Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, December 22, 2014

Keeping that Scrooge spirit bright

So, this holiday season I'm taking part in the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge at the Christmas Spirit blog, where you are encouraged to read at least two holiday themed books. I chose to go for three and am on the second book already(not sure I'll make the third but we'll see).

My theme is Scrooge Spirit and of course, I began with Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, that time honored Victorian classic known the world over. In rereading the book, I found the pace to be rather quick and invigorating, as Ebeneezer learns his life lessons from the Ghosts of the Christmas just in time to savor the true meaning of the holiday, not to mention provide some solid protein for Bob Crachit's family.

Dickens wrote other Christmas themed stories, such as The Cricket on the Hearth and The Chimes, but A Christmas Carol still leads the pack. It's been the subject of numerous films, from live action to animated, and stage productions, with no signs of stopping any time soon.

 Out of all of the movie adaptations, the one that most Dickensian folks agree keeps strongly to the original material is the 1951 British version(titled "Scrooge" in England) starring Alstair Sim. The slight changes from book to screen only enhance the story, adding a bit more back story that I am most assured Dickens himself would approve of:

At the moment, I'm reading Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard, the Timothy of the title being a grown up Tiny Tim, who still has a limp but is in reasonable good health otherwise.

Timothy is twenty one years of age and in flux, working as a tutor to the madam of a brothel and feeling haunted by the spirit of his father who died several months ago. As Christmas is a few days away, he finds himself involved in a mystery surrounding missing young girls and with the help of a savvy street boy, endeavors to protect an orphaned girl from meeting a gruesome fate.

Not the most cheerful of reads for this time of year, I grant you, and while it's a tad slow paced, the story is quite interesting. For one thing, part of Timothy's mourning is guilt over not living up to the sainted image that his father painted of him(turns out many of those pious Tiny Tim quotes were pure fatherly invention) and his relationship with Scrooge,aka "Uncle N" is rather strained, as the old man keeps to himself in a house where Christmas decor is present year round.

Also, Timothy is disconnected from the rest of his family, some of whom died while others live far apart from each other in more ways than one. I have to give Bayard credit for putting a different spin on the usual depiction of the Cratchit family, that plucky on the edge of poverty clan who take their troubles with a smile(and sometimes a song):

The story of Scrooge is really not a cheerful one to begin with and kind of odd for a season meant to be happy happy joy joy. It's a ghost story,first and foremost, which almost fits into a certain spooky holiday better( the sitcom Roseanne was able to use it for one of their Halloween episodes one season and it worked great).

A Christmas Carol is marketed as a family friendly tale but it's loaded with plenty of doom and gloom, plus scary imagery guaranteed to freak out adults as well as kids. Also, if you think about it, the reflective aspect of the story is very suitable for New Year's Eve, as Scrooge goes over his list of personal regrets and ends up vowing to do better in the upcoming years.

 Unlike most of us, Scrooge is said to stick with his resolutions and become a better person, which makes this story a real fairy tale indeed. No wonder there are so many parodies of Christmas Carol out there, as a sharp dose of satiric acid tones down the potentially cloying flavor of sentimental sweetness the story puts out like a plate of cookies for St. Nick:

Then again, perhaps it's the bitter that helps us appreciate the sweet. In Dickens' day(as it sadly is in ours), there was a lot of social unrest and need for society to be more concerned about the less fortunate in their midst, issues that he addressed again and again in his books.

A Christmas Carol was intended to encourage people to find their better nature and use it for the good of others, which it does. This story does have an international following for a reason and what better universal message is there than "be good to the world and you will be rewarded with kindness in return." I've seen that in my life and I know that many of us have as well.

 By choosing a man near the end of his time on earth, Dickens shows us that even those who appear the least likely to change can do so, if they truly wish it. "Go find some deserving younger person!" Scrooge implores the Ghost of Christmas Present but the spirit stays with him, refusing to give up on even such a miserable soul as Ebeneezer. While not everyone can change, it's good to leave the door open for redemption, just in case(for those willing to walk down the hard road, that is) and perhaps that is what A Christmas Carol is truly all about:

1 comment:

Thaddeus said...

Haha, I I my read this past week that Dickens' story was credited with a revival of the popularity of Christmas - and that it was perhaps part of an overall push to make the holiday more festive.

Great choice, lady t! Happy holidays!