Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens

I am not sure if I have read A Christmas Carol before, but it felt brand new to me as I read it a few days ago. I have, of course seen some adaptations of the story but the only one I remember is Scrooged with Bill Murray. It is one of my favorite Christmas films, but of course it is a departure from the original story.

The novella has a very simple structure. In the first part, Scrooge is revealed to be a bitter man who has no sympathy for the poor and whose every thought is aimed at making more money. On Christmas Eve, he leaves his place of business at the end of the day, after being rude and inconsiderate to his employee, his nephew, and some people seeking donations for the poor. He goes home but immediately notices odd occurrences; the iron knocker on his door looks like the head of his old partner, Marley, now dead. Marley appears before him, in chains, and foretells that that three visitors will come and will try to save Scrooge from Marley's sad fate.

In the middle three parts, the three ghosts visit Scrooge and take him on heartbreaking and scary tours of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. And Scrooge does experience an epiphany and becomes aware that he can change. The last part shows Scrooge's redemption and his new relationships with family and friends.

What did I like?

Just about everything. I liked the way the story was told. The narration pulled me into the mood immediately. Not only is the book a pleasant and humorous read, while giving us a beautiful story of redemption and finding new happiness, it also shows us today what life was like in the 1800's, especially for the very poor. The edition that I read had wonderful illustrations by Roberto Innocenti. The illustrations enriched the reading experience.

Here are some paragraphs from his journey with the Ghost of Christmas Present:
...they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people made a rough, but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little snow-storms.
The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground; which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and waggons; furrows that crossed and re-crossed each other hundreds of times where the great streets branched off; and made intricate channels, hard to trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in a shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts’ content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain. 
For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball—better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest—laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers’ shops were still half open, and the fruiterers’ were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. ...
If I had to find some complaint about the book, I would point out that Scrooge reversed his attitudes awfully quickly. On the other hand, who wouldn't change if they were in the middle of being taking back and forth in time by ghosts. I sensed that deep down he was ready to make amends. And this is a fantasy / ghost story anyway. A parable of sorts.

It is encouraging that this story has endured for so long. I understand now why some people read this every Christmas. It is a quick read, very entertaining, and joyful.


Publisher:   Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, Inc., 1990 (Orig. Publ. 1843)
Length:      152 pages, with illustrations.
Format:      Hardcover
Setting:      Great Britain
Genre:       Classic; Fiction
Source:      From our collection of illustrated books.


Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: I think of A Christmas Carol as a modern fable whose enduring truths keep it fresh and alive every Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

I enjoy reading your blog through the year.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, this is just a theory. I think one of the reasons why stories like A CHRISTMAS CAROL endure for long is because they're a reminder that people are inherently good and should we deviate in any way, then we CAN turn back and redeem ourselves. I'd love to read this Dickens' classic again, provided it's an excellent and an unabridged version; and, of course, in book format.

Merry Christmas, Tracy!

Clothes In Books said...

It is years since I read this so I enjoyed reading your take on it. It is a story of great positivity.
Hope you and yours have a great Christmas Tracy.

TracyK said...

Hi Bill. I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading A Christmas Carol. Merry Christmas to you too and your family. I just started reading A Time to Kill by Grisham last night and I thought of you immediately.

TracyK said...

I think you are right about A Christmas Carol, Prashant. I love the edition that we have, with very lovely illustrations, but I would also like to find a more easy to handle edition.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Moira, and I hope you have a good Christmas also. I read a few articles about how and why Dickens wrote the story which were interesting.

Anonymous said...

I love this story, too, Tracy. It's such a warm message, but at the same time, it tells an actual story. You can't help but like that! Merry Christmas to you and your family, and all the best for 2019!

TracyK said...

I regret putting off reading this story, Margot. Such a joy to read. Merry Christmas to you and best wishes for the new year.

NancyElin said...

I have loved this book since the 1950s, Tracy! My parents had a LP with the story and I acted it out in the living room! (...this was the time without internet, games, netflix and XBox!) I loved the sounds of jingling chains! But remember....I was never allowed to put the record on myself....'Don't tough the Hi-Fi"! Merry Christmans from The Netherlands...'Prettige Kerstdagen"!

TracyK said...

I remember the 1950s, Nancy. We did not even have a television until maybe 1958. Merry Christmas from Santa Barbara, CA. You asked about the weather here yesterday. This morning at 6:30 it was pouring down rain and now it is sunny with no sign of clouds. Very strange but I welcome any rain we can get.