Points of Light Christmas Edition: A Christmas Carol

a-christmas-carol

Welcome to the first post of December. As the Christmas season comes down again, I decided that since the first holiday month on the blog went well, that it was time to do it again, this time with a series of Christmas themed entries. Now have no fear, I have no intention of talking commercialized specials like Frosty and Rudolph. Instead, my desire is to examine genuine pieces of Christmas stories, be they literature, film, or another medium. Therefore, let’s begin with perhaps the greatest piece of literature in history- Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.

The Plot

As this is a story that has had multiple adoptions and retelling in the century plus time since it’s writing, I will be brief here. This is the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold, money-obsessed man who care only for money and for none of the joy of Christmas. But a visit from his deceased partner, who is doomed to wander the earth for his greedy ways in life, precedes a trio of ghosts who show Scrooge the past, present, and future should he continue in his ways. This leads Scrooge to embrace change and become a fair and generous man to all those around him.

What Writers Can Learn: Morality, Symbolism, Social Commentary

There is nary a person that has not grown up hearing some version of A Christmas Carol. Its impact on the holiday cannot be understated- indeed, the book is created for returning Christmas to a more joyous time on both sides of the Atlantic, and giving the weight and meaning it has now. However, Dickens’ tale has deeper roots. Dickens felt for the hard life of poor children and workers in England, and wrote several pamphlets on the cruelty of life those workers had to endure. He himself had lived several months in a workhouse as a child, and had observed the men and women who slaved away there. However, Dickens realized he could accomplish more with his writing then he could with political fare, and created a Christmas narrative to send his concerns out to the masses. Scrooge therefore, and figures like Jacob Marely stand as a criticism on capitalism, and Scrooge’s transformation and the happiness of the poor Cratchits is Dickens’ hope for the redemption of mankind.

Indeed, Dickens fills the novel with symbols not only on mankind’s nature, but also on life itself. Scrooge and Marely clearly represents greed and its destructive ways, and the chance for redemption, while Bob Cratchit is obviously the working man Dickens saw in life and Tiny Tim the poor children he also saw. However, the three Sprits also contain deeper symbolism. The Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed as bright and shining, often imbibed with the power of ‘truth’. The past itself is often seen through nostalgia, making it seem a far better and simpler time. Yet, it also carries the weight of our choices, and how we must accept what they have led us to.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is joyful and happy, showing not only the emotions we should hold at Christmas, but also how the present seems full of possibilities. However, as the Spirit proves, the present also forces us to look at things as they are now, and the things we must see and judge ourselves by in the world. Indeed, a forceful scene, often cut out of current adaptations, is where the Spirit shows how Ignorance and Want, shown as poor, malnourished children of Mankind, cling to him, and how if they are ignored, will spell they end of humanity. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is the least subtle- a dark, foreboding figure in the mold of the Grim Reaper. Because after all, the future is always shrouded in mystery, save that it contains one thing- Death, which every person fears, and the question of how a person’s life will stack up when they are gone. Therefore this Sprit’s part of the novel is the darkest, and the one just prior to Scrooge’s redemption. It also carries the most weight, perhaps best shown in, ironically, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, where the Spirit tosses Scrooge into his grave (which opens into Hell), laughing and calling out, “The richest man in the cemetery!”

Final Thoughts

The many adaptations of A Christmas Carol have worn out many of the messages, but that does not make it any less of a tool for writers. It takes the hardships of the poor, the evil of greed, and the hope of redemption, and wraps into a Christmas ghost story (a hard enough thing to write as it is). Writers wishing to convey any sort of social message, or a moral, should examine it and see how well these heavy issues can be wrapped in a holly wreath and hung in the minds of men.

As for the adaptations, people with genuine interest should view either the George C. Scott or Patrick Stewart versions, which are closest to the original novel. However, children would be well served by the afore-mentioned Mickey’s Christmas Carol or The Muppets’ Christmas Carol, and excellent comedic versions exist in Scrooged! or Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, which reverses Scrooge into the nicest (and most taken advantage of) man in England, who learns to be greedy and mean. And of course, there is one rather recent version which I will discuss next week. Be warned though- this version carries with it a rather Halloween-flavored hunger…

Also, I will be appearing a the Cranford NJ Public Library this Thursday night for a signing and discussion on Lightrider, so any in the area, feel free to attend. And a congratulations to Emile Wilson, winner of the Lightrider Holiday Giveaway!

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Posted on December 3, 2013, in Inspiration, Writing, Writing Prompt, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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