A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (1843)

“If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”

 

xmascarolI have seen multiple film versions of A Christmas Carol, but have never read the book. I now see how easily I got caught up in the visual drama of the spectacle with little understanding of the morality in the story. How easily I have been misled by costumes, sets and the bleak feeling of black and white film that the true message of this book never completely sunk in.

The basics of the story concern Ebenezer Scrooge a cold miserly man, who is hated and feared by all who know him. One of the richest men in town, he doesn’t want to pay for anything more than he has to and keeps the wages of his assistant Bob Cratchit as low as possible forcing him to sit in an office that Scrooge will not heat regardless of the biting chill. Scrooge rebuffs solicitations that would help the poor, no matter that it’s Christmas Eve. He ‘bah humbugs’ his nephew who visits and asks him to Christmas dinner. At this point Dickens shows us nothing that could possibly redeem this spiritless old man. On his way home, no one greets him to inquire after his health or to wish him a Merry Christmas; they are put off by his perennial cold stare, loathsome words and air of negativity. Averted in the streets, he is talked about behind his back.

He has a strange encounter with his door knocker as he slips his key in the door: it turns into the face of his long dead business partner, Jacob Marley. Disturbed, once inside he checks all the rooms before locking himself in his bedroom. But the door knocker was a portent of things to come and by night’s end he will be forced to confront every injustice he ever thought or committed. Jacob Marley’s ghost has come to give him one last chance to mend his ways or he will end up like Marley, roaming the afterlife weighed down in the chains that weighed him down in his mortal life. Scrooge is in for the ride of his life as three ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come barge into his room in order to show him the error of his ways and the damage he has done not only to the people in his life and to himself, but essentially to the purpose to which he was created. He will see how he has hurt employees, family members, people on the street and lost his only chance of romantic love by withholding his material wealth and by the meanness of his words and actions.

With each ghostly experience he watches as scenes from his life appear before him and force him to bear witness of his cruelty to others. Surprisingly, some of the coldness in his heart melts and he has moments of conscience about various acts he wishes he could change like giving a caroler at his door “something” or that he should have had a kinder word for Bob Cratchit; being shown his death bed he is appalled to see how people are treating both his wealth and memory. He is finally able to understand life’s joys and the importance of compassion, kindness and generosity of purse and spirit.

I was surprised by my reaction to this story and how personal it felt and how it alerted me to look at my own life. I never had this awareness in the films or that this felt like my journey, too and was left with an uncomfortable feeling that a little self-reflection might be a good idea! Many were the scenes of material poverty of families with little food or sailors away from their loved ones who nonetheless celebrated the joy of the season and the shared love of one another, no matter their circumstance. There is a lesson for me here.

In the end old Scrooge is redeemed by the three spirits who did their job in showing him how his despicable earthly ways would only lead to a terrifying afterlife. As the night ends he feels a different, more lightheartedness in himself. With a chance to change the meanness with which he has treated those around him, he joyously gives Bob Cratchit a raise with a promise to help his family, including his young disabled son, Tiny Tim and allows him all the coal he needs to warm the office. He heals the relationship with his nephew and becomes a generous kindly man at last.

“He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total-Abstinence Principle ever afterwards; and it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

Oh good, there is hope for me, yet!

_______________________

My Edition
Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Publisher: J. B.  Lippincott Company
Device: Kindle
Year: 1915 (1843)
Pages: 147
Summary

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10 thoughts on “A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (1843)

  1. paulavince

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it too. The book really is such a rich addition to all the visual versions out there. And it does have a way of nudging us to search deep inside. I love all the Victorian morality running through it. No wonder it was a hit of its day, and remains one well into the 21st century.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read or listen to this every year in the run up to Christmas, and think it should be made compulsory for everyone to do so! 😉 So glad you enjoyed it – I genuinely think it sums up the spirit of what Christmas ought to be about, but so rarely is. So many people watch Dickens now but never read him, and while the adaptations are often wonderful, they can never get over the richness of the language or the depth of meaning of the books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you know…I have only read Oliver Twist. I have several of his titles sitting on my shelf and have never gotten to any of them. I have seen some film versions and theater of his other titles, but not read any of them! Where to start, where to start??? So your comment is interesting. Why did he do that, I wonder? Did that book come first and he liked the idea and decided to expand it into a separate book?

      Like

  3. Since this is a reader, author, writer related blog and post I thought I’d mention the film, “The Man Who Invented Christmas” (available with Amazon Prime and ?).
    It was mostly fiction mixed with some facts, but showed the angst involved with the creative process that Dickens might have gone through and how our lives are often intertwined with our resultant creative works.
    But mostly what I got out of it was the fact that other generations and societies have had their own grapplings with the Christmas season…and also specifically in the times in which this classic was created, that Christmas was a sort of non-issue…
    Anyway, better Seasonal viewing than ‘Frosty’ IMHO!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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