‘It is required of every man’, the Ghost returned, ‘that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world – oh, woe is me! – and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!’
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Pg.47
Although it seems I have always known the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his ‘Bah! Humbug!’ attitude to Christmas, I am ashamed to say I have never actually read the original story by Charles Dickens. I have watched many adaptations and seen a number of amateur plays at Christmas time so when I picked up the book yesterday I was surprised to find that it was less than 100 pages long! I finished it within a couple of hours.
I absolutely love Charles Dickens and the way he vividly creates the decrepit, run-down back streets of London through his writing and A Christmas Carol is no exception.
‘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 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 wagons; 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 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’.
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Pg.75
A Christmas Carol delves into the tale of a bitter, old man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who detests Christmas. However, this one year he is confronted by three spirits: the spirits of Christmases Past, Present and Future. They help to transform and rejuvenate the youthful excitement and happiness that Scrooge once felt as a young man. However, despite a happy ending, A Christmas Carol is a lot darker than the adaptations I remember. For example, in Stave Four: The Last of the Spirits, Scrooge witnesses his own deathbed and a woman has literally stolen the shirt off his back. The cold, lonely and undignified way in which Scrooge’s body is treated becomes a real eye-opener for him.
Also, the imagery of Ignorance and Want really exemplifies the political stance Dickens took when writing A Christmas Carol. Written in 1843, in the wake of government changes to the Poor Laws, Dickens highlights the recognition of the poor and the importance, within society, to treat the lower classes humanely. In essence, Dickens is asking people to regard one another as equals, to treat one another with generosity and kindness. This simplicity is what makes the novella so iconic and resonant for Christmases to come.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Christmas Carol and hope to make this novella a personal tradition in my Christmas festivities. Now, in the spirit of Dickens, I wish you all a very merry Christmas (which happens to be coined in A Christmas Carol)!