While it’s a story I know well, I’d never read the book. I suppose I tend to think of Christmas when it’s already hard upon me, or perhaps I’m just making excuses. After all these decades I’ve finally read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The story is so well known there’s no point in laying out the action here. A filmic version of this has been part of our family tradition for many years now and sometimes it’s difficult not to think the cinematic version has somehow got it right while the book might’ve somehow missed something. I’m generally disposed to read the book before watching the movie, but I believe I saw this as a young person and we had no Dickens in the house. Besides, who could miss the endless parodies?
It’s a ghost story, yes, but it’s primarily about redemption. It’s difficult for me to watch (or read) without getting a bit misty about the eyes. Our world, especially during the Trump years, seemed a hard and heartless place. Winter all the time while somehow being Hell also. It will take many years—perhaps I won’t live to see it—before people unlearn the bad habits they saw being modeled each and every day of those four long, long years. Every year as I watched the movie I thought, “I wonder if 45 has ever seen this?” Always the answer came back in a resounding “Humbug.” A miser who cares only for himself doesn’t change as easily as Scrooge. So the world had to suffer, and so it will suffer yet a good long time.
The thing about redemption is that it can’t be privatized. It’s on free offer to anyone who desires it. While A Christmas Carol may not be Dickens’ best work, it nevertheless bears a message well worth the repetition. Perhaps there aren’t ghosts enough in the world. We need to learn to listen. Were it not for the haunting Scrooge never would have changed. The sad part is that there are people actually of his ilk. I hold out hope for redemption to all of them. I’ve known too many people who seem to care only for themselves. I need to remind myself that they may not have the reinforcement of this tale every year. The world could perhaps be better if that were the case. Dickens clearly had fun as a writer. Sometimes it seems to get in the way. But if it makes one’s heart light in December, what can the harm be in that?