Reviewer: Tall, Short, Tiny & a Pickle
A Christmas Carol is possibly the most well-known, re-published and oft-adapted of Charles Dickens’ works. Since it was first published in 1843, the novella has been a success, and it continues to delight audiences in the 21st-century. It is a story that has been adapted to screen a number of times, and I’ve already got my eye on tickets for the Royal New Zealand Ballet performance of the story later in 2014.
It tells the story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, whose character is transformed following the supernatural visits of his business partner, and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come. The story begins on a “cold, bleak, biting” Christmas Eve, seven years after the death of Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley. Scrooge hates Christmas; he refuses his nephew’s Christmas dinner invitation, and turns away two men who seek a donation from him to provide a Christmas dinner for the poor.
Later that night, Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost, who is cursed to wander the earth forever after a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Marley tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits that night, and in order to avoid an eternal curse of his own, he is to listen closely to the lessons of each spirit.
The first, The Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to Christmas scenes of Scrooge’s childhood, which remind him of a time when he was kinder, happier, more innocent. We are shown a lonely childhood, and a Christmas party hosted by Scrooge’s first employer who treated him like a son. We’re also shown Scrooge’s neglected fiancée, Belle, who ends their relationship when she realises Scrooge loves money above all else; Belle has since married, and we see her happily enjoying Christmas Eve with her family.
The second spirit, Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to several different scenes – a market where people are happily buying food for Christmas dinner, celebrations of Christmas in a miner’s cottage and in a lighthouse, and Scrooge’s nephew’s Christmas party, where he speaks of his uncle with pity. We also meet Bob Cratchit and his family; his youngest child, Tiny Tim, is seriously ill but extremely happy. Scrooge is told that Tiny Tim will soon die unless the course of events changes. The spirit shows Scrooge two hideous, emaciated children named Ignorance and Want; he tells Scrooge to beware the former above all.
The third spirit is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who shows Scrooge Christmas Day one year later. Tiny Tim has died because his father could not afford proper care, and we see the death of a “wretched man”. The man’s funeral will only be attended by local businessmen if lunch is provided. Various people steal his possessions while his corpse is on the bed, and when the spirit shows Scrooge the tombstone of this wretched man, he sees it bears his name. In tears, Scrooge promises to change his ways in the hopes that he may “sponge the writing from this stone.”
Dickens paints his usual bleak picture of the plight of the poor, but there is an uplifting, joyous note to A Christmas Carol as well. It reminds the reader of the joys of Christmas, of the spirit of the season, and of the impact we can have on the lives of others. It is an easy, very quick read; despite the length, it still has that characteristic style of Dickens’. It is timeless, with a message that will not date, and I look forward to reading this to my boys when they are a little older.