Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles DickensTitle: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens (Website)
Genre: Classic, Holiday
Pages: 106
Publisher: Reader's Digest Ass.
Format: Hardcover
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In his "Ghostly little book," Charles Dickens invents the modern concept of Christmas Spirit and offers one of the world’s most adapted and imitated stories. We know Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, not only as fictional characters, but also as icons of the true meaning of Christmas in a world still plagued with avarice and cynicism. Summary from Shelfari

I have never read A Christmas Carol before this.  I had only seen movies and play adaptations.  Of course, the most memorable of those adaptations being Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read A Christmas Carol, but I definitely didn’t expect what I read.  The story was very much like all the adaptations I’ve seen.  However, the finer points, such as Scrooge’s thoughts, were lost as most are when books are adapted into movies or plays.  I enjoyed getting into Scrooge’s head a little bit and understanding where he was coming from rather than relying on the actor’s/picture’s portrayal of Scrooge.

It’s amazing how much the English language has changed in a little over 100 years.  The words are pretty much the same, but there were a few archaic spellings of words, some I was familiar with (e.g. rime instead of rhyme) and some I wasn’t familiar with (e.g. skaiter instead of skater).  A Christmas Carol was definitely easier to follow and understand than Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.  But, then again, there’s another 100-year difference between these two stories.  There were a few things that threw me for a loop.  For example, at the beginning of the second stave, the following is written: “This was a great relief, because ‘Three days after sight of this First of Exchange pay to Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge or his order,’ and so forth, would have become a mere United States’ security if there were no days to count by.”  I think I read that sentence five times before I shook my head and gave up.  I finally looked it up online and realized that Dickens was commenting on something dealing with countinghouses, in which Scrooge works, the exchange rate, and making a small dig at the United States.

What would’ve it have been like to read these stories while living in the eras in which they were written!  I wonder if any of the novels written in our time will be cause for confusion for future generations.  Or, I wonder if the degradation and the “dumbing” down of the language will allow for easier understanding.  I’m sure some things will have to be explained because the readers won’t know what’s being referred to (e.g. 8-track tape, typewriter).  But, I wonder if the actual language will cause confusion.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the story.  I especially enjoyed reading the change in Scrooge.  From watching the movies and plays, it seems as though Scrooge doesn’t really change until after he meets the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  However, he actually slowly begins to change even when he’s with the Ghost of Christmas Past.  The last stave was my favorite because it was fun to see how much he changed not only in action, but in thought as well.

I think I will make reading A Christmas Carol at Christmastime a tradition.  I hope that each time I read it, I’ll get something new out of it.

three-starsthree-starsthree-stars

Comments

  1. says

    Reading A Christmas Carol at Christmastime seems like a wonderful tradition! We had to read it in 7th grade, but I haven’t read it since. I think I remember enjoying it though. That sentence you quoted had me shaking my head too. Kudos to you for looking it up. It makes sense that we didn’t understand it, because it was referring to current events of the times (not to mention that archaic language requires a little deciphering).

    • says

      In my English 251 class, we talked about all kinds of different literary thought and theory. The first theory to exist, and the theory most Structuralists are fighting right now, is Formalism. Formalism basic values state that the literature in the cannon (classical pieces) have intrinsic value and that anyone can get the “good” out of it just by reading the text. There is no need to look at the author’s background, the era the story was written, etc.

      After having read A Christmas Carol, I can undeniably say that Formalism is a bunch of hogwash. I can see how Formalists state that texts have intrinsic value and I think A Christmas Carol is definitely a well written piece, but without the proper foundation, such as having grown up in a Christian home, this story would mean nothing to me. Also, having the background knowledge that Dickens was an author in the 19th century is completely necessary to understand some of the finer elements of this story. Like you said, it makes complete sense that the line I quoted was confusing to us because we didn’t live during Dickens’s time.

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