Charles Dickens‘ novella A Christmas Carol might just be the most poignant, touching, and popular Christmas story of all time. There won’t be many who wouldn’t of heard of the story – especially since there has been a massive amount of re-versions of it. Plays, films, animated movies, soundtracks, stories – every way that this story can be covered, it’s been done.
First published om 1843, A Christmas Carol has stood the test of time and proves itself to be one of the world most incredible, and well loved festive books. And for a special treat this Boxing Day, as we reflect on our own Christmas just yesterday and all the years before, we’re taking a look at the message of Dickens’ story.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean, miserable, bitter old man with no friends. One cold Christmas Eve, three ghosts take him on a scary journey to show him the error of his nasty ways. By visiting his past, present and future, Scrooge learns to love Christmas and the people all around him.
Dickens first wrote A Christmas Carol during a time when the British were exploring and re-evaluating Christmas traditions, like carols, cards and even Christmas trees.
He was heavily influenced by his own experiences and even the experiences of other authors like Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold when it came to putting this story together.
It doesn’t matter what age you are, this ultimate Christmas classic touches the heart of any reader – or moviegoer, if you watch the film.
Dickens manages to weave in some incredible and hard hitting themes whilst exploring what Christmas really means to us. These include the treatment of the poor; the ability of a selfish person to redeem themselves; the past, present and future; time, family, greed, generosity and forgiveness, tradition; and social dissatisfaction.
But the really special thing about this novella is it’s message, which is mostly shown through the theme of redemption. Dickens’ message is this: all human beings have the opportunity to behave in kinder ways towards each other.
In A Christmas Carol, we see Scrooge as a man who is initially a greedy, selfish miser, but through his own willingness to change his ways, becomes a generous and good-natured character by the end.
Scrooge is shown the error if his ways by the three ghosts that visit him, and, as mentioned, his willingness to change is what redeems him.
At the start of the novella, Scrooge rejects all offers of Christmas cheer from pretty much everyone he meets.
“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
By calling Christmas a “humbug”, Scrooge is rejecting all the compassion and celebration that comes with the festive season. But as the ghosts of the Christmas Present comes and goes, it shows Scrooge how unpleasant his behavior has been over the current years.
About halfway through the novella, Dickens says:
“Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.”– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
He becomes ashamed of his own words as the Ghost of the Present uses them against him, and we start to see him beginning to wish he could change.
When the last ghost has left and Scrooge finally wakes up on Christmas morning, he is like a new man.
Near the end of the story, Dickens writes:
“His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Here, we see him become generous and full of life, and after trying to start to make amends with his family and friends, we see him welcomed into their homes.
Come the end of the story, we are left utterly delighted by his transformation.
It just goes to prove that no matter has happened in the past, there’s always an opportunity to change your future, and that each one of us has the opportunity to behave in kinder ways towards each other.