Saturday, 21 December 2013
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol is a book I've read many times, and until I tried A Tale of Two Cities earlier this year, it remained the only book by Dickens I have actually enjoyed. As I haven't picked it up for a few years, I was excited to read it again this year with Riv, in the run up to Christmas.
I'm sure most people are familiar with the story through the many adaptations (Muppet Christmas Carol being my favourite, and surprisingly faithful to the original). Grumpy, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and warned that he is in for a grim fate unless he changes his ways. Through a series of visits by the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Scrooge learns that there is more to life than money and the pursuit of making more money.
Like most classics, A Christmas Carol stands up well to repeated re-readings. Even though I have read it many times before, each time I try it, I get something new from it. On past readings, I have been focused on Scrooge's journey to change and how the visions the Spirits show him have such an effect on him. The Spirit of Christmas Past is the one that I find the most powerful, as we see Scrooge before he became so bitter and emotionally closed off, and we see the missed opportunities in his life. I'm sure we all have experiences and missed opportunities in our own lives that it would be painful to revisit.
But on this read, I was more struck by what happens after Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning and decides to make amends. He realises that he must change, but the thought of apologising and actually facing the people he has made miserable is daunting to say the least;
"It sent a pang across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him when they met; but he knew what path lay straight before him, and he took it."
"He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and did it."
All through the night, Scrooge has been exposed to what these people really think of him and he wakes up with a lot of shame about his own actions, and also embarrassment at the thought of facing people who think so badly of him. But he does it anyway, and on this read I found this particularly striking. I am a person who can't stand to think that other people might not like me, so I know how hard it must have been for Scrooge to put things right, and how it shows a lot of courage in it's own way. Shame and pride are powerful emotions to overcome. It's not always easy to do the right thing, and I was encouraged by the way that Scrooge set about making things right.
As you can tell, I really enjoyed this reread. I do think A Christmas Carol is very sentimental, and Dickens wouldn't get away with it at any time other than Christmas, and I also think it's implausible how long Scrooge takes to realise whose death it is when the Spirit of Christmas Future visits, but it's still the perfect book for Christmas. Reading it makes it revisit all the previous times I have read it, which is guaranteed to put a smile on my face. Highly recommended, even if you think you know the story to death already.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1843
My Edition: Vintage UK, 2009
Score: 5 out of 5