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Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol

Darren

Active Member
November/December 2003



Synopsis
Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly old skinflint. He hates everyone, especially children. But at Christmas three ghosts come to visit him, scare him into mending his ways, and he finds, as he celebrates with Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and their family, that geniality brings its own reward.

Charles Dickens' classic tale...
 

murphyz

New Member
Contains spoliers (although I'm sure you all know the story by now) and questions.

As always I love Dickens and how he can bring in such a strong value of society into his novels, and A Christmas Carol is no exception with Scrooge sparing no sympathy for the poor and commenting that he supports prisons and workhouses when asked if he wishes to support any charaties - taking the same kind of beliefs as Thomas Malthus in that families who cannot support themselves do not deserve to live. Whereas Scrooge is the rich, cold hearted unsympathetic character, the Cratchits are used for the opposite - that is poor, but warm and loving. This theme is consistent throughout Dickens work and his political view on the Victorian Society is no exception here. However, moving past what can be classed as the 'norm' for Dickens we get a beautifully structured story, split into 'Staves' to go with the title of this being a carol, and each Stave having it's own specific symbollic meaning.

Firstly, we have the visit from the ghost of Jacob Marley, dead as a doornail for the last 7 years. Marley was a character similar to scrooge in that he was greedy and selfish and so he comes to warn Scrooge of the burden he has carried with him since his death and that if he does not change his ways then he will succumb to the same.
Stave 2 we get the Ghost of Christmas Past, who has the lighted head, indicating the mind, and serving as memories of what has gone previously.
Then we get the Ghost of Christmas Present, indicating generosity and a love for fellow man and, in general the whole spirit of Christmas.
Third he is visited by the Ghost of Chrismas Yet to Come, a silent character representing the ultimate lonely death of Scrooge.
And finally we are treated to the change in character of Scrooge himself, the final moral in the book as a love for others and Christmas, along with a kind heart go to show that even the coldest person can change their ways and become loved.
A perfectly structured allegory designed to make you be a better person.

Alas, it's only a story and I doubt it would actually make me feel any different. Unlike Scrooge, I have friends and I am a nice person. I do not need to appreciate Christmas or get into the festive spirit in order to be loved, as my generosity and good nature throughout the rest of the year makes up for the 'bah! humbug!' feeling I get about Christmas.

Do you think that this story is relevant to modern times, or is it's true place back in the Victorian era?

Also, do you think that this is a simple moralistic story of greed and kindness...or do you feel that Dickens views on the wealthy hides a more complex narrative?


Finally, I love how Dickens had managed to portray the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge so convincingly, and one that is so memorable that, a hundred and sixty years later, the term 'scrooge' is in common usage. Marvellous!

I look forward to hearing your views on this one.

Mxx
 

AndrewC

New Member
In a typically trashy way i must admit to never having read the book, but i've seen the film! If the book is half as good as Alastair Simms classic performance as the legendary character then the book must be special.

Of course many of the film scripts lines are the same - the great lines denouncing mysterious 'illusions' as the effects of undigested food always impress me with that last line 'more of gravy than of the grave'.

And as you mentioned, the story is one which be it Alastair simm, Bill Murray or the Muppets, or just a childs bedtime story is one that has been told for decades and will be told for decades to come.


In answering your question, i can't see a great deal of other morals this story is trying to teach us apart from goodwill.
 

truly violet

New Member
I actually collect different editions of this book.
and normally pick it up towards the holidays, if not immediately after.
I love the atmosphere of the book, ( but I like Dickens in general normally)
There is another book of Dickens short holiday ghost stories that I will skim through occationally, as well.
As to the moral lessons, well, for me I read this more for the atmosphere it leaves me with then for the lessons.
vi
 

Rogue

New Member
I just finished this short but wondeful carol by Dickens. I was kinda relieved when after a couple of pages I found out that this one would be an easy read compared to David Copperfield.
The story is quiet poignant and depicts a rightous set of morals. Scrooge's character change from greedy to good comes natural and is believable.

