I figured that since it is the holiday season I should read something appropriate and write about it. This made me realize that I had never read A Christmas Carol before. I’ve seen plenty of film versions, seen stage productions, I even played Scrooge in a school play when I was a kid. That, combined with the fact that the story and its references are such a part of our culture, meant I knew the tale on a deep level. Still, I felt I should actually read the words that Dickens wrote, and I am very glad I did.
I’m not going to spend time talking about the story–you all know it. I do want to talk a bit about the writing. It is amazing. The level of description and the way he crafts the story is flawless. To change a single word would be blasphemous. There is one scene where Scrooge is with the Spirit of Christmas Present and they are traveling out to sea. The passage incorporates some great symbolism, where the sea represents things like life, consciousness, and unbridled greed, and the caverns worn into the rocks represent the ravages wreaked upon one’s memories and society as a whole. But what elevates the passage to even higher levels of art is the use of alliteration, where the repetitive “r” sound creates a sense of the roaring and crashing of the waves.
To Scrooge’s horror, looking back, he saw the last of the land, a frightful range of rocks, behind them; and his ears were deafened by the thundering of water, as it rolled and roared, and raged among the dreadful caverns it had worn, and fiercely tried to undermine the earth. (p. 49)
Another passage that stood out for me deals with the issue of individuals using religion to justify hatred and bigotry. These people claim to know the will of the divine, but in actuality, they are just projecting their own ideas onto their image of God and using it to validate themselves.
“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us, and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.” (p. 37)
There is one line that truly sums up the greed and selfishness that is the Scrooge archetype: “I can’t afford to make idle people merry” (p. 7). It saddens me that this mentality has experienced such a resurgence. I witnessed it on an almost daily basis during the past election season, where people screamed and ranted about not wanting to support the lazy welfare recipients who were living off of the hard work of others. I for one believe that it is important for society to care for those who are less fortunate. I have been blessed with enough to support myself and my family, and I have no problem sharing with those who are less fortunate. I understand that I am just one disaster away from being in a dire situation. It would be wise for all of us to remember that.
I want to conclude by wishing you a blessed holiday, whichever one you observe, and a happy New Year. I hope 2013 brings lots of great books your way!!