Guest Blogger D. Ruggles writes about the true meaning of A Christmas Carol.
If you reside on the East Coast, there is, right now, within a twenty-five mile radius of your home, a production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This Yuletide offering has become more ubiquitous than the church-yard nativity scene.
Among those who have written of Victorian England, Dickens is given large credit for inventing Christmas as we know it. By the time A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, the family celebration of Christmas had reached its nadir. But with a glimpse into the households of Bob Cratchit and Scrooge’s nephew, city folk were transported to the idealized Christmas celebration of rural England prior to the intense industrialization of the country. The small book met immediate acclaim.
An example of how Dickens influenced our view of Christmas is the yearning for snow at Christmas. “The cold became intense…. Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold.” In A Christmas Carol, and many of his other books, Dickens described the winters of his life time. He lived at the end of a weather cycle that is now called the Little Ice Age.
Unless you’re a Dickens scholar, it has probably been a long time since you have read anything by the author. In which case, you may not remember that he was a dead-pan funny dude. The story begins, “Marley was dead: to begin with. …Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”
A master craftsman at word pictures, Dickens describes Scrooge’s house, “They were a gloomy set of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and have forgotten the way out again.” A Christmas Carol is a lyrical book, meant to be read aloud. In his lifetime, Dickens gave many public readings.
What most of us know of Scrooge is based on some Hollywood cartoon or local talent rendition of the Dickens novella. After being visited by an assortment of Spirits, Scrooge, the gruff, miserly misanthrope, is transformed into a warm-hearted philanthropist. Uplifting and all of that. If you must have a Christmas Carol fix this season, don’t settle for a substitute.
Be good for goodness sake and go for the real thing. A Christmas Carol.
For the perennial student in the audience, try one of these as well.