A Christmas Carol

Marley was dead, to begin with…This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

I woke up the other day with a peculiar notion lodged in my brain. It was my first day off in many many weeks, and I finally had a good stretch of time to catch up on all the TV I’d missed, and to finish the book I’d been reading for so long. However, this idea was too stubborn to be shifted, and I knew it would be a worthwhile undertaking, so here is the result. The idea was this: to read and reflect on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in time for Christmas, in amongst all the present-wrapping and TV-watching and chocolate-eating that is essential in the run up to Christmas Day!

It’s not as if the story is new to me; not only is The Muppets’ version one of my very favourite films, but I even played the part of Scrooge’s nephew Fred in my final school play as a Year 13. But despite the familiarity of the story in these two faithful adaptations, nothing really compares to Dickens’ prose-writing capabilities, or the power of his imagination. The description of the Ghost’s appearances, and the way they travel between set-pieces, is made fantastic yet tangible to the reader, and that is certainly no mean feat. I also appreciated the many humorous touches, such as the dry sarcasm in Dickens’ description of the game of Blind Mans Buff during Fred’s Christmas party.

The contrast between darkness and light, innocence and despair, hope and horror, is brilliantly utilised throughout the story. I especially liked the more horrible touches, such as the manifestations of Ignorance and Want playing against the optimism and Christmas spirit of The Ghost of Christmas Present. This dark turn makes the segue into the bleak Future of the novel much smoother, too. The Ghost Of Christmas future section of the novel works better in the book than any adaptation I’ve seen, as the dramatic irony of the reader knowing Scrooge’s fate well before he does is staged effectively; in fact, his sudden realisation and horror-stricken reaction make much more sense in the book due to this.

But the real magic (not a word I use lightly, this book really does have a magical quality to it) of the book is how uplifting it is despite all of this darkness – even the opening line of the book contains the word “dead”. It is only really the last 10 pages that contain any positivity. But what lightness! What a character arc! What narrative resolution! The bleakness makes the book feel far longer than its slight form would suggest, lending real emotional weight to Scrooge’s redemption.

I have just finished reading it, and I’m sure I feel more Christmassy right now than I otherwise would have. The present wrapping is done, and I’m looking forward to waking on Christmas morning tomorrow. So I shall keep this review short, as the book is, and bid merry Christmas to you, dear reader! God bless us, everyone.

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