I really enjoyed this one.
 

kirsty

New Member
Yes, it's easy and quick to read. It's an enjoyable book and as ever, shows Dickens' ideal view of the class system - the middle class wanting to help the working class, and showing that money doesn't on it's own make you happy. The only flaw with the novel was that Scrooge would never have been able to help the Crachit's if he hadn't have been selfish in the first place. As ever with Dickens, very extreme at times, but also very enjoyable.
 

Sybarite

New Member
Coming to this again, over Christmas itself, one thing struck me that has never struck me before – the absence here of a religious theme and a religious salvation.

It's not that Dickens has excised religion from the story, but that it is not the foremost issue. None of the spirits that visit Scrooge, from Marley on, invoke the language of a Christian idea of eternal damnation. And the spirit of Christmas present is positively pagan in style, and pictured initially surrounded by vast amounts of food, suggestive of sensual pleasure rather than any Victorian denial in the name of spiritual welfare.

There are no mentions of hell nor of heaven. Dickens, in terms of what he posits as a future for Scrooge, suggests an humanitarian one. He stresses the missed opportunities for relationships in Scrooge's life – and the chance to make amends by experiencing relationships and by experiencing what it feels like to help a fellow human being.

Thus, at the end, when Scrooge changes, there is a real sense of joy – and it's a joy in humanity and in the rich possibilities of life lived to the full.

Perhaps such an absence of religious expression explains, in part at least, the continuing popularity of the story.
 

Landslide

Well-Known Member
I read it for the first time last christmas and although I already knew the story, I still loved the book.

Do you think that this story is relevant to modern times, or is it's true place back in the Victorian era?

Also, do you think that this is a simple moralistic story of greed and kindness...or do you feel that Dickens views on the wealthy hides a more complex narrative?

I think it clearly is a story whith a moral lesson, and one that continues relevant and probably will always be relevant because greed will never cease to exist...

Perhaps such an absence of religious expression explains, in part at least, the continuing popularity of the story.

I think you're right, perhaps if it had religious expression it would have lost it's universality. I don't think it was a characteristic of Dickens though, because I also read The Chimes and it does have religious expression.
 

silverseason

New Member
Dickens, in terms of what he posits as a future for Scrooge, suggests an humanitarian one. He stresses the missed opportunities for relationships in Scrooge's life – and the chance to make amends by experiencing relationships and by experiencing what it feels like to help a fellow human being.

What is sometimes overlooked when characterizing Scrooge as cold and selfish is that he didn't start out that way. The book has early scenes of Scrooge as a boy longing for love and of him as a young man, happy in his friends. What turned him away from human relationships was ambition and the love of money for its own sake. So the spirits of Christmas are not creating a new personality exactly, but rather recalling Scrooge to his best original self. I think that is what makes the story so touching.
 

PipPirrip

New Member
Coming to this again, over Christmas itself, one thing struck me that has never struck me before – the absence here of a religious theme and a religious salvation.

Well, apart from the last sentence.;)

None of the spirits that visit Scrooge, from Marley on, invoke the language of a Christian idea of eternal damnation. And the spirit of Christmas present is positively pagan in style, and pictured initially surrounded by vast amounts of food, suggestive of sensual pleasure rather than any Victorian denial in the name of spiritual welfare.

Except, Scrooge assumes that the spirit of Christmas Present is a Christian spirit. Given the same evidence of the appearance of the spirit, what you see as Pagan, Scrooge accuses of being Christian (see below) – so the image must be sufficiently close to a received idea of a Christian Christmas spirit for the 1840’s to pass for such.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, after a moment’s thought, “I wonder you, of all the beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people’s opportunities of innocent enjoyment.”
“I!” cried the Spirit.
“You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,” said Scrooge. “Wouldn’t you?”
“I!” cried the Spirit.
“You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day?” said Scrooge. “And it comes to the same thing.”
“I seek!” exclaimed the Spirit.
“Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family,” said Scrooge.

