Monday, December 13, 2010

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol is Charles Dickens distilled to his best. It has the pathos of The Old Curiosity Shop, the humor of the Pickwick Papers, the dark tension of Bleak House, the joy of David Copperfield, and the psychological depth of Great Expectations. In Ebenezer Scrooge Dickens has created, in so short a space, his most memorable character; Scrooge is cunning and surprisingly witty; his transformation is wondrous yet wholly credible, he is equally believable as a capitalist monster and as the giddy soul of generosity.

The Yuletide season seems to have inspired Dickens to go beyond the realities of his other writings. While many of his novels features tall tales and vivid imaginings, his Christmas stories are resplendent with spirits, visions, and magic that give Dickens an even greater license than even his wildest metaphor. And A Christmas Carol is the epitome of this freedom with its ghost of Christmas past, present, and future, and its simple yet compelling vision of an afterlife.

While much of this is captured in the best adaptions of the story (my favourite stars Patrick Stewart), the full joy of the tale can only be found on the page. Dickens' language is so emotive, and he speaks to the reader with such sincerity, that his sorrows catch in the throat, his terrors quicken the pulse, and his joys bring smiles and laughter. William Makepeace Thackeray called A Christmas Carol "a national benefit, and to every man or woman who reads it a personal kindness". It is a kindness which I accept every December with growing gratitude.

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