Book Review: A Christmas Carol

Reading to Know - Book Club

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was Carrie‘s December Book Club choice. I don’t know if I have ever actually read the book before: I think I may have long ago. But I have seen it almost every year for the last several (my favorite is the George C. Scott version). So it was nice to actually go through the book this year. I started out reading it but then switched over to the audiobook when LearnOutLoud.com offered it for free this month. It was well done: the narrator was very expressive, but her voice got just a bit irritating at the height of some scenes. But overall it was enjoyable.

ChristmasCarol-130It’s hard to review it per se because the story is so well known, but if you are not familiar with it, it’s the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a tight-fisted, cold-hearted, miserly, miserable person. Though he is well-off, he doesn’t live extravagantly: he doesn’t even live comfortably, keeping his office cold to avoid using coal. He has no warm or charitable thoughts for anyone, begrudges his employee a paid holiday, returns his nephew’s “Merry Christmas” with a “Bah, humbug,” flatly turns down those seeking aid for the poor, saying the work houses and such are taking care of them.

As Scrooge heads for bed on Christmas Eve, the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, visits in him chains forged during his lifetime, and warns Scrooge that a similar fate awaits him if he doesn’t change. To encourage his reclamation, three ghosts will visit him that night. The Ghost of Christmas Past takes him back to scenes of his youth, before his heart was hardened. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows him the true state of his long-suffering clerk, Bob Cratchit and his family, including crippled Tiny Tim, happy though poor. In both the Cratchit family and his nephew’s family, Scrooge hears some not-so-flattering sentiments about himself. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him Cratchit’s family without Tiny Tim and calloused reactions to his own death. All of these scenes work together to open his eyes, soften his heart, and cause him to change. Not only do his actions change in that he is now more generous and concerned for others, but he is now filled with joy.

This tale was published in 1843 and has been a favorite ever since. Perhaps we can all rejoice in a selfish miser getting his comeuppance, but more than that, the story can speak to our own hearts about our own self-focus and lack of concern for and generosity towards others.

I’ve spent some time pondering whether Scrooge’s change was more of a reformation, a turning over a new leaf, or a true conversion. I’m not sure what Dickens’ religious beliefs were, though he does have Christian elements in many of his books: of course, he wrote this just as a morality tale rather than a religious story, so this is just my own ruminations. There does not seem to be much mention of God, though there is reference to being like a child at Christmas because its great Founder became one, and a joyous “Heaven and Christmas Time be praised” when Scrooge realizes the visions are over and he is safe at home in bed. But at the end of his time with the last Ghost, Scrooge says, “I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse.” His change of heart comes on gradually as his eyes are opened: it’s not just a fear of death in the last scenes, though that’s a part of it. That’s what I hope people see: he didn’t just decide to start being generous financially, but he is a totally changed man.

I enjoyed revisiting this story and finding out that the films I have seen of it have been remarkably close to the original.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: A Christmas Carol

  1. Pingback: What’s On Your Nightstand: December 2012 « Stray Thoughts

  2. Barbara, I too read this for the first time this year (with my freshmen) and also was pleasantly surprised by how close the GC Scott version is to the book. I found the book to be very readable – more so than his longer works. Also, I would think that he had a reformation or a leaf-turning-over more so than a conversion.

  3. I really enjoyed this book–my first time through! I connected with your statement about self evaluation of our concern and generosity for others. I don’t see his experience as a conversion, really, although there is certainly repentance at work, isn’t there?!

  4. Interesting to get your thoughts on this, Barbara. I didn’t get a reread in this year, unfortunately, nor did I get to watch any of the old movie versions — I always enjoy those.

    Thanks to Amy for the link! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Books Read in 2012 « Stray Thoughts

  6. Oh! I think a Focus on the Family Radio Drama of this story would be QUITE fun! I’m going to have to look that one up!

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts and reflections on this story. I didn’t even think of the repentance/conversion aspect. I don’t think I would say he was converted but, as Shonya affirmed before me, there certainly is repentance at work and that is beautiful to see. (Gives the reader pause and a great hope for themselves, really.)

    Glad you were able to read it this year!

  7. Pingback: What’s On Your Nightstand: December 2014 | Stray Thoughts

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