Raise your hand if you have never read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. If you’ve got your hand in the air, I am here to recommend that you go get yourself a copy of this story. Right this minute. Seriously. It is a classic for more than a few very good reasons. Not only is it a fabulous ghost story, but it is a tale of redemption and second chances. Frankly, by this time of year, I’m all for redemption and second chances.
Also, I’ve always loved the writing of Charles Dickens. I’ve read most of his books, but I’ve revisited A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities more times than I can remember. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of movie and play versions of these stories, too, but nothing comes close, in my opinion, to the experience of reading the original Dickens. Here’s how A Christmas Carol begins:
“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. . .”
How is that for a fine opening?
Scrooge, of course, is one of the most famous of curmudgeonly misers. And I really do think he comes through most vividly thanks to the words and phrases of Dickens. When I’m initially reading about old Ebenezer, it’s hard for me to be sympathetic with “… a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” A man “… secret, self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” But soon enough, the first spirit educates me about the sad and neglected past of this character and the events that came to harden him.
When the second spirit visits, I get the message along with Mr. Scrooge about the virtues and rewards of living in the present and the importance of gratitude. By the time the final and scariest ghost draws attention to how people influence the lives of others, in the short and long terms, I am as enlightened as Ebenezer when he says to the final ghost: “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I shall not shut out the lessons that they teach.”
Three impressive spirits, a character transformation from grumpy, snarly and mean to considerate, generous, and kind, lessons learned and potential tragedies turned to triumphs. For me, this is why A Christmas Carol is the perfect holiday story. And that’s no humbug.