Tag Archives: festive

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

17 Nov

The wonderfully festive ghost story of the miserly Scrooge scarcely needs any introduction – according to Wikipedia, there have been more than 20 film adaptations in addition to TV, radio and theatre adaptations.  So what’s the appeal?

Yes, it’s a huge load of schmaltzy images of Christmas which are not entirely realistic (and I’m referring to more than just the appearance of 4 ghosts!)  But although the images of cheerful people showing charity and goodwill to one another while wallowing in some magical festive spirit may be unrealistic to many, isn’t this actually the story’s appeal?  It’s pure escapism and an antidote to some of the more brutal Christmas stories – I’m thinking especially of the ironically named song “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty McColl, a duet which relates a bitter argument between a separating couple.

By comparison, “A Christmas Carol” provides a warm bath of cosy Christmas images.  Even the very non-cosy images – such as the chilling and sinister Ghost of Christmas Future who silently shows Scrooge the callous reactions to his own death if he doesn’t change his ways – are an effective way of increasing the festive feel of the nicer bits by creating a stark contrast.

And these cosy images are not just sentimental ones; there’s that gluttony-inducing passage when the Ghost of Christmas Present is introduced:

“Heaped upon the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth cakes, and seething bowls of punch that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.”

I remember once being told (if I recall this correctly) that “the classics” are books that have stood the test of time because they say something profound and important, e.g. something about human nature, some message that endures.  Well, “A Christmas Carol” has certainly stood the test of time, having been published in 1843.  But does it really say anything profound?  The message is essentially “If you’re a miserable, money-driven, mean old miser, then nobody will like you and you’ll miss out on a happier life” – well, that’s hardly a revelation!  Are we really to believe that prior to Charles Dickens releasing this story, nobody had realised this?!

Instead, I think the appeal of the story really is very simple, as I detail above: pure escapism and an antidote to more brutal Christmas stories that are available.

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