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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Go Scrooge Yourself!

Okay, before you get all worked up, reread the title, please. This is my way of telling you that I wish everyone would take some time to read (or re-read, as the case may be) Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. Actually, the full title is A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. It was published in 1843 and has never been out of print. That is pretty amazing. Many books come and go, and after they have been published, they might be reprinted a few times, but publishing houses quit doing so because they don't sell enough copies to justify the expense of printing. Pretty amazing for a book about a miser who changes after experiencing a memorable Christmas Eve.

Why do I love this story so much? I could give numerous reasons. The most obvious, of course, is the change undergone by Ebenezer Scrooge when he is given the chance to look back at his life and his Christmases. He sees himself alone at school over the holidays, sent away by a father who has become bitter over the loss of his wife. This is the first step toward creating the man he would eventually become. He watches himself a few years later, apprenticed to Mr. Fezziwig, who has a party for all of his family and staff. The dancing and food cost very little, Scrooge realizes, but created so much happiness. Scrooge continues to try and better himself in life, hoping to earn enough money to be able to afford to have a wife and home. After a while, though, his hunger for security alienates the woman he loves. She releases him from his promise to her because she knows that she has been replaced in his heart by his need for more money.

Scrooge is then shown people celebrating Christmas in numerous places and in many ways. He sees people clasping hands in goodwill and sharing whatever they have, even if it is only their friendship or love, in celebration of the holiday. He has the opportunity to see his nephew, who never gives up on inviting Scrooge to dinner, and his wife and friends celebrating the day. His former fiancee and her children are also visited, along with the family of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's underpaid clerk. Even though the Cratchits have very little, they celebrate joyously, and drink to Scrooge, the founder of the feast. Scrooge learns, to his great sadness, that young Tim Cratchit will die if there is no change in his family's circumstances.

Finally, Scrooge has the chance to see the future. There are people talking, bragging in fact, about taking things from a dead man. They sell these various items while laughing about him not needing them any more. There are also men who were business associates of Scrooge talking about the same man's funeral. Most agree that very few people will be attending, even suggesting that they might only go if a luncheon is provided. He asks to be shown some tenderness associated with a death, and is transported to the Cratchit home. Bob is late coming home from work because he stopped on his way home to visit the grave of his beloved Tiny Tim. Scrooge is heartbroken at this news, and also when he finds out that the dead man the others talked about earlier was him.

Scrooge's transformation is miraculous. He changes willingly and completely. He begins to share his enormous wealth with others, especially with the Cratchit family. Tiny Tim's life is spared, Scrooge begins to have a relationship with his nephew and his nephew's wife, and much happiness ensues. At the end of the story I feel happy and inspired.

There have been numerous film adaptations of A Christmas Carol, and I have seen and loved many of them. There's a great version from 1951 called Scrooge, a title which was used again in a 1970 musical version. There's also the 1988 version, Scrooged, which someone let me borrow over Christmas that year. It helped me at a time when I had recently been released from the hospital with a diagnosis of lupus and was still weak and struggling. I must also admit to a great attachment to a made-for-television animated version, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. I've loved it ever since the first time I saw it, and still do.

While all of these are wonderful ways to appreciate this story, there's nothing to compare with reading the book. Dickens' use of the language and his powers of description are marvelous. When I reread the book in the coming days, I can almost guarantee something that will happen. I will come across a description that is so marvelous that I will make Trent stop what he's doing to listen as I read it aloud. Here's a sample from the visit by the Ghost of Christmas Present:

There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the
waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling
out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy,
brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of
their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in
wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at
the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high...

The language is both beautiful and delicious. Yes, I really love this book! I really hope you'll find some time, at any time of the year, to read this wonderful story. I hope it enriches your holiday season like it always does mine. And now, I'm off to read...