Book Review: A Christmas Carol

Christmas_CarolFor years I’ve wanted to start a new tradition: read A Christmas Carol during the Christmas Season. I’ve watched the Patrick Stewart version and even own A Muppet’s Christmas Carol (an underrated movie, that). This year, thanks to the Minuteman Library Network’s Additional eBooks section, I was able to do it this year. I downloaded it as my semester was winding to a close and was feeling the squeeze of the end-of-semester pressure so I let it sit for a couple of weeks. Luckily, the book isn’t really a book. No, at a mere 76 pages it’s more of a novella. Which works for me, since I didn’t get a chance to start it until the weekend before Christmas.

Here a quick rundown of the plot. Forgive me if you’ve heard this one before. Ebenezer Scrooge is a wee bit of a skinflint. Like his late business partner, Jacob Marley, he cares not a jot for his fellow man. He is a mean uncle, bitter boss, and a misanthropic citizen. On Christmas Eve he has a few visitors. The first is Marley. The phantasm of his partner shows up bound in chains telling Scrooge to repent his ways. What’s more, he says he’ll have some help. He’ll be visited by three more spirits. And so he is. The Ghost of Christmas Past takes him a on a journey to his past and shows him the good and the bad of his childhood. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows him the lives of such people as his nephew and Bob Cratchit, his employee. In the process reveals how reviled he is. The Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come shows him, you guessed it, the future. Specifically the ramifications the death of a moneylender eerily familiar. Needless to say, he’s scared straight and on the next day, Christmas Morning, he begins atoning for his sins.

The story is quite simple. So simple that reading it leaves me wondering. The near mythic proportions the story has achieved is astounding. At first I really didn’t see what the big deal was. I wasn’t about to take anything away from Dickens, for though he be a wee bit wordy his way with words his undeniable:

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a doornail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was a dead as a doornail. (p. 2)    

As I moved along in the story so many familiar scenes rose up that soon my mind began to change, and not just because I pictured, more than once, The Great Gonzo speaking the lines. Legends must begin somewhere. The word “scrooge” entered our vocabulary so long ago that I needn’t even explain the meaning to you. It was during one of the poetic descriptions of how cheap Scrooge was that it dawned on me that I was reading the origins of that word. Having been always fascinated with entomology, the story took on a new patina. From there on out I had a newfound respect for what I was reading. I could no longer penalize the story for its seeming unoriginality. For it wasn’t that it was unoriginal but it rather has so permeated society that its imitators know no bounds. I stopped thinking I’d heard this one before and realized that this one is the one from all other stories of the ilk spring. And once I settled into that mindset, I was able to sit back and more fully appreciate the yarn the Dickens wove into such an enduring tapestry.

Additional eBooks section, where you can download a copy of this book for yourself:

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