How to Read: A Christmas Carol

01d702157cee05035dab2ee590ec2f2caa53a21494     Finally took the plunge and read Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, during the week leading up to Christmas no less. Not a coincidence. Well, what took me so long is the fact that I was intimidated. I know his other novel “Great Expectations” is a huge stack of papers and when I first picked up Carol, I thought I got the annotated edition. Like, for children. It’s a small piece, novella; it has 122 pages if you don’t include the introduction and back blurb. But after a few Wiki searches, I found that this edition is the real deal.

It’s my first Dicken’s piece and it was delightful. It’s funnily written, moving and poignant, and his use of examples upon examples upon examples and a few more for good measure never feel winded. His writing style (in Carol) is a breeze.

Summary

Our least favourite miser Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by his dead business partner’s ghost to show him the misery of the afterlife of those who live a life of greed and self-centredness. Three Spirits come throughout the night to show him his past, present and future in an effort to change his, and his loved ones, ways.

Rating: 3.7/5

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SPOILER ALERT: STOP IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK OR SEEN THE MOVIE OR REALLY A HOLIDAY EPISODE OF ANY SHOW THAT RUNS PAST THREE SEASONS. THEY UNDOUBTEDLY MADE A PARODY BASED ON THIS WORK

Characters

Ebenezer Scrooge Mrs Cratchit Ghost of Christmas Past
Jacob Marley Martha Cratchit Ghost of Christmas Present
Bob Cratchit Peter Cratchit Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Fan Scrooge Belinda Cratchit
Fred the Nephew Tiny Tim Cratchit

Setting

England, before electricity was brought to the world so pre-1882

Plot and Subplots

Ebenezer Scrooge is a selfish, old man and is taught to change his ways on Christmas Eve by three Spirits

  • Jacob Marley, his dead business partner, visits him first to show Scrooge his own horrendous afterlife for a greedy man as he, and what awaits Scrooge if he does not change. To cement his path to a different life, Marley tells Scrooge three Christmas Spirits will call throughout the night
  • ‘The First of the Three Spirits’ is the Ghost of Christmas Past – a ghost with a light for a head
    • Together, the Ghost and Scrooge shuffle through his memories on past Christmas Days to discover how he became such a jaded man
      • As a young boy, he was left abandoned, and he read books to give himself some company
      • As a teenager, he had an adored younger sister who invites him to spend the day at the house. Assumed their father threw out Scrooge. That sister, Fan, later died, after giving birth to his nephew, Fred
      • Young adult: he apprenticed for a jolly and generous man, Fezziwig, and worked extra hard for him without complaint because he knew Fezziwig had the power to make his life miserable and he did not abuse that power. He held Scrooge’s respect
      • Adult: his betrothed ends the relationship as she feels his love of her will never surpass his love of wealth. He doesn’t fight with her.
      • Later on: that same woman is now married to another and has a family. With the Ghost, Scrooge is visibly upset and regretful.
    • ‘The Second of the Three Spirits’ is the Ghost of Christmas Present, a jolly giant
      • They watch the celebrations of others for this year’s Christmas
        • The Cratchit family: Scrooge is introduced into the sad of his clerk, Bob
          • They’re poor, his eldest daughter must work tirelessly, there’s not an abundance of food, they don’t dress too well
          • Bob and Mrs Cratchit’s youngest son, Tiny Tim, is ill and will die if Scrooge stays on his current path
        • Miners cave, lighthouse, ship, hospitals
          • Even the most lonely and forlorn places is filled with warmth at the thought of Christmas and the happiness and hope it brings
        • Fred, the Nephew, his wife and her family
          • Every year, they invite Scrooge for Christmas and every year they are rejected which leads them to have a malicious opinion of him
          • They all play a game in which it is implied that he is viewed as a beast
        • At the end of the dream, the Ghost aged and for his last revelation, he lifts his skirt to show two savage and depraved children. A boy named Ignorance and a girl, Want. ‘Doom’ is written across Ignorance’s forehead
      • ‘The Last of the Three Spirits’ is The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – has the appearance of the Grim Reaper
        • An unknown man has died and various townspeople respond
          • Some people rob him and justify it as he was stingy as he was alive and couldn’t take it in his death
          • A married couple is thankful as he was their creditor and was very strict. They know his heir, their next creditor will not be as tight-fisted
          • The Cratchit family lose Tiny Tim to death
        • They come upon a gravestone, engraved ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’ and the realization terrorizes Scrooge. He promises to take the lesson of Past, Present, and Yet to Come and apply to his life
      • Scrooge awakes and is on a lifelong mission: He buys the Cratchit family the prize goose; donates a large sum to charity; spends time with his nephew’s family; takes better care of Bob Cratchit to the point that he is a second father to Tiny Tim, who lives

Themes

The book is a novella so the themes are very much on the surface. So:

Don’t let life make you jaded. Money isn’t everything. Keep your family close. Tithing is important. Sympathy humanizes you. Attach yourself to your community. Physical things and a legacy is left behind after death, and one can last much longer than the other. It’s never too late.

As Dickens wrote this novel, I had a lofty expectation of his writing style. I’m curious if his other works follow A Christmas Carol. I found it funny and there were many examples upon examples upon examples upon examples. I tend towards no more than three. He ventures into at least four, but it wasn’t exhaustive. Perhaps it’s because the audience is now geared towards children and it tickled my childhood. A few passages that struck me:

“The wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Counrty’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a doornail (1).”

“The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed noise, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice (2-3).”

“It is doomed to wander the world and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness (21)!”

“He has the power to render us happy or unhappy, to make our service light or burdensome, a pleasure or a toil…. The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune (46).”

“And yet there was an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain (60).”

“Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party (72).”

“’Deny it!’ cried the Spirit…”Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!’ (86-87).”

And words:

Avarice – extreme greed for wealth or material gain

Bedight – adorned

Excrescence – a distinct outgrowth on a human, animal, or plant, especially one that is the result of disease or abnormality; an unattractive or superfluous addition or feature

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles, and Glen Huser. A Christmas carol: a novel study. Scholastic, 1998.

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