There are probably more than five versions of A Christmas Carol that I’ve enjoyed in my lifetime. Actors such as George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, Michael Caine, Alastair Sim, Jim Carey, a Disney Duck, and Bill Murray have played the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Charles Dickens’ 1843 tale concerns the transformation of the archetypal character Ebenezer Scrooge from miserly businessman into a philanthropic giver of joy.
Dickens provides a vivid description of his anti-hero.
“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”
Watching several film-adaptions of the story in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a tradition of mine. My favorite rendition is the 1984 version starring George C. Scott which I watched in my childhood.
In 2017’s The Father of Christmas, it’s argued that Dickens wrote the story that represents the beginnings of the modern version of Christmas in the popular zeitgeist. Brief research reveals that when the story was written the Holiday was more popular in the rural parts of Britain where there were still some pagan influences. It was beginning to fade in favor of celebrations such as Boxing Day as the nation was modernizing and urbanizing.
Here, the metathesis is that Dickens plays the role of the author as the observer and curator synthesizing British life’s moments into a form of artistic expression. Many writers and investors today blend different disciplines together to open their minds to new ideas and manufacture insightful analyses.
In the instance of A Christmas Carol, it’s argued that Dickens presented his contemporary readers with a version of Christmas from the past filled with childhood nostalgia.
Moments of caroling, bell ringing, decorations, celebration, and family gatherings over a shared meal are presented. A slightly more recent iteration of how Christmas is visualized which might be described as America’s adoption of the Holiday is presented here.
Often my writing presents financial metaphors and lessons from everyday life. I believe that A Christmas Carol is a story that can tell us about our own humanity.
Religion was a major part of everyday life during Dickens’ time and moments of Christian influence occur frequently in the story. Themes of forgiveness, repentance, redemption, and ultimately salvation present themselves throughout.
Many stories and art can see influence and commonalities from biblical stories. I suspect this is because the Bible, in addition to its religious importance which cannot be understated, is also a story of people, who haven’t changed in millennia(s). Their travails and lessons-learned are likewise presented.
A Christmas Carol is a story about people and their relationship with others and their own humanity in my opinion. Some personal observations from a recent viewing of a film adaptation of the story follow.
Money [excess] doesn’t buy happiness.
The need to strike a balance between thrift and miserliness.
Celebrate the ability for people to unite around a common cause. Set differences aside.
The importance of self-discovery and reflection.
Altruism in our good deeds. In a recent, and somewhat disturbing reimaging of the story available on FX, Scrooge is saved when he sets aside consideration of his own future and instead is willing to sacrifice his fate for the salvation of Tiny Tim.
Giving freely. Fred doesn’t have much wealth but gives freely. The conversation between Scrooge and Fred is very rich and worth watching. Another discussion between Scrooge and what we’d now call non-profit development officers also does a fine job introducing us to Scrooge before he was visited by the three ghosts.
Learn from prior mistakes and change.
Forgive others and give people a second chance.
Today many things are viewed as a political statement and it hasn’t been my intention to present this post as concerning a political message either when A Christmas Carol was written or today.
Certainly, Dickens was influenced by injustices that he saw during his time and which he included as inspiration in the story. Happily, following the story’s publication and widespread popularity, giving to those in need in London grew significantly.
Hopefully, anyone reading this who sees political or economic commentary in this story can look beyond them. Instead, I believe this story and the holiday season can be used to turn inward for reflection about our own humanity and outward for kindness to others. Many lament the loss of the meaning of the holidays people celebrate, but I believe some of the messages presented in the story can provide us with inspiration to do good.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to all. Tonight, my traditional screening of It’s A Wonderful Life will be playing during Christmas Eve celebrations.
Postscript. Some favorite quotes:
“I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
“Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!”