By NEMS Daily Journal
“I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.
“External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.”
“Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”
– “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens
The dark and somber tone opening Charles Dickens’ great novel,” A Christmas Carol,” specifically matched the times in which it was written, but its brilliantly developed themes of renewal and transformation strike a chord almost 170 years after its 1843 publication.
It has given the language a word, Scrooge, defining a miserly person, after Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens’ central character who personified mean-spirited stinginess and greed.
At the beginning of the Victorian period, which coincided with the industrial revolution and Britain’s rise as a world empire, the celebration of Christmas in the right spirit was in decline, in part because people who worked were required to work all the time for a pittance, and the spirit of charity was suffering as materialism in the middle and upper classes dominated culture.
The Christmas stories of Dickens sent a hope-filled message getting to the heart of the holidays, and spoke powerfully to the times in which he wrote and lived.
Dickens used the phrase “Carol Philosophy” to describe the holidays as “a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
The tormented ghost of deceased partner Jacob Marley and the three spirits which visited Scrooge – Christmases past, present and future – proved eye-opening and transformative, as the tough old businessman was forced in dreams and visions to confront how he had started, what he had become, and where he inevitably was headed.
After being dragged across time and looking as an invisible presence on the situations in his life and of those nearest him, he was confronted with his own mortality. Jacob Marley, who had been similarly miserly, was fresh in his mind when he was forced to look at his own gravestone.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
He could not do that, of course, but on awaking from his arduous night he discovered a sunny Christmas.
“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself.” I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can,” he shouted to himself.
Early on, Scrooge showed his penury when he encountered gentlemen seeking a charitable contribution.
“What shall I put you down for?” asked one.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone!”
The new Scrooge encountered the same men and whispered the amount of a contribution in their ears, leaving them gasping over his generosity.
That is the grace in the spirit of the Christmas season.