A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: MARLEY WAS DEAD, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
Premise/plot: Who isn't familiar with the story of Scrooge?! Still, I
suppose *something* must be said. Scrooge HATES Christmas. Hate is too
soft a word really for the rage he feels when he thinks about the
holiday. For Scrooge hating comes as naturally as breathing. He loves no
one or no thing--nothing except money and making a profit. But what is
driving his obsession with money? what is driving him to live as he
does--to make the choices he does? Could there be a secret or two in his
past that holds the answers to these questions? Can Scrooge be saved
from his own worst enemy--himself?
If Scrooge is to be saved--can he be saved?!--it will take some supernatural intervention. For Scrooge won't be saving himself. For one thing, Scrooge does not see his own need to be saved. Saved from what exactly?!?! Saved from success?! As far as Scrooge is concerned, everything in his life is just as it should be. He in need of help? he in need of saving? Don't be ridiculous.
He will be visited by four ghosts--the first ghost being Marley, his dead business partner of old. The other three ghosts being Christmas spirits past, present, and future. Can these spirits open Scrooge's eyes? Will he start to see--will he start to judge--life differently?
My thoughts: A Christmas Carol is a familiar story--much like the gospels. Is it too
familiar a story to pack a punch or two? It doesn't have to be. The
truth is--like it or not--we are more like Scrooge than we want to
admit. We may not hate Christmas. We may not be super-obsessed with
money. We may even consider ourselves good, charitable people. But the
truth is that we are all sinners; perhaps I should amend that to we are
sinners one and all. At best we can say our pet sins differ from his.
All of us need a ghostly encounter to reconcile us with ourselves, the
world, and God. I would point out, however, that we need a Holy Ghost
encounter, and not one from Marley and the three ghosts of Christmas
past, present, and future.
In the first stave, readers are introduced to Scrooge's world. We see him at work and at home. We are witnesses to Scrooge's interactions. Dickens does plenty of telling, but he also does plenty of showing. At the close of Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his business partner, Marley. Scrooge is warned of his future fate and promised three spiritual visitors. In the second stave, Scrooge is visited by the first spirit, that of Christmas past. In the third stave, Scrooge is visited by the second spirit, that of Christmas present. In the fourth stave, Scrooge is visited by the third spirit, that of Christmas future. In the fifth stave, it is Christmas morning. Readers are reintroduced to Scrooge; once again, we see him going about his business. Has his outlook on life changed? Is Scrooge a new man?
When I first read A Christmas Carol, I was less than impressed with this "Christ-less" Christmas story. I still loved the Muppet Christmas Carol; I still loved the idea of loving this one. But I found grace to be missing; here was Scrooge a brand new man with a brand new outlook, but no profession or confession of belief or trust in the one true God. The message was not Jesus paid it all; all to him I owe. The emphasis was not that Christ was sufficient--that Scrooge's only hope in life or death was Christ alone. The emphasis seemed to be on outward change, on works. On reflection this time around, I see A Christmas Carol more like the letter of James than any of the four gospels. In spiritual terms, what we're dealing with is not justification--how to be made right with God, how to be saved--but sanctification--how to live life rightly.
Here are a few scriptures to keep in mind as you read A Christmas Carol:
- Matthew 22:36-40
- Luke 10:25-37
- Matthew 5:43-48
- John 13:34-35
- Luke 16:19-31
- 1 John 3:14-18
- James 2:14-17
- James 4:17
- James 5:1-4
My tip for reading A Christmas Carol: try to read it as if for the first time.
- Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.
- There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot—say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance—literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.
- Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
- He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
- No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.
- Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and, when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways, and up courts, and then would wag their tails as though they said, “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”
- Once upon a time—of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve—old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house.
- Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part.
- “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” “Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”
- “Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.” “Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.” “Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”
- “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”
- Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.
- “At this time of the rolling year,” the specter said, “I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?”
- The more he thought, the more perplexed he was; and the more he endeavored not to think, the more he thought.
- The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand. Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.
- “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.” “Long Past?” inquired Scrooge, observant of its dwarfish stature. “No. Your past.”
- “The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.” Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.
- Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing;
- it is always the person not in the predicament who knows what ought to have been done in it, and would unquestionably have done it too.
- “Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family,” said Scrooge. “There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us, and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”
- 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 humor.
- “Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed. “I fear you more than any specter I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”
- “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, Present, and the Future.
- YES! AND THE bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in! “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. O Jacob Marley! Heaven and the Christmas-time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!”
- Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old City knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world.
- May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! THE END
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews