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Five years ago

A Christmas Carol

In 2012 we mark the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Dickens, and to contribute to the general ubiquity I intend to write a few articles about the man and his writing in this great forum. I expect, however, that by the end of next year most people may be a tad overwhelmed, and so I thought I'd do Dickens and Christmas now rather than in a year's time.

It is sometimes said that Charles Dickens invented Christmas as we know it (or as the British know it, at any rate); like most common knowledge, this is both a bit true and a bit not so true.

Christmas, in the early Victorian period, was just beginning to make a comeback. It had been banned by the Puritans under Cromwell, and while it was reintroduced with the Restoration, it had gotten a bit of a knock: the churches continued to oppose it as a frivolous Catholic celebration, and Christmas as it was celebrated was becoming a rather sombre, serious religious holiday and stood in danger of disappearing altogether.

When people say that Dickens invented Christmas, they are referring to his project of recasting it as a family-centred holiday with a philanthropic and merry sheen, which draws on older Christmas traditions (with the Tudor period standing as the ideal) with dancing and games and merriment. (Dickens was not the first to try to revive these older customs. He was heavily influenced, for example, by Washington Irving -- the man behind ``The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'', who had written extensively on old British Chrsitmas Traditions.) The phrase “Merry Christmas” was supposedly popularised by Dickens’ story, although that is of course not to say that it was a saying he invented. Which it was not. It does serve quite well to highlight the emphasis of the Dickensian Christmas, however: it should be merry, and (perhaps more importantly) it should be merry for all.

Already in 1836 Dickens had objected to the type of Christian puritan dogma which focused on rules rather than compassion. He has spent a lot of ink raging against the Sabbatarians around this period, and their demand that the Sunday be spent in no diversion other than worship: under the pseudonym Timothy Sparks, he published a pamphlet called ``Sunday under three heads. As it is; as sabbath bills would make it; as it might be made''. Dickens pointed out that Sunday was the only day when the poor actually had a chance to participate in the diversions which the middle classes and above could avail themselves of throughout the week. His rejection of a sombre, religious Christmas celebration belongs in the same box, and the argument against the Sabbatarians is actually brought up in the third stave of the Carol.

Dickens had written about Christmas before. For example, one of his Sketches by Boz, called ``A Christmas Dinner'', opens

Christmas Time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused -- in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened -- by the recurrence of Christmas.

and in Pickwick the characters celebrate Christmas at Dingley Dell, and we encounter Gabriel Grub (in ``The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton'' in chapter 29), who is generally considered a prototype for Scrooge eight years later.

But A Christmas Carol (1843, the year when the first Christmas card was made) is the first dedicated Christmas book, written specifically for the Christmas market, and drawing on, or even creating, the imagery of Christmas throughout. It is not the only Christmas book he wrote. Over the next five years he published four more: The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846) and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848). All of these follow the general pattern laid down by the Carol (or Gabriel Grub, if you will), using Christmas as the setting for a discussion of social injustice, and (with one exception, I think) mixing this with a suggestion of the supernatural. Later on he got too busy with other projects to write Christmas books as well, but for most of the remained of his life he would write elaborate Christmas stories for the Christmas numbers of his magazines, which were always his most popular numbers (sometimes selling up to 300 000 copies), and Dickens became so closely associated with Christmas that reading his stories in itself became part of the Christmas ritual for a number of people.

And the Carol has always remained the Christmas book.

Even if you have never read the book, I am sure you know the story, at least in broad strokes. It is one of those books that we seem to absorb through the aether; it is so ubiquitous that the allusions to it, which normally depend on the pre-existing knowledge of the text alluded to, in fact create that knowledge; and in addition there are a myriad adaptations and pastiches of various types: 20 films (the first one that we know of came out in 1901, and the last one so far, I think was the Jim Carrey one a couple of years ago). I haven’t even tried to get a grip on the amount of TV versions (but pretty much every show seems to drift into a Carol episode around Christmas time if they last long enough). I know Blackadder did one, the Muppets did another (or actually a film), there’s a Loony Tunes one, a Flintstones one, a Sesame Street one ... you get the picture. And of course there is a Disney version. There had to be, I think, since the Carl Barks character Scrooge McDuck is tellingly named after Dickens’ character (and the first time he shows up is actually at Christmas). Perhaps one of the better and more faithful adaptations is the 1999 one with Patrick Stewart, Dominic West and Richard E. Grant. But it does lack singing cockney muppets.

The full title is A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas; Dickens was still in a period when he liked his titles on the long side.

The Carol does not have chapters, but “staves”. A “staff” or “stave” is, I believe, the horizontal bar of musical notation, and there are always five of these. The division here therefore plays on the name of the novella. (This is something you will find in the two next Christmas books as well: the division is based on its content: in The Chimes the division is into “quarters” (from the quarter tolls of the bell), and in The Cricket on the Hearth the division is into “chirps”.)

A ``carol'' meanwhile, which has now taken on the meaning of ``Christmas song'' fairly exclusively, originally referred to a group of people holding hands and dancing in a circle to the accompaniment of a song. The OED lists other meanings as well, which spring out of this origin:

Diversion or merry-making of which such dances formed a leading feature.
A company or band of singers, a choir. (Or simply ‘assembly, company’...)
A song; originally, that to which they danced. Now usually, a song of a joyous strain ...
A song or hymn of religious joy sung at Christmas in celebration of the Nativity

The majority of these uses are much older than Dickens’ text, and some had probably fallen out of use, although I have seen ``carol'' used as late as the 1860s in reference to dancing, so it is not too far fetched to note that meaning as at least one of the connotations of the title. Especially since Dickens’ project to a large extent relies on the revival of old traditions. And the joyous strain, the suggestion of music itself, as well as the companionship suggested by the dance, all belong to this text as the ideal of Christmas, as well as of society as a whole. As a title it is also a very clear signal that it aligns itself with the attempt to bring back Christmas: the Christmas Carol stood as a symbol of this revival, as a collection had been published only ten years earlier of carols which remained in use in rural areas and a few new ones as well (William B. Sandys). You should keep that in mind when you think of carol singers as peculiarly Victorian. They seem to spring out of the late Romantic concern with popular tradition.

Now, these staves. The structure is very simple: in the first Ebenezer Scrooge is established as bad; then follows three visits, and finally the happy outcome and redemption.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes him back to his younger days, both as a child and as a young clerk, and then a budding man of business who drifts away from love; the Ghost of Christmas Present takes him to see the Cratchits and his nephew, Fred. Also shows the two children, Want and Ignorance; the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him his death, alone and unmourned in a society which has taken on his maxims, and also how differently Tiny Tim is mourned.

The Ghost of Christmas Past, with his glowing head, could represent memory; the Ghost of Christmas Present charity, empathy, and the Christmas spirit; and the reaper-like Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come could represent the fear of death and oblivion, not to mention the danger of ending up like Marley.

It is immediately fairly easy to assign the text to the box of allegory or a morality tale. Malcolm Andrews writes that its position as a fable gives Dickens leave to essentialise the characters. They are not complex characters so much as a collection of mutually reinforcing images: Scrooge’s coldness and static quality is opposed to his nephew’s movement and warmth. It is wrong vs right, greed vs generosity, dark vs light. In essence, they form the contrasts of Christmas (located at the darkest, coldest part of winter, but itself a celebration of light and warmth). It is just that at the beginning of the tale, things are out of joint because the winter is refusing to take on the spirit of the holidays. I suppose on some level you could see it as a commentary on England with and without Christmas, but Dickens also ties it to the cold calculation of the society which created the New Poor Law, and society as it could be.

All quite simple so far, but let’s look at the staves in turn:

Stave one opens in a style which suggests the immediacy of a storyteller. It seizes on the colloquial expression “dead as a doornail”, digresses a bit, suggests that it is answering questions. In short, it is a story narrated by a narrator who enacts the primary storytelling scene, in front of the fireplace, which already suggests the idea of companionship which I think the novella supports. Exchange of spirit and communication is central. And the narrator here overflows with it. Dickens originally experimented with a different style of punctuation, which would emphasise the orality of the language by following natural speech rhythms rather than grammatical requirements.

The style itself, as Robert Douglas-Fairhurst remarks in the introduction to the Oxford World Classics edition, is also in opposition to Scrooge’s miserly way of being: it describes him as a

squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and did not thaw it one degree at Christmas. (10)

The sheer generosity of words and images creates a sense of plenty, the alliteration a sense of playfulness and movement. But the passage is also interesting in other ways. It introduces the imagery of cold vs fire: Scrooge is not only a creation characterised by the absence of fire (though he retains the unused potential for it in the flint), he is actually covered in rime because of this lack. But not only is he cold himself, he makes everything cold around him, no matter the season or the holiday. And, in an extension of this cold, he is static. His gait, which should stand for movement, is stiff. And where fire, which is characterised as generous, opens things up, makes them expand, and itself reaches outside itself (if you imagine a fire, this will make sense), he is closed and self-contained like a block of ice.

There are also other indications that Scrooge is altogether wrong: his eyes are red, where they should be blue; his lips are blue where they should be red. He is an inversion of the proper order of things. Scrooge, moreover, answers to both Scrooge and Marley (on page 9): he has no identity outside the business.

Fred, in contrast, moves so quickly, there is no intimation of his approach before the “Merry Christmas” which he cries in a cheerful voice. What is more, he

had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled and his breath smoked again. (11)

He is also the one who defines Christmas as it should be, in contrast to the wintry gloom of Scrooge’s surroundings:
I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come around – apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below themas if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it. (12)

And please note that when Bob Cratchit reins himself in from the spontaneous enthusiasm which this speech engenders, he pokes at the fire and it goes out.

But the introductory stave also sets up all the notes to be played on in the later four: the desire for a Merry Christmas, the idea of choosing love over profit (in the nephew); Scrooge’s responses to the charitable gentlemen: ``are there no prisons'' (13) ``And the Union workhouses? . . . Are they still in operation?'' (14) (the Treadmill and the Poor Law), and ``If they would rather die [than use the workhouses] . . . they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population'' (14). There is also the carol singer, who is chased away, of course; and Cratchit’s family, which we encounter here only through Bob Cratchit’s desire to be with them, and Scrooge’s wretched treatment of him. I’ll try to keep track of these as we progress. I am sure there are others as well, if you look closely.

The title of the stave is “Marley’s Ghost”, however; and it is with the arrival of the ghost that the story is given movement: remember how movement is valued as positive and stiffness as negative. You get the impression from what has gone before, that the scenes in the counting-house are the same always, to be regularly repeated in the same way every year, dominated by the static quality of Scrooge.

It is presented as a ghost story in the title, and once Scrooge gets home it would seem to begin to build towards that genre. It certainly builds suspense with the walk in the cold fog towards the dead man’s flat, the horror of the ghostly face on the knocker, and the deep darkness of the hallway. And then slowly overcoming Scrooge’s incredulity (as well as, one might speculate) the reader’s, as the sound of the chains come up the stairs and Marley with his fixed, staring eyes appears. It is quite a scary scene, to me, anyway; but Dickens punctures it with Scrooge’s observation that “he had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now” (19). In fact, Scrooge puns again on page (21) (saying “Marley is particular for a shade, substituting that for to a shade”, and then the comment about “more gravy than the grave about you”. The structure of the pun also forms the basis of Marley’s punishment.

Marley’s ghost has two main points: first, the restless wandering, which is due to a demand that a man’s spirit must go forth among other people while he is alive, and if he is not, he must do so after death. And the second, which is the chain of money boxes, keys, deeds, purses and other symbols of money. You will also notice that the motif of movement is reintroduced, what in Fred was part of his nature, is turned to punishment if it has not been done in life.

And Marley puns, too. Or, rather reinterprets: “You were a good man of business”,

Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business! (23)

The pun, more than any other figure, demonstrates the alternative viewpoint and puts meaning in motion. The terror of the apparition, right at the beginning, therefore, could be said to have some effect on the static position of Scrooge. Certainly in his language. It is the first signal that the ghosts change him.

The second stave opens with suspense. There is also great emphasis on the clock (26), which obviously serves, to some extent as a memento mori (time is ticking away), but there is also a Shakespearian suggestion here, as the clocks do not continue as they should, that in Hamlet’s words “time is out of joint”. The Shakespeare quote continues “oh, cursed sprite, that ever I was born to set it right”. Of course there is something wrong in the world here, there is a cursed sprite, and it will be set right.

The danger of night “beating off bright day” (27), moreover, serves as an image of Scrooge himself, but also serves to highlight his priorities: he is not concerned with the loss of warmth and brightness of the sun, but of the effect on the letter of his contracts.

Suspense is founded in the protraction of a lack of knowledge. Anyone who has seen a horror film knows that the scary bit is before you see the monster, the anticipation of it. Or so I hear, I am too terrified to watch horror films. This is the effect Dickens makes use of here. He has established the horror of ghosts with Marley and his staring eyes and gaping mouth, and with Scrooge lying awake, waiting for the hour that signals the arrival of the first ghost, and then the refusal to describe the arrival when the curtains of the bed are drawn:

the bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of the bed were drawn. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand. Not the curtains at
his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.

And only then do we get a description. The drawing of the curtains has then happened three times at least. And the narrator has eerily popped up beside you in spirit.

The spirit itself is described first as a child, then as an old man seen through “a supernatural medium” as a child, with white hair, but no wrinkles, and a blooming cheek, and a child’s stature. The intersection that is both old and young is of course very suggestive of memory, which suits its purpose as the ghost of Christmas Past. This is also suggested by its changeability, and its occasional diffuseness.

There is also the bright light that it projects, and which Scrooge would have him cover up with the extinguisher hat. This is, of course, the Carol at its most allegorical. The spirit stands for memory, and exhibits the many sides to and Scrooge’s interaction with his memories. The suggestion is that the light of memories can serve as a beacon, using the past to guide the present. (This is also the topic of The Haunted Man, where a man is given the option of forgetting the past which makes him unhappy, leaving him angry with the world without knowing the reason why, and without the memories that form the context for the anger, turning him into a very unpleasant man.)

The same topic is developed in this stave. The anger and bitterness of Scrooge is founded in the experiences we see him encounter, but at the same time, they are also the place where he must find alternative priorities and a different perspective on life.

They go back to Scrooge’s painful childhood isolation, where, however, the imagination serves to keep him company. The figures spring out of the book, and I am sure an interpretation could make much of them. The most salient is of course Robinson Crusoe in connection to the idea of isolation (31-32). It also portrays the young Scrooge's reintroduction into the love of his family, primarily in the form of his sister, his nephew’s mother. The effect of these visions is shown to do its work on him as he expresses the wish that he could have treated the boy singing carols differently (32). And his unease as he connects the loving sister to the nephew he has been so horribly cold to (33-34).

The scene then shifts to the jolly Christmas party of Mr Fezziwig. It is characterised by movement, again. Heat brings speed with it, and the clerks clearing away everything in a minute (35). And the essential components of a jolly Christmas are introduced in the ballroom: warmth, music, smiles, variety, porter and food. And above all, movement. The fiddler ``scorns rest'' (35). And the heroes of the piece, the Fezziwigs, are dancing continuously and in all the forms imaginable, so even the movement is not allowed to become repetitive and thereby static. They are the old Christmas, as it should be.

And the Spirit, through a clever piece of reverse psychology, gets Scrooge to argue that Mr Fezziwig’s virtue is in having the power to make his clerks happy or unhappy, and choosing the former at very little cost to himself. This brings out into the open the contrast of his own treatment of Bob Cratchit, which he then comes to regret (37). This is all centered on the power of memory, if kept present, to influence priorities.

In the third vision, of the love of the girl with no money falling apart, you can, of course, hear the echoes of the Scrooge's criticism, in the first’s stave, of his nephew’s having married for love (38). These are all the memories he has had to suppress to lead his current life with his current priorities, in which he shuns the son of his sister, criticises him for having married for love, and makes his clerk’s life miserable.

The fourth image shows a reflection of the alternative that he could have had: the pleasant home life with Belle surrounded by children (again the movement), while he sat still and alone as his partner died (40).

