First published in 1843
by Ian Langworth
Why review a book written more than 150 years ago; well it’s Christmas, so it is an obvious choice. But everyone has read it, haven’t they? Or have they? Unless you studied ‘A Christmas Carol’ at school the chances are that your familiarity with the story is because you have seen one of the various cartoon or film versions out in recent years. Possibly even ‘A Muppets Christmas Carol’. However, the issues raised in the book are still very relevant today, especially now in the cost of living crisis.
Everyone knows the story of the miserly Scrooge, mean and uncaring about anything except money. Very grudging in giving Christmas Day off to his clerk Bob Cratchet, who is struggling to feed his family and in particular caring for his disabled son, Tiny Tim. Scrooge even rejects all attempts by his nephew Fred, to get him to join in his Christmas day celebrations. When asked to donate for the relief of the poor he replies ‘Are there no prisons?’, and ‘the Union workhouses, are they still in operation?’ Bah Humbug!
Scrooge is warned by the ghost of his former partner Marley of what awaits him in the afterlife unless he mends his ways, and that he will be visited by three ghosts that night (Christmas Eve).’ In due course the three ghosts appear. The Ghost of Christmas Past reminds Scrooge that it was his love of money that caused the breaking of his engagement. The Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows him how Bob is celebrating Christmas even toasting Scrooge’s health as the ‘founder of the feast’, and The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. The latter shows Scrooge what will be including the death of Tiny Tim. As a result of what he sees, and is told, Scrooge wakes from his sleep a reformed character determined to do good and right the many wrongs that he has done. He sends a turkey to Bob Cratchits’ home and gives him a pay raise. He calls on Fred and joins in his family celebrations, he befriends Bob’s family and becomes a second father to Tiny Tim who survives because of Scrooge’s kindness.
So, what do you miss if you see the films and don’t read the book? The answer is; so much. The rich descriptions of the people, the places and the events in the story. The wit and the pathos and the humour. What you will also miss is the way in which Dickens, a social reformer, deals with issues which are still very relevant today; poverty, child poverty in particular and deprivation generally. The book is much more than a story, it is more a social commentary.
So, read the book. It’s not a long story, and when you have finished I am sure that you will find yourself very much in the Christmas spirit, which Dickens so vividly brings to life.