The Brilliance of Charles Dickens and “A Christmas Carol”

My friend from college, Ron Bottitta, is in the movie of ” Disney’s A Christmas Carol” and, decrying the cost, my daughters and I went to see it. It was great theater, and supposedly true to the book. In fact, it was such great theater that it scared the daylights out of my 8 year-old,  scared my 10-year-old more than she expected, and for brief moments cause terror in my own heart (3-D is a “wonderful” technology. It does exactly what it is  supposed to, make the story come ALIVE!!!, provided you want it come alive…)   Anyway, a great movie, just know what you’re getting into and maybe keep the kids home).

All of that said, Dickens’ story is amazing.  It is at once psychological, religious, science fiction, sociological, political, and just about everything else. I may use it for my Psych 111 class and ask the class to figure out why Scrooge became who he was (abuse, abandonment, poverty, fear… it’s all there.) and where they could have intervened to make it different or why the spirits’ intervention did work.

My daughters were freaked by “ignorance” and “want”, which occasioned a conversation about what those were, so we got to talk about caring, and social programs and why caring people provide their kids with good schools .

But the thing that fascinated me the most about the story is that Dickens talked about what we would call “the space/time continuum” years before Einstein figured our that there was such a thing. Scrooge has a destiny, which he wants to change, and which his actions do ultimately change.  But Scrooge is aware that they will happen if he doesn’t. The idea that there’s a future which is clearly defined, and follows a logical path if we do x or y, but changes if we do something else is the premise of any number of Star Trek shows, movies, etc.  The fact that Dickens could conceive of such a thing is testament to the creative spirit which artists bring to the world.   We may not get it at  the time the artist “sees” it, but the fact that we catch up later is an absolutely amazing reminder of how brilliant the artist was in the first place.

Dickens also draws on Christian metaphor with love beyond what Scrooge deserves, the crown of thorns/wreath on Christmas Present, and “God bless us every one”.  Dickens’ culture was rich with Christianity and it shows in the work.

How a work of fiction can work on so many levels is beyond me. It is no wonder that we still care about this story more than a hundred years after it was written. I like mysteries and puzzles and biographies — things about people, rather than classics, when I read. And yet, Dickens wrote page after page of creative fiction which lives on.  Bloom’s list of books we should read misses the point.  “Because we’re supposed to”, makes it a thing to rebel against.  This classic makes me want to find it and take in its wonder, and that’s what makes it a classic.  It’s a good thing to be associated with, Ron. But you already knew that.

Peace,

John

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