It’s a “Double-Dickens” kind of season. (See last week’s post on Oliver Twist). Today, I figured I’d discuss A Christmas Carol to kick off the holiday season.
It’s difficult to avoid cliche when it comes to this story. It’s all over the place. On stage, on film, in abridged book versions, etc. Hell, even The Muppets did their own version.
But about six years ago, I read the book in it’s original form (well, the Penguin Classics edition, anyway) and discovered just how essentially wonderful this story truly is.
To begin, I’m going to quote a familiar phrase. Scrooge utters this gem when he spirited nephew stops by to say Merry Christmas:
“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!” (Dickens 35).
Ah, the misanthropist’s anthem. I’ve heard the saying many times, we all have. But there was something about reading it in the original novel, the real thing that gave me that unbounded literary excitement we all crave.
Scrooge then goes on to say this to his nephew:
“…every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!” (Dickens 36).
Such poignant characterization here. It’s comical, in fact. He’s just so bitter, so curmudgeonly, that you can’t help but love him–even at his worst. Dickens manages to show us a man who’s anger is a deeper reflection of a man in pain. If Scrooge didn’t have a good heart underneath, why would the spirits even bother with him?
There’s a lesson here. Actions and feelings are not always identical. It’s like I said in a former post: Tell Me About Your Mother: Your Character’s Psychological Make Up, people use defense mechanisms. Characters do as well.
I’ll end on this note. The second spirit is leading Scrooge about, and they stumble upon the home of Scrooge’s nephew, where he [the nephew] is laughing heartily, enjoying his holiday. The narrator says this, which I believe, is reflective of Scrooge’s changing attitude:
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour” (Dickens 87).
We still hear this nugget of wisdom today, and surprisingly, we still don’t take it seriously. But there is much truth in this passage. For one to not get caught up in the laughter of others, his or her mood must be so rotten, even a winning lotto ticket wouldn’t fix it. Laughter is contagious. Laughter is necessary. Let us remember this for the upcoming holiday season!
Thank you, Mr. Dickens. Thank you.