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Old 12-23-2011, 01:55 AM   #1
WT Sharpe
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Discussion: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Let's discuss the December MobileRead Book Club selection, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. What did you think?
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Old 12-23-2011, 02:43 AM   #2
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One question I'd like to bring up for discussion:

ACC is self-evidently a Christmas story, but is it an overtly Christian story?
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Old 12-23-2011, 09:00 AM   #3
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One question I'd like to bring up for discussion:

ACC is self-evidently a Christmas story, but is it an overtly Christian story?
Interesting question. I would say no. Certainly not really any of the salvation through belief in Christ sort of Christianity. Obviously there is an underlying aspect rooted in such scripture as:

Quote:
"Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" Matthew 19:21
and

Quote:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25
Really though in ACC the message is more a greed is bad and generosity is good generic message of goodwill. Certainly not Christianity as actually practiced then or now.

The supernatural aspects, that is the four ghosts that appear to instruct Scrooge in the error of his ways, are associated with the celebration of Christmas