A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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Over the holidays I decided to read a classic novel and A Christmas Carol just seemed like the perfect choice given the time of year. I haven’t read this novel in over a year and it was a pleasure to read again. It is such a quick read, so I fit it in between festivities, travel and power outages.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I enjoy rereading books is because they give you something new each time you read it, and my belief holds true for A Christmas Carol. I went in to the book planning on blogging about why it is such a classic tale, but instead I was struck by Scrooge’s boldness when initially confronted by the spirits.

When Scrooge is first confronted with Marley’s ghost, he behaves in an aggressive manner. Having seen his late partner’s face in the door knocker, Scrooge enters his home, checks all the corners of his room and double-locks the doors and once Marley makes his appearance Scrooge speaks first, “‘How now!’ said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. ‘What do you want with me?’” After the ghost identifies himself, Scrooge even invites him to sit down. Scrooge doesn’t become frightened until the ghost removes some bandages from his face, revealing a disfigured jaw, and rattles his chains. But even after Marley explains that three spirits will visit Scrooge in an attempt to avoid the purgatory that he suffers, Scrooge offers a cheeky reply:

“Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?” he demanded in a faltering voice.
“It is.”
“I–I think I’d rather not,” said Scrooge.
“Without their visits,” said the Ghost, “you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow when the bell tolls One.”
“Couldn’t I take ‘em all at once, and have it over, Jacob?” hinted Scrooge.

Ha. Seriously, imagine being confronted by a creepy ghost and giving attitude. He greets the first spirit as directly as he did Marley, “‘Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?’ asked Scrooge.” It is only once the spirit begins to show Scrooge is past that the old miser’s attitude begins to change, though not his personality. He still wants to try to control the situation. Scrooge is troubled by the sights of Christmases past – his boyhood, a broken engagement, his former fiancée’s new life – but after demanding the spirit release him, he forcibly removes the spirit by extinguishing the light shining from the crown of the spirit’s head.

Trying to regain a stronger position for the arrival of the second spirit, Scrooge pulls back the curtains of his bed so that he can see when the spirit arrives, “For he wished to challenge the Spirit on the moment of its appearance, and did not wish to be taken by surprise and made nervous.” When the Ghost of Christmas Present does arrive, in another room, Scrooge goes to search the spirit out. And, once meeting the spirit, he asks the spirit to teach him his next lesson. The lesson includes the most well-known section of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s observation of the Cratchits, his clerk’s family, including their ill son, Tiny Tim.

Unlike the end of his night with the first spirit, Scrooge is given no time to prepare or recover from his experience with the Ghost of Christmas Present. Instead, after the spirit disappears at midnight, he is immediately joined by a hooded phantom, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Keeping with his previous encounters, Scrooge addresses the spirit directly and, despite his fear, encourages the spirit to fulfill its purpose:

“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more than any spectre 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 your company, and do it with a thankful heart.”

With this spirit, the one he fears most, Scrooge is most eager to accompany, “‘Lead on!’ said Scrooge. ‘Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!’” In this experience, Scrooge learns the sad fate of Tiny Tim and of his own unmourned death. He begs the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to allow his future to be changed. As with the first spirit, Scrooge reaches out to the Ghost, but instead of trying to rid himself of the spirit, Scrooge is clinging to it, “In his agony he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it.” While the spirit does pull away and disappear, Scrooge is successful in getting his second chance and wakes on Christmas Day a changed man.

By the end of the book, I saw that it wasn’t Scrooge’s personality that had changed but his attitude. He started to take as much pleasure in Christmas and life as he use to waste in anger and hardness before the spirits’ visits. His change of heart is a source of amusement for some, but, as he didn’t care when people hated him for his coldness, he doesn’t care if they find his new attitude strange.

All quoted passages are from Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. London: Chancellor Press, 1987.

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