Cheryl reminds us of why it’s worth returning to this Christmas classic:
Christmas may be a humbug to Ebenezer Scrooge but it certainly wasn’t a humbug to Charles Dickens who wrote several fine tales of the holiday season. His best and most famous Christmas story is of course, A Christmas Carol. People have grown up watching this holiday perennial on TV and know the story by heart so is there anything to be gained by reading it? Well, yes there is.
The well-known tale concerns a bad-tempered miser named Ebenezer Scrooge who finds enlightenment and redemption one cold Christmas Eve through the intercession of his dead former partner Marley, and three holiday spirits. Dicken’s wondrous way with words is evident in the delightful dialogue present in any of the better films, and by that I mean the Alastair Sim (1951) and George C. Scott (1984) versions, but the movies lack much of the evocative exposition found in the book.
Dickens LOVED to describe things in extravagant detail. There are long passages delineating everything from people’s moods to how a building looks at night or even the weather. I suspect his publisher paid him by the word. In some of his other holiday stories this plethora of prose can be confusing and even annoying, but in A Christmas Carol, he strikes just the right balance and his verbosity greatly enhances the story. Take this typical passage about Scrooge’s personality:
Oh! But he was tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold from within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”
The written version of A Christmas Carol is rife with passages like this that vividly bring Scrooge and his Victorian world to life and make it a pleasure to read. In addition, the story’s message of mankind’s interconnectedness, that we are all, as Scrooge’s nephew says, “fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys…” and the importance of sympathy and compassion for others is always timely but especially so during the Christmas season.
Happy holidays to all and in the immortal words of Tiny Tim, “God bless Us, Every One!”