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A Dickens of a Tale

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  • A young child in a cozy sweater excitedly reads a book in front of a Christmas tree

Shawna, Clemens Mill | December 1, 2021

Considered a Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is more than a look at the growing Victorian Christmas celebrations we know today.  It is a Christmas story version of Dicken’s concern for the ridged class structure of Victorian England and the increase of poverty occurring as industrial growth booms in growing cities.  All of Dicken’s stories contain deeply flawed characters and social commentary on laws and social institutions as the main plot of his tales.

Dickens himself came from servant-class grandparents and working-class parents who experienced poverty level hardships in his formative years.  In the biography The Mystery of Charles Dickens by A.N. Wilson we can see the forces that shaped the author who would be come lauded for his morale driven stories that would have the power to effect change in people and institutions.  Events and people in Dickens’ life often became the plot and characters of his stories. Wilson’s biography uses several of Dickens’ stories and characters to reflect the real-life people and events in Dickens’ life.  Here we get to know the energetic Dickens as child worker, young journalist, author, amateur actor, benefactor, husband, father, and secret lover.

A Christmas Carol comes with its own story.  In 1843, Dickens’ publishers were demanding a Christmas story from him as December neared.  Dickens was also feeling the financial pressures of a growing family and the upcoming holiday season.  Samantha Silva’s work Mr. Dickens and his Carol is based on this time period and feels like a work of historical fiction. It gives us a glimpse of Dicken’s family life, London in 1943, and how our Christmas traditions take root in Victorian England. 

In keeping with a Christmas Carol feeling Silva has our protagonist, Dickens, face obstacles that dampen his Christmas spirit so he becomes very Scrooge-like.  While other events cause him to reflect on the importance of family and human kindness.  In true Dickens style, no Christmas story would be complete until a ghost makes an appearance!

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand  is a modern day retailing of A Christmas Carol set in New York City.  Where the secret organization, Project Scrooge, selects one “Scrooge” every year to visit in an attempt to change that person’s life.  Hand has done an exquisite job of creating this organization staffed by mortals and immortals to carry out the Christmas Eve visitation.  Holly Chase is not swayed by her nighttime visitors, continuing her vain and cold life until she dies a few short days later.  Instead of being doomed to walk the earth in chains forever there is an opening for the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Five years later Project Scrooge takes on what appears to be a typical selection but it is anything but usual as the big night draws near.

As for the work itself, A Christmas Carol is a novella.  Originally published on December 19, 1943 at 116 pages it was an instant hit and has been continually in print since.  There are also movie and audio book adaptations.  Johnathan Winters’ audio book version is 55 and half minutes long and reminiscent of the 1951 black & white classic movie starring Allister Sims.

No matter how you celebrate this December, the end of a year is often a time to reflect on life and spend time with family and friends.  May joy and happiness be with you this season.