Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I was unsure how to begin my review of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol published 1843 because after completing the novel I realized that I preferred the 1951 film version starring Alistair Sim.  I felt bad about that since Charles Dickens isn't just any author.  But I think the reason I preferred the 1951 film, which I have seen many times, is it's a pretty accurate retelling of the novel and so once I got around to reading the book I didn't find alot new to discover.

Then too, there is Alistair Sim's marvelous portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge, putting all other Scrooge portrayals to shame.  In comparison, the Scrooge we meet in the novella needed to be fleshed out more in my opinion.  One scene from the movie for example is missing from the book and I think it needed to be there.  It's the scene in which Ebenezer, in his late twenties, is standing by the bedside of his sister Fan, the only relative who loved him.  She is dying having just given birth to a son, Ebenezer's nephew Fred, who Ebenezer will go on to blame for her death. 

That scene is missing from the novel and without it it's harder to see why Scrooge turned out so bitter because despite the cruelty of his father, Ebenezer goes on, at least in his early years, to have a good life.  He becomes an apprentice to the jolly and generous, Mr Fezziwig.  Ebenezer becomes engaged to a young woman he loves named Belle but years later she breaks up with him because she states that Ebenezer's love of money has replaced her in his heart.  But how do you go from Mr. Fezziwig and Belle to Ebenezer becoming so hard?  The interim death of Fan is the most logical explanation.  The book hints at this but the film is quite clear.

All of this said I am glad I read A Christmas Carol for my 2019 Back to the Classics Challenge - choose a classic novella.  I have also read Great Expectations and though I have yet to find the Dickens' book with my name on it so to speak and may never do so I so admire Dickens.  I was reminded of why when I was turning the channels and came upon commentators on Fox gloating about the flack Democrats are taking for their medicare for all proposal.  I might even be open to the GOP explaining why medicare for all wasn't feasible if they hadn't spent decades trying to make medicare for none a reality and they are still trying.

Charles Dickens in contrast never forgot where he came from no matter how successful he became.  He never forgot what it was like to be poor, particularly a child growing up in poverty.  As Scrooge's nephew Fred tells his uncle at one point:

There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest.  But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round - apart from the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys". 

It has been said that with his novel A Christmas Carol, Dickens pretty much invented Christmas as we have come to know it today, the family get togethers, the sumptous food, the dancing, the singing and the spirit of reaching out and being a little nicer to each other during the Holiday season.  It shows the power a novelist could have back in the 19th century and how we could use a novel to come along today that speaks  to these times and the dilemna we find ourselves in but novelists no longer have that sort of influence on the culture as they once did.  Thankfully we still have great authors like Charles Dickens whose books still speak to us about what's going on.

10 comments:

  1. The 1951 film version is also my favorite. You raise a good point about this work having a great influence on what we think of as Christmas. Dickens influenced our culture so much in many different ways.

    I also read this for the first time a few years ago. I thought that it was well worth the read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brian, Alistair Sim gives such a wonderful performance as Scrooge although I have never seen him in anything else.
      The whole mood and cinematogrophy of the film works as well. I did a bit of research on A Christmas Carol and found that Dickens wrote it in six weeks and when published it was a phenomenal hit with the public. I'd like to read a bio of Dickens and yet sometimes its not so good to find out too much about a writer's life. I found that out the hard way with Steinbeck.

      Delete
  2. I love Dickens but have yet to read this classic story! I have seen the movie you referenced. I have fond memories of watching it as a kid on TV.

    I can't totally understand where a reader would not enjoy reading Dickens even though I do. I think it is perfectly OK to enjoy the adaptations of his works (there are so many wonderful ones!) and read something else that you will really love instead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ruthiella, I do want to watch more adaptations of Dickens' novels. it's true not every reader can love every great writer equally. I think I once read that Our Mutual Friend was a Dickens book for people who don't usually read Dickens. I guess it's the time period he wrote in that keeps we coming back, the Victorian Age. I keep thinking there is a way to read him that I need to understand.

      Delete
    2. I think it comes down to taste! His characters are exaggerated, his stories often overly sentimental and his sentence structure can be a little unwieldy. I can totally see where he would be OTT for other readers. And you've read other Victorian lit which you have enjoyed so it's him, not you! :D

      Delete
    3. Thanks Ruthiella, agree, it does come down to taste. There are people who don't care for Pride and Prejudice. I don't understand it but they may simply be more partial to other great authors due to life experience, taste etc. Most important is that Dickens and Austen are still being read!

      Delete
  3. Dickens isn't my favorite author. Although I did like A Tale of Two Cities. His books sure have influenced our culture, though, haven't they?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lark, Dickens has influenced the culture. I did a little research on A Christmas Carol and though the UK in the 1840's was beginning to get more interested in Christmas, A Christmas Carol which was a phenomenal hit really revived the holiday with family get togethers wonderful food and just a spirit of friendliness and fun on that day.

      Delete
  4. It's pretty rare to enjoy the movie more than the book, but it has happened to me a few times!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree, but if you ever get a chance do check out the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol. I know I am a broken record on this but Alistair Sim gives such a wonderful performance.

      Delete