Christmas has been on my mind since July, which is when I typically turn my mind towards the preparations, the music, and the Hallmark ornaments. With The Big Day only about an hour away I thought I should talk about my all time favorite books A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
This is a beautiful novella, and I dare say it’s as close to perfect as anything can be. There are few writers who use language as well as Dickens, and this book is proof of that. There’s nothing to cut, no extraneous words, nothing that doesn’t further the story, describe the characters, or set the tone The unique voice of the narrator comes through as a friend or confidant relating the story as only a close friend can, with humor, wit, and passion.
Dickens’s prose elicits a smile from me every time I read about the “wisdom of our ancestors” being in the simile and how Dickens’s “unhallowed hands shall not disturb it or the Country’s done for” and only Dickens can describe a house as “playing hide and seek with other houses” while every page holds some line or phrase that I can only describe as delicious.
Aside from the beauty of his prose, the story itself is full of emotion. There’s no denying the jollity of the Ghost of Christmas Present. There’s no hiding from the familiar gaiety of the Christmas celebrations, even if they’re populated with games and pastimes a modern audience doesn’t recognize. It’s plain that the Cratchits really understand Christmas and why it’s celebrated and that Nephew Fred has the kindest, most patient soul of any character in literature.
What most people do recall, if they’ve read the novella or just seen one of the myriad retellings, is that there is a strong moral to the story. Ebenezer Scrooge is on a journey not to learn that he should perhaps not begrudge his clerk a day off, but rather that there is a deeper meaning to the Christmas celebrations. People only familiar with the films or other adaptations may not realize that in the book, Scrooge goes to church perhaps for the first time in his life, and certainly for the first time in many decades. At its heart, this is a story of second chances, and, while it may seem cliché, the book is anything but. It does seem sobering that even in Dickens’s time, Christmas celebrations could lose their focus. The true meaning of the holiday, it seems, has always been in danger of being lost. Dickens, of course, was trying to preserve tradition as well as influence society, and he took his little book to heart with the hopes that it would have a positive impact.
I can’t read the scene where the Ghost of Christmas Present reveals the two children hidden in his robes—Ignorance and Want—without wondering why no one has learned anything about dispelling these things since the 1840s.
If you’ve never read it, or haven’t read it in a long time, I urge you to pick up a copy or dust off the one that’s been sitting on your shelf for years. Even if you’re familiar with the on screen adaptations, then you don’t know the story nearly as well as you think you do. It’s worth reading.
Watch this space for another blog in the next few days on the myriad adaptations of this brilliant story. Merry Christmas, and God Bless Us, Every One!