Friday, December 23, 2016

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Normally I start a book review with a plot synopsis or enough of the set-up to make the story seem interesting. Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol hardly needs that since it has been produced many times and in many various ways on television and movie theaters. Any number of web sites have ranked the various versions of the story, but what about the original text? Is it worth going back to?

It surely is worth reading the original text, for several reasons. First, the story feels much more personal since Dickens often intrudes with observations and asides. The book reads as if he is telling you the story directly, face to face. His frankness and humor make it delightful. Second, the text has much more detail in it. The ghosts don't take Scrooge to see one or two things. Often they see quite a few different scenes, as when the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to see various Christmas celebrations. In addition to Bob Cratchit's and Nephew Fred's festivities, they visit strangers and even a ship at sea. The greater detail makes a greater impact. Third (and related), the text is much better at getting inside Scrooge's head, a natural difference between a written story and a performance. With the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge doesn't want to admit it to himself who the dead man is. The pathos of his cry, "Why show this to me if I cannot change it?" is all the stronger. Reading the original story is a richer experience.

Is the story worth all the repetition? Scrooge's conversion from a penny-pinching miser to a joyful philanthropist is an inspiring example and mirrors the promise of Christmas, when Christ came to redeem the world from sin and error. Scrooge seems to be almost universally flawed at the beginning of the story. When forced to confront his happier youth, slow decline, and the misery his current life is causing, his humanity is reawakened. Scrooge lets go of his former worldliness and strives to make the world around him a better place. As a late bloomer, he may not be a man for all seasons, but he is a man for the Christmas season.

A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast has a discussion of this book posting on December 27, 2016, which may be governed by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come or the Ghost of Christmas Past depending on when you see this, dear reader. If you are reading this on the 27th, then you're under the Ghost of Christmas Present, and in a paraphrase of Tiny Tim, "God bless you for being on the one!"

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