‘Tis the season to get out “A Christmas Carol”.
It shows up everywhere on TV and on stage at this time of year. . Have you read the actual story? I reread it every year. For those who haven’t read it,
“A Christmas Carol” is first and foremost a ghost story. The images of mist and darkness and gloom hardly make for the cheery Christmas scenes we see in the TV versions. Scrooge is haunted not so much for despising Christmas, but for locking himself away from humanity and his family. It is not his money but himself he is not sharing with others.
In the movies, his epiphany and change are saved for the ‘head stone’ scene, to create drama. In the book, he starts to change and ‘warm up’ nearly right away with the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Dickens is a master of detail to description, and the actual personas of the characters are sometimes not accurate in the movies – for good reason! The Ghost of Christmas Past is quite a spectacle of fast altering shapes and images, as is fitting for vague memories. He is also a mixture of spring and winter symbols. In most versions they leave out he has a bright, shining light coming from his head. Scrooge extinguishes the Spirit with the candle snuffer the ghost is carrying. (The George C. Scott version does this well).
Another detail left out in most productions is the aging of the Ghost of Christmas Present. He lives for 12 days and takes Scrooge to several celebrations world wide. By the time his ‘time on earth has spent’ on Twelfth Night, he is a white haired, frail old man.By the way, The Children of Man, Ignorance and Want, are some of the best images created by Dickens. In the book they are hideous.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is not really well defined but a vague image hardly distinguishable from the darkness around him; only the pointed hand is clear. It is more Death than Christmas, which is apt for all our futures.
I disagree with some critics that Dickens’ Carol removed “Christ” from Christmas. There are various remarks to the Christ child throughout the story – most TV versions merely leave the religious statements out, so we can not blame Dickens.
The biggest stumbling block in the story is Tiny Tim. He is a challenge – nowadays we find cute, sickly children a bit cloying but in Dickens’s time they were one of the ultimate tragedies. If we no longer cry at the death of a child we should ask ourselves why.
By the way, some of my favorite lines in literature is in A Christmas Carol;
“Are you the spirit whose visit was foretold to me?”
“Who are you?”
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past”
“No, your past.”
So to wind up – what is your favorite version of ‘A Christmas Carol”?
I still like the old black and white ‘Alastair Sim’ version the best, despite liberties taken. It also has one of my favorite lines from a movie –
“Can you deny that when this juicy little scandal leaks out, the next meeting of the stockholders will resemble an orchestra of scorched cats?”