It's been quite some time since I actually read A Christmas Carol. Maybe as much as twenty years -- I'm not sure I've read it since high school. I was curious to see how close my memories of it, and knowledge of it from movie adaptations, were to the original. It turns out, they were remarkably close! And this is entirely due to the excellent 1999 made-for-TV adaptation that stars Patrick Stewart. Stewart had previously read and performed the story as a one-man show on Broadway, and his comfort with inhabiting the role of Scrooge testifies to his close knowledge of the text, I think. The 1999 version is very faithful to the book, down to much of the dialog, so rereading this story felt very familiar indeed.
I think what I like best about this story is how believable Scrooge is. Yes, there's a lot of fantasy in all the ghost stuff, but Scrooge himself -- so realistic. I can easily understand a person turning from lonely to selfish to greedy to isolated. I think most of us can see a little of ourselves in Scrooge, and a little of Scrooge in us. And we fear becoming like Scrooge, so we root for him to learn and change and grow. Because if he can be redeemed, so can we, if need be.
Of course, Charles Dickens entirely neglects to include any mention of where eternal redemption comes from. Scrooge's ideas and emotions have thawed, but being nice on Christmas (and throughout the year) will not earn him a place in heaven. And Dickens doesn't imply that it will, does he? He wants Scrooge -- and through him, the audience -- to focus on the earthly sufferings around us, to do whatever is in our power to help our fellow humans. But while heartwarming and inspirational, A Christmas Carol is ultimately just a nice story. Do I like it? Yes. Does it reflect the true meaning of Christmas? No. It's a Christmas carol, not a Christmas hymn, after all.
Particularly Good Bits: It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour (p. 77-78).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G. Utterly clean, and the ghosts really aren't that scary when you're reading the book and not seeing them on screen.
This is my 53rd book read and reviewed for the Classics Club. And it's my first book for the Literary Christmas reading challenge.