A Christmas Carol for Charles Dickens

It’s Christmas, and one of the top movies this season is “Disney’s A Christmas Carol”, a cartoon version of Charles Dickens’ novella starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge. Every year there seems to be a new version of “A Christmas Carol” either at the movies or on television or both. Also every Christmas season, “A Christmas Carol” is performed on hundreds of stages throughout the world.

Truth be known, I have never been a big fan of Charles Dickens as a novelist. For Victorian literature, I much prefer “Middlemarch” or “The Mill and the Floss” or “Adam Bede” by George Eliot or “Vanity Fair” by William Thackeray to the novels of Charles Dickens. Over the years, I’ve read several Dickens novels including “Hard Times” and “Great Expectations”, and they just never captivated me. I did quite like Dickens’ French Revolution novel, “A Tale of Two Cities”. Last year, I listened to “Oliver Twist” during my commutes. Many people love this story of Oliver Twist and Jack Dawkins “The Artful Dodger” and Fagin, but for some reason I was pretty much unmoved by the story.

But “A Christmas Carol” is the one exception of Dickens’ works that won me over even when I was a child. This story of the cold-hearted and tight-fisted Scrooge who is completely transformed after being visited by four ghosts on Christmas eve night has always had a powerful affect on me. The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future cover all stages of a person’s life. Scrooge has the opportunity to see his future which is really the future of every one of us, and that causes him to change profoundly. My favorite version of “A Christmas Carol” is the 1951 movie starring Alastair Sim which I try to watch every few years. But just about every version of “A Christmas Carol” has enough of the story in it to affect me. I even brought Scrooge into my daily program which I wrote quite a while ago. I wrote, “Don’t become overwhelmed with bitterness. It looks like I’m very susceptible to this emotion, and it could lead me to become a cold hard person while I am still young. I just have to keep catching myself and remember, just like Scrooge, it’s never too late to change.”

So maybe it’s time I accepted that Charles Dickens, the writer, has had a profound impact on my life. Give the man a tankard of ale, a large helping of roast duck, and some plum pudding. After all, it’s Christmas.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Oh Alistair Sim … wasn’t he the wonderful actor in that delightful British TV series, Misleading cases?

    LOL Tony re Dickens and Scrooge. I think you should accept it (his influence on you I mean!) … and try reading Bleak House which is my favourite Dickens to date. I recently finally finished Great expectations after saying for more decades than I want to admit to that it was the Dickens I could not finish. Indeed it was because of that book that I wrote in a book review when I was 15 that Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the wind, don’cha know!) was a better writer than Dickens! My English teacher thanked me for my review and merely commented “I hope you won’t always think so”. I’d love to tell her that her wish came true! On my late second reading of Great expectations I found that I liked it a lot and could see why it is so revered…and why it has inspired such writers as Peter Carey in Jack Maggs, and Lloyd Jones in Mister Pip.

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  2. Hi Whisperinggums,
    Bleak House, you say? Some editions are over 1,000 pages, others close to a 1000 pages. Does Dickens have any other novellas besides A Christmas Carol? When I was fifteen, I was reading books about teens driving what they called hot rods, racing street cars. “Gone with the Wind” was probably a lot closer to literature than those were. That’s funny that you thought Margaret Mitchell was a better writer than Charles Dickens, but I suppose a lot of teenage girls thought so. It’s easy for me to take Dickens for granted now, but in his time I guess he was a social reformer who spoke out against slavery and a passionate supporter of the lower class. I loved Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip.

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    • yes he was – though a pretty mixed up guy in his own way too. Bleak House is long but it is not a slow read. His opening description of fog in London is gorgeous and then there’s the wonderful spontaneous combustion story. And then, it’s about lawyers and inheritance. Truly, you’ve in for a treat if you give it a go! Still you did give Marjorie Barnard a go so I can’t expect you to read everything I recommend!! You decide! See how generous and flexible I am?

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      • It strikes me that Dickens so well captured the London of his time that he is forever tied to that time and place, and thus he seems old-fashioned to many today. These comments I’m receiving are really getting me in the mood for another Dickens novel again.

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    • Re. Does Dickens have any other novellas besides A Christmas Carol?

      Yes he does. He wrote a number of Christmas stories; A Christmas Carol was the first. The others are called The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain. They should all be available on Project Gutenberg.

      Or, if you’re looking for some extremely short Dickens, you could try his Sketches by Boz. Boz was the pen-name he used at the start of his career when he was writing journalism rather than serial novels. Sketches is – no surprises here – a book of short written sketches. The sketches have titles like, “Our Next-Door Neighbour” “Vauxhall Gardens by Day”, “Thoughts About People”, and so on. he shows the same concern for human welfare here that he does in Christmas Carol. “It is strange with how little notice, good, bad, or indifferent, a man may live and die in London. He awakens no sympathy in the breast of any single person; his existence is a matter of interest to no one save himself; he cannot be said to be forgotten when he dies, for no one remembered him when he was alive. There is a numerous class of people in this great metropolis who seem not to possess a single friend …”

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      • “He cannot be said to be forgotten when he dies, for no one remembered him when he was alive.”
        What an excellent line, and the entire passage is extremely thought provoking. If London was like that already in the mid-1800s, what must it be like today? Of course the same could be said for any large city.
        It is somewhat surprising that none of the other Christmas novellas have achieved much popularity.

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        • It’s been ages since I read them, so I might be wrong about this, but I don’t think they were as much fun as A Christmas Carol. They were more baldly moral and melodramatic and didn’t have the same urgent energy. The Cricket on the Hearth was turned into an animated TV special years ago but there’s more joy in magic spirits that teleport you around than in an insect that sits in one place and chirps. (I’ve just checked Wikipedia on this. “On television, a 50-minute 1967 Rankin-Bass animated adaptation featured the voices of Roddy MacDowall as the Cricket …” and it looks as if other people have adapted it into radio shows, stage plays, and so on, but nothing really recent.)

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  3. Posted by adevotedreader on December 19, 2009 at 9:21 AM

    I know it’s long but I have to second whisperinggums reccomendation of Bleak House (and would add Our Mutual Friend). I think with DIckens you need to enjoy the meandering journey in all its detail!

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    • I’ve just been researching Our Mutual Friend on the Internet. You probably knew there was a site that was solely devoted to Charles Dickens http://charlesdickenspage.com/index.html
      This site covers everything about Charles Dickens, and the site is very attractive too. I’m sure I’ll come back to Dickens in my reading; it is just a question of when. I may go with the audiobook again.

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  4. LOL devoted reader! My post was getting too long as it was. I was going to say my next Dickens is going to be Our mutual friend. You’ve just added more fuel to that fire.

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