You said you read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol every Christmas. Why?
I have no idea when I first read A Christmas Carol. Perhaps it was read to me. I might have heard it on the radio, if you can believe in such ancient times. Many times I have seen the British film, in black and white, with actor Alastair Sim who played Scrooge quite wonderfully. I took my kids to see stage adaptations of the book. I have read the book to my wife any number of times. Indeed, it has been said that the best way to enjoy the book is to read it out loud. I’ll do so this Christmas eve.
Dickens wrote the book quickly, apparently within a six-week period in 1843 even as he was working on a much larger serial novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, not, in my view, one of his better efforts. As he wrote A Christmas Carol in a frenzy, he described himself alternating between crying and laughing aloud. Still, the first draft was not perfect. The original manuscript is in the Morgan Library (NYC) and, yes, I have looked at it when it’s been put on display there. Here, look at it for yourself.
When visiting classes, I used to show kids pages from this MS by way of demonstrating that even a writer of genius revises his or her work.
But I note that the opening words, “Marley was dead: to begin with,” was not altered, and I think of that sentence as one of great brilliance.
I think the writing throughout is quite wonderful, so deep and incise in delineating character and place, while swerving madly—like a racecar driver on a twisty course—from humor to pathos.
I admire the construction and pace—a perfect novella—which allows me to read it on a Christmas eve—the very best time to enjoy it.
When the book was first published, it was an instant and enormous cultural and publishing success. It has never ceased to be. It has been suggested that the book invented modern Christmas.
The most curious thing is—after all these readings and years—it never fails to move me.
Why? Why does it always bring tears to my eyes?
I suspect I feel there is a bit of Scrooge in me—as I suspect there is something of Scrooge in everyone. Accordingly, it reminds me that I regret having done this or that—however small—or maybe big. I connect too—if you have been a child you know it—to the feelings of abandonment that Scrooge as a child experienced.
So, in my experience, A Christmas Carol is ultimately a tale of forgiveness, of redemption, and it is redemption by virtue of giving, the power to make others happier, better—by love.
How could I not need that message? How could I not be moved?
“And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless us, Every One.”