Cosying up with classic literature: Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Rebecca Johnson reviews a Christmas classic for any keen readers over the holidays- Charles Dickins' A Christmas Carol.

Rebecca Johnson
4th December 2019
image: wikimedia commons
‘Tis the season to grab your comfiest and ugliest Christmas jumper, a cup of something incredibly warm (whether that be tea or mulled wine) and a good book, and where else to start other than with the Christmas classic, a Christmas Carol.

Despite being published in 1843, the story still finds itself a popular classic for all ages during this festive period, and it embodies everything to love and despise at Christmas, whilst reinforcing that the festive period is a time for goodwill and enjoyment. It was created by a chap often coined as the inventor of Christmas and is a household name in terms of literary classics, Charles Dickens.

I first discovered this novel when I was about eight; my dad bought me a wonderful copy of it, jam-packed with intricate and amazing illustrations by P.J. Lynch. Although I’m not a stickler for classic books usually, this is something I always try and read during December and really helps me get into the festive spirit.

A Christmas Carol is a story that everyone is familiar with. It's split into five staves, tracking the past, present and future of the miserable, tight, old git that is Ebenezer Scrooge. We open with Scrooge expressing his distaste for charity and all things Christmas related. He is then visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him that if he doesn’t change his mean ways, he’ll end up doomed to an eternity of wandering the earth bound in chains due to his sheer greed.

I’m not a stickler for classic books usually, but this is something I always try and read during December and really helps me get into the festive spirit.

So begins the visits of three ghosts. Scrooge is immediately visited by the ghost of Christmas past, who transports him to his…well…Christmas past. Our protagonist is taken to his childhood, showing himself to be a lonely young lad. The scene quickly shifts Scrooge as a young man, who is seen celebrating the festive period at his former employer, Fezziwig, who hosts a ginormous Christmas bash. Scrooge is forced to reflect on his younger self’s greed, which led to him losing his fiancée.

The protagonist protests against being shown this memory and is suddenly in the presence of the ghost of Christmas present, a huge jolly green giant of a character who shows Scrooge the joys of Christmas. However, the spirit focuses on the life of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s employee, who hosts a family Christmas, whilst fretting over the fate of his ill son, Tiny Tim. Scrooge is informed that Tiny Tim will die unless something changes in the immediate future.

The penultimate stave is written in the most haunting of manners as Scrooge meets the third and final spirit, the ghost of Christmas yet to come. A tall and mystical figure, “shrouded in deep black garment”, the spirit does not speak, yet arguably says the most about how Scrooge needs to reform himself. He shows Scrooge the limited, if any, remorse felt by people over his death. The old man is then shown Bob Cratchit and his family mourning the death of Tiny Tim, and the neglected grave bearing the name “Ebenezer Scrooge”.

Does Scrooge change his ways in the final stave? You’ll have to pick up a copy to find out, and there’s some smashing editions dotted about, it’s well worth a look. If that’s too much of a strain, check out the various adaptations of this old, yet familiar Christmas tale, including Disney’s animation, Bill Murray’s modern take on Scrooge or the Muppets’ film.

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