A Christmas Carol

Published December 11, 2011 by myliteraryleanings

Review of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Overview from www.bn.com: One of the best-loved and most quoted stories of “the man who invented Christmas”-English writer Charles Dickens-A Christmas Carol debuted in 1843 and has touched millions of hearts since. Cruel miser Ebeneezer Scrooge has never met a shilling he doesn’t like. . .and hardly a man he does. And he hates Christmas most of all. When Scrooge is visited by his old partner, Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, he learns eternal lessons of charity, kindness, and goodwill. Experience a true Victorian Christmas!

A miser learns the true meaning of Christmas when three ghostly visitors review his past and foretell his future.

My Review:

Since Christmas is almost upon us, I thought it was time that I read something, well, Christmas-y.  Yes, I know that it is not an actual word but you know what I mean.  And what better book to read this time of year than this Dickens classic.  I read it once before last year and surprisingly, it was the first time I had ever read.

This year, I tried to come to this old favorite with fresh eyes.  I am happy to report that I not only rediscovered everything I loved about it before but noticed some things that I had missed.  From the beginning this book hooks you with its unconventionality (not sure it that is a word either but I am going to use it regardless).

“Marley was dead, to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that…. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail… Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a doornail.” p.14

I thought this was a great quote as I too had always wondered what was “particularly dead about a doornail” myself.  And it also make one curious right from the start, why Dickens goes to so much trouble to emphasize the fact that Marley was dead.  So I kept reading.  I am happy to report that I had figured it out by the end but I will talk more about that later.

The first thing that struck me about Scrooge was how the text says that “external heat and cold had little influence on… (him).”  No matter what he does, Scrooge is unable to get either warm nor cold.  This is not how I would normally view someone like him.

The second thing that I noticed was all the ways that Disney got it wrong.  The old Disney cartoons that is.  As they say in the special features of the newer movie starring Jim Carey, the newer version is much closer to Dickens’ original vision.  In fact, some of the lines are taken straight from the movie.

Of course, one thing both versions got right was the basic story of the greedy but cheap central character and the three ghosts that visit him and teach him all about the true meaning of Christmas.  Even the more modern-day versions such as Scrooged staring Bill Murray kept this basic premise of the story in tact but what they don’t preserve is some of Dickens’ social commentary about the treatment of the poor in Victorian England and London in particular.

One example, of course, is in how he treats his employee Bob Cratchit.  Scrooge only gives him enough coal for a small fire though he guards a heaping bagful of them.  Not only that but he considers himself  “ill-used” for having to give him the day off with pay.

Second, when Scrooge is visited by some men who are collecting money to help the poor, he asks if the prisons and work houses are still open.  The men reply that they are still in operation.  Scrooge says that he is glad to hear it.  When they ask what they should put him down for he says nothing and explains he reasons in the following quote.

“‘I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry.  I help to support the establishments I have mentioned- they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.'”

“‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

“‘If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'” p.19

I could go on with more examples but I think you get the idea.

For me, though, the best part of the story, besides Scrooge’s transformation for the better, are the characters Dickens creates.  All are memorable in their own way.  Still if I had pick, I think it would be a tie between Scrooge’s nephew, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim.  I like them all because they all have great dialogue and the dialogue reveals their true character.

Since I haven’t much time left, I will sum up.  Of course, I loved this book even more the second time.  I think you will too, if you’ll just have the courage to look past all of the commercialism that has been added to Christmas in the last century or so, and focus on its true meaning.  To show what I mean, here’s a quote from Bob (and Tiny Tim indirectly).  Bob is describing their recent church visit.

“‘Somehow he get thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard.  He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, that it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.'” p.52

How touching is that!  And finally, in the true Christmas spirit, I hope, I take this time to wish you a Merry Christmas.

“And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” p. 83

Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.  Finally, please let me know in the comment section below, which movie version of the Dickens’ classic is your favorite.

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