Actually, I suspect that Dickens is being deliberatly vague about the Christian 'credentials' of his spirits in order to avoid any complaints from the church. It puts me in mind of the way that Darwin pussy-foots around in the "Origin of Species" compared to his more confident style in "Descent of Man" published when the church is less dominant.
 

Mopey Droney

New Member
It seems strange to me to attack Dickens for not including religious aspects in his Christmas story, when the fact of the matter is that without his Christmas stories, the holiday probably wouldn't exist at all today. At the time the Holiday was going out of fashion and it had gotten to the point where only the most devoted of Christians celebrated it with one fourth of the vigor that the average American does today, and Dickens didn't like that. His wildly popular stories helped to revive the Christmas spirit in Britain and are the spark for the Christmas that we know today. It may be more about giving and loving in general than it is about Christ in particular, but if you're like me you would rather have any Christmas than no Christmas at all.
 

Landslide

Well-Known Member
It seems strange to me to attack Dickens for not including religious aspects in his Christmas story, when the fact of the matter is that without his Christmas stories, the holiday probably wouldn't exist at all today. At the time the Holiday was going out of fashion and it had gotten to the point where only the most devoted of Christians celebrated it with one fourth of the vigor that the average American does today, and Dickens didn't like that. His wildly popular stories helped to revive the Christmas spirit in Britain and are the spark for the Christmas that we know today. It may be more about giving and loving in general than it is about Christ in particular, but if you're like me you would rather have any Christmas than no Christmas at all.

I think you're absolutely right Mopey Droney. In fact I think that nowadays it has less and less to do with the birth of Christ (which actually makes sense since he wasn't born in December...) and more to do with the comercial aspect of it all. I fear we are turning into Whoville...

But anyway, I can't speak for anyone else, but I wasn't criticising Dickens for the lack of religious aspects in his Christmas story, I was merely stating a fact.
 

abecedarian

Well-Known Member
Who 'attacked' Dickens?


You didn't! You merely pointed out the seemimg lack of religious themes in A Christmas Carol. I think there are Judeo-Christian values in the work, and there is a salvation message here, but it's a much more subtle one than we usually see in a modern novel from a Christian publisher. Dickens manages to avoid sectarianism and reaches for a more universal idea, and that's why the book has endured to be enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.
 

The Mythwriter

New Member
I have heard tell that Dickens' other Christmas works are superior (to some opinions of course) to A Christmas Carol but for whatever reason we only hear of the latter. Anyone read the others who can comment? I must get around to those books...
 

Hazra

New Member
I have heard tell that Dickens' other Christmas works are superior (to some opinions of course) to A Christmas Carol but for whatever reason we only hear of the latter. Anyone read the others who can comment? I must get around to those books...

I've heard of a couple of stories: A Christmas Tree, The Poor Relation's Story, Nobody's Story...but I don't remember reading them.
 

agathafan

New Member
Christmas Carol is one of my favorite novel.

I think the important message we get through this book is irrespective of any particular religion. This is important for all.

I have seen many rich people in my country wasting money in unnecessarily in the name of religion, they are wasting on pandals, lightings and crackers but if some poor yet brilliant student asks for help those rich peoples are just kicking them out. So what is the use of spending maoney in name of 'Pujas'?
 

Dan Brown

New Member
I just wondered: we all saw the movie(s) again and again. Especially the one with Alistair Sim. But how many have taken the trouble to actually sit down and read the book? I'll go first and admit I haven't. I read several things from Dickens, but someone never felt I needed to read this one. Call it overexposure.
 

Polly Parrot

Moderator
Staff member
I haven't read this one, no, maybe I will for Christmas time though. It's sitting on the shelf with all the other Dickens novels. :)
 
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