“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.”Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol
I have made it a ritual to read A Christmas Carol every Christmas, and it fills my heart with joy every time I settle in with this book and a big mug of hot chocolate. You might tell me that there’s nothing cheery about A Christmas Carol, a tale largely based on a miserable old chap and three ghosts who haunt him, leaving him hysterical and traumatized. But let’s give this a moment’s thought?
Charles Dickens was a social critic and a humanitarian. Known for his constant condemnation of ‘poverty and social stratification of Victorian society,’ his satire captures the complexity of human nature as well as how society shapes a man.
Bitterly miser and unapologetically himself, Ebenezer Scrooge abhors happiness and celebrations. He has his concepts on the division of labor and status between the rich and the poor. As the Christmas season showers joy upon everyone, Scrooge maintains his usual grouchy self, conveniently defaming the rituals associated with Christmas, and taking pride in his accumulated wealth and fame. But on the night before Christmas, Scrooge is forced to confront his true self with the aid of three Ghosts—the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come (future).
Scrooge’s first encounter with a ghost is the reflection of his ‘dead as a door-nail’ business partner, Jacob Marley, on the doorknob of his office’s door. This intimidates him a little, making him take precautions such as double-bolting his door as he retires for the night. Marley, however, visits him again and warns him to change his unruly ways while there is still time. He mentions that three ghosts would visit Scrooge eventually and that he must listen to and understand what they said to avoid being stuck on Earth as a troubled ghost.
Scrooge, in his brief dream-like state, visits his past, where he once was a happy child with a loving family. But poverty made him view things differently. He lets go of relationships, including his one true love, for the sake of wealth, because he knows that only money could get him all that he wanted. He now sees her as a happily married woman, loved and cherished by her family. And hence starts a transformation we have failed to believe in countless times—how a coldhearted person can turn into a good human when shown where he went wrong.
Scrooge then visits the present and is taken to the house of his nephew, Fred, who is spending Christmas with his family. Despite the meager money they make, they are indeed happy, optimistic and thankful for all they have. He also visits Cratchit (his clerk) who might not be mighty fond of Scrooge but expresses his gratitude nonetheless for giving him work and money. The Ghost of Christmas Future takes Scrooge to a time when he is dead and no one mourns for him. Instead, they bicker over his possessions and plan to distribute it all among themselves.
As Scrooge returns to his present self, back in the comforts of his room, he reflects on the mistakes he
has made and decides to fix them. The next day, he not only donates money for the same charity he declined to help initially but also spends Christmas with Fred and gets a turkey for Cratchit.
Scrooge’s redemption gives me hope. He switches from a cranky and disdainful to a mellow and tenderhearted human being in a series of steps. His remorse for all the wrong he had done and the pain he inflicted upon other people, and his ‘Total Abstinence Principle’ that he later lives by, has so much to teach, while simultaneously spreading the Christmas cheer. A Christmas Carol is atmospheric, the narration oscillating between dramatic and hilarious. For such a heavy theme, the dialogues are positively fun to read, with both intense and lighter moments. The story scatters geniality, with Scrooge’s “Bah! Humbug” making an appearance every now and then.
With exquisite themes like time travel and the existence of parallel worlds, this story will be relevant for generations to come. The story also brings to light one’s emotions and how intricately they are associated with one’s circumstances and experiences. Scrooge might be miserable, but just like each one of us, he fears being forgotten and becoming irrelevant to people around him.
So, if you haven’t read this classic yet, Christmas is the perfect time to soak in all that Dickens has to offer.[ratings]