Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Christmas Carol | Charles Dickens

I was feeling a little down in the dumps about the state of the world the other day, after going to see an amazing talk by Dr. David Suzuki in Toronto. Since I had already finished my book club novel for November, I was free to choose something that I hoped would raise my spirits. Christmas is on its way, so I decided that something festive would brighten my mood. I must admit there aren’t a lot of Christmas books on my shelf, but there was one that I have been dying to read for a while now: “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. The other added benefit from this, is that I have yet to read any Dickens and I have felt entirely guilty for not doing so. How can someone who runs a book club for over two years and is a lover of literature not read any Dickens?


So, let’s start by talking briefly on the background of the novel and what was happening in the world at the time. “In May 1843, Dickens planned to publish an inexpensive political pamphlet tentatively titled, "An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man's Child" [Wikipedia] which was intended to report the effect of the Industrial Revolution on the children of England. This pamphlet eventually became “A Christmas Carol” and was originally published on December 19th, 1843 as “A Christmas Carol in Prose, (Being a Ghost Story of Christmas)”. The book was written and published in six weeks.

Dickens was well known as being an advocate for the poor, which was largely based on his upbringing. In 1924, his father John was arrested for financial (debt) problems and at twelve years old, Charles was forced into working in a shoe polish factory where I would assume he worked in sub-par conditions. Dickens most well known work, “Oliver Twist”, was about a boy that escaped a workhouse and met a bunch of pickpockets in London.


I’m just going to start by saying that the book’s general plot lines follow what you have seen in most of the movies. The best “A Christmas Carol” is the 1951 black and white film Alastair Sim. Of course, for me, one cannot forget to mention my favourite as a child... “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” Another, immensely popular version [and my girlfriend’s favourite] is “A Muppet Christmas Carol.” This year, another version of the film will come out in an animated version with Jim Carrey playing the voice of Ebenezer Scrooge, which so far has received mixed reviews.

  • Scrooge believed he saw Marley due to undigested or undercooked food.
  • Marley unwraps his bandage around his head and his jaw drops to the floor.
  • After Marley left, Scrooge looks out the window to see many ghosts outside. 46
  • Spirit of the Past's image fluctuates... from one leg to twenty legs [and other fluctuations] 55
  • Dickens mentions Ali Baba, Valentine, Orson, Robin Crusoe, etc 61-62
  • Scrooge didn't dance with a woman at Fozziwigs [in many movies]
  • Scrooge didn't marry his lady friend, because she had no dowry
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present had 1800 brothers 89
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present sprinkled incense from his torch on their food to make people happy 95
  • The concept of Sunday's being a day of rest is explored 96
  • Scrooge's laundry is not boiled at the Cratchit house, but potatoes in the kettle.  Te Cratchits had lots of food, but I believe potatoes were a sign of being poor in England at the time.
  • I found it interesting that the concept of "surplus population" was explored 106
  • "Miners" were the very poor [not the Cratchits], and their situation is discussed 111
  • "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." 114
  • There is a game played with Scrooge's nephew called the "Yes and No" game.  The answer is "Scrooge" - this is supposed to be a jovial game, but it comes across as mean-spirited, in my opinion.
  • The spirits actually age - The Ghost of Christmas Present dies at midnight.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present throws Scrooge's words back at him about why he will not give arms for the poor.  Scrooge's response then was about prisons and workhouses.
  • Men talk about Scrooge's death [in the future], , but not at a grave... the grave visitation comes later. 
  • People that owe Scrooge money are the ones rejoicing at his death.
  • Scrooge is shown his own corpse [in a room], before they visit the grave site.
That's what I have seemed to log as differences or things that caught my eye.  I'd recommend reading the book around the holidays... still a delightful story that gets you in the spirit of Christmas.

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