens optimistically sees himself.
Scrooge could also be based on two misers: the eccentric John Elwes, MP, or Jemmy Wood, the owner of the Gloucester Old Bank and also known as "The Gloucester Miser". According to the sociologist Frank W. Elwell, Scrooge's views on the poor are a reflection of those of the demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus, while the miser's questions "Are there no prisons? ... And the Union workhouses? ... The treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" are a reflection of a sarcastic question raised by the philosopher Thomas Carlyle, "Are there not treadmills, gibbets; even hospitals, poor-rates, New Poor-Law?"[n 4]
There are literary precursors for Scrooge in Dickens's own works. Peter Ackroyd, Dickens's biographer, sees similarities between the character and the elder Martin Chuzzlewit character, although the miser is "a more fantastic image" than the Chuzzlewit patriarch; Ackroyd observes that Chuzzlewit's transformation to a charitable figure is a parallel to that of the miser. Douglas-Fairhurst sees that the minor character Gabriel Grub from The Pickwick Papers was also an influence when creating Scrooge.[n 5] Scrooge's name came from a tombstone Dickens had seen on a visit to Edinburgh. The grave was for Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie, whose job was given as a meal man—a corn merchant; Dickens misread the inscription as "mean man".[n 6]
When Dickens was young he lived near a tradesman's premises with the sign "Goodge and Marney", which may have provided the name for Scrooge's former business partner. For the chained Marley, Dickens drew on his memory of a visit to the Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in March 1842, where he saw—and was affected by seeing—fettered prisoners. For the character Tiny Tim, Dickens used his nephew Henry, a disabled boy who was five at the time A Christmas Carol was written.[n 7] The two figures of Want and Ignorance, sheltering in the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present, were inspired by the children Dickens had seen on his visit to a ragged school in the East End of London.