Scrooge’s attempts to repress the memories again (by pressing the extinguisher cap over the apparition), are unsuccessful: the light still streams out.

Stave three introduces the second of the three spirits: the Spirit of Christmas, the embodiment of what Christmas should be. If the first ghost had disappointed as a scary apparition, this one is even jollier, brighter, happier, and he also brings out the key characteristics of Christmas celebration as it is portrayed by Dickens: the walls and ceiling are decked with “living green” with berries, that is, life; the berries and leaves reflect the light, and the fire, which suggests warmth; and there is a Plenty’s horn as his symbol as he is sitting on a throne of delicious food and drink. He is jolly.

This Spirit requires no allegorical interpretation, as the first ghost may have; it is more of a visceral image.

And, of course, the description of him is reminiscent of Fred, with his ``genial face , its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanor, and its joyful air'' (44). He has a rusty scabbard, which suggests peace.

Scrooge, at this point, is already showing signs of change. He is willing to follow the ghost, where he had not been before.

As they walk around town, there is quite a powerful evocation of the Christmas atmosphere. I won’t go into it too much, but you may observe that Dickens occasionally falls into iambic pentameter (or at the very least iambic meter) in these descriptions:

Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit's wife,
dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown,

This was an unconscious habit of his, apparently, which Forster tried to counteract as he read through the novels. Here, however, I think it helps to suggest that rhythmicality which is tied up with music and helps sweep us along in the train of the spirit. And, of course, the iamb notoriously sounds like the human heartbeat.

Dickens also takes the time to aim a kick at the Sabbatarians in all this: he shows the people carrying their dinners to the bakers’ shops. This was because poorer people did not have the means to cook large dinners in their homes (certainly not a bird), and bakers (who were not allowed to bake bread on Sundays and at Christmas) would let their stoves to the cooking of meat on those days. This was one of the things the Sabbatarians opposed (because you should not work on Sunday), and which put Dickens’ ire up (because these were the only days when poor people might actually have this type of dinner). Here the attack is made through Scrooge’s confronting the spirit with the Sabbatarians’ claims to do this in the name of religion (48). Which, of course, the spirit rejects.

Then follows the visit to the Cratchit household, where the merry Christmas Spirit prevails in spite of scarce resources, and where Dickens paints the most sentimental image of the book: Tiny Tim, the crippled child who will die if nothing is changed about his way of life, and who is so good he, instead of being ashamed and try to hide away, hopes that the sight of him at Christmas will remind others of Jesus’ miracles. Tiny Tim may seem a little too cloying for modern tastes, but the Victorians loved it.

Of course, the point of the exercise is to confront Scrooge with his own words, which this Spirit seems to take some pleasure in doing. What you will find is that the spirits tend to confront Scrooge with the concrete, not with statistics. Scrooge talks about the surplus population, but the image of Tiny Tim undermines that.

‘If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’ . . . ‘Man,’ said the ghost, ‘if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is.. . . It may be that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.’ (52)

We are then treated to the merry nephew’s Christmas, which stands as the ideal of the form. They have had a good dinner, drink, and are merry; and they are musical and play games (both of which stand in opposition to the static and melancholy position of Scrooge). And there is the undertone throughout of life, for example in the wretched bachelor’s pursuit of the sister. Because Christmas is fundamentally, traditionally, and throughout history, a festival centered on life. This is why evergreen plants are so important to it.

The power of laughter, which is again shown in Fred, is not merely a signal that he is happy: as those of you who have read Bakhtin or Nietzsche will know, laughter is throughout history linked to an ideology which opposes the static and hierarchical.

And after this merry scene, demonstrating all that Christmas should be, and having such an impact on Scrooge he is by now part of the movement (as seen by his attempts to take part in the games) we are shown the opposite of Christmas. The two children, who plunge us back into the territory of Allegory, Ignorance and Want, highlight all that which society’s refusal to take care of those who are less fortunate, causes.

We are informed that while they both pose a threat, Ignorance is more dangerous than Want. This is the same old theme which we became quite familiar with, I think, in Oliver Twist an other Dickens-books: society creates its ills, its criminals and wolflike people, through a want of generosity (embodied by the Christmas spirit, and Fred).

``Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing'' (62). There is of course also the added incentive here (not just compassion) that this treatment of the lower classes brings with it dangers. This is one of the suggestions that this is about the redemption of more than Scrooge; society as a whole need the infusion of the Christmas spirit.

And again, the Spirit uses Scrooge’s words against him: “are there no prisons, are there no workhouses” (63), highlighting the attitude which brings society to this point: a lack of charity and generosity.

If the “ghost story” after the appearance of the first Spirit seemed to have lost its horror in good cheer and bright lights, the third Spirit, in the fourth stave seems to bring it back. He certainly inspires terror in Scrooge, as its “mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread” on page 63. This is of course down to the third spirit’s connection to death (where the second was connected to life).

The suspense of the section is of course created by the question of who the dead man is, although it should be obvious to all but Scrooge himself that it is him. The carelessnes with which he is treated when he is dead, even the relief that his debtors show, illustrate the absence of love, which throughout the earlier staves has been shown as the greatest good. As a contrast we are shown the sorrow at the death of Tiny Tim, who (it is stressed) will be remembered with love (again, the importance of memory in this text).

And the people robbing his bedside even as he lies there dead, reflect both his own former attitude of grasping and grabbing at any cost (they actually take the shirt off his dead body), and of course also the conventional wisdom that ``you cannot take it with you''. Riches are no use to you when you are dead or dying. This is always the Truth held up against the example of the miser in moralistic literature. The confrontation with death is what shows Scrooge’s hoarding as an absurd activity. And it is when he sees his own gravestone that he has his real conversion. The whole experience has been leading up to it, of course, but it is here he promises that

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lesson that they teach.

Which is of course the ideal. Because while this is a text which wants to recreate the old, traditional Christmas in the Victorian period, it is as much a text about carrying over the core ideals of Christmas into everyday life: generosity, movement, laughter, warmth and compassion.

As the final stave shows:

Dickens leaves the question of whether the spirits were real or just a dream open. There is always the possibility that the whole conversion was sparked by Fred’s generous reaching out to his uncle and wishing him a merry Christmas (as Fred claimed in the third stave, when he said he believed he had shaken him). But the important point is the effect of it all.

Scrooge laughs on page 78. I really think the power of laughter cannot be emphasised enough here. Especially since it is itself such a central tool in Dickens’ writing. And he then proceeds to show generosity (the fact that he sends the giant turkey anonymously suggests that he is not doing this out of some sneaky desire to be praised, or to buy affection, which is important), and as importantly, he demonstrates not just generosity in terms of money or a turkey, but also generosity of Spirit, by being pleasant and approachable; in short, merry.

And following this, Scrooge then comes to be a part of a community. Which you will remember is one of the possible (if old) meanings of a carol.

You may notice that there is a pun again in the final paragraph: it says that “He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards.”

Any claim that Dickens' writing was episodical, episodic, fragmented and pointless should be countered by the reading of this text. I try to fit it in around Christmas each year (not always successfully). But I will say this: no matter how many films and tv versions there are, the original text is still worth a perusal.

Malcolm Andrews. ``Performing Character.'' Palgrave Advances in Charles Dickens Studies.

All page numbers of Dickens' text are from the Oxford World Classics' edition from 2008.



Tor,  26.12.11 00:03

Jeg har lest boken, men jeg tenkte aldri så mange tanker rundt den. Jeg tror nok jeg skal lese den igjen, og konsultere denne artikkelen underveis. Og jeg lurer på om jeg ikke hadde hatt godt av et par fag i litteraturvitenskap for å lære meg å tenke over hva jeg leser.

Karoline,  26.12.11 21:24

Kjempebra, Camilla! Dette var interessant lesning og tror jammen jeg også må lese boken igjen :)
Camilla,  29.12.11 11:58

That before this book was published, the common Christmas fowl in Britain was a goose. Dickens helped make it a turkey. If my sources are right.
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in what context is scrooge introduced to "ignorance" and "want"? why are these portrayed as children, and what do they represent?