It’s hard to emphasise enough the wide cultural impact of Dickens’ classic Christmas novella A Christmas Carol, dealing with the haunting of the now infamous Ebenezer Scrooge. Not only has it become so much a part of Christmas tradition in the Western world, but as with Dickens’ other works has seeped into wider societal consciousness that its themes and specific characters are a strong in our minds as brand as Apple or other behemoth corporate logos.
In our current times of fiscal strife its underlying messages are as pinned to human sentiment as ever before. This is a book of today, as much as it is a book of the Victorian era, aspects of faceless corporate greed which are rallied against today are here given a more personal, human target. This is a book for the 99%, indeed; but it’s also a reminder of why the 1% have a chance of redemption.
It’s a short novella of five chapters, or staves, and opens on Christmas Eve of 1843. Scrooge’s late business partner, Jacob Marley, has been dead some seven years, and his ghost comes to warn Scrooge – a most tight-assed and cold individual as ever there was – to change his ways or face a most severe comeuppance in the afterlife.
Scrooge is then visited by three spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Each of these appeals to a different part of Scrooge’s psyche and personality, attempting to draw from him the milk of human kindness he so lacks. Highly moralistic, and compassionate, the aim to educate and change is so fitting with many of the themes of Victorian self-improvement.
What makes this such a timeless, and great book, is that it really does speak to the reader so precisely. Playing out with its what-if scenarios in a manner few novelists could weave so successfully into an overall tapestry of ageless appeal.
I was thinking of my favourite Christmas films the other day. Two out of my top three were adaptations of Dickens’ novella. The first being contemporary Christmas black-comedy Scrooged, the second being the most excellently hilarious and touching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Likewise, so many seasonal adaptations of shows, from Dr. Who and beyond, refer to A Christmas Carol as source.
It’s those classic timeless elements, of greed vs. compassion, misery vs. mercy, hope vs. despair. The deadly sins as they play out, tearing apart that which is good and pure. If you can read this book, most especially the parts regarding Tiny Tim, and not come away unmoved then peace be with you indeed!
A Christmas Carol is a must-read book, and not just for fans of supernaturally-charged fiction out there, but for everyone. Few books have had such an impact, and remain so timeless – just take a look at the pages of the popular (and unpopular) press today and so many issues covered by Dickens all that time ago are still relevant today.
It’s not just that though – this book captures the spirit of Christmas in literature so appropriately, and it speaks to us all. As G K Chesterton wrote: “Whether the Christmas visions would or would not convert Scrooge, they convert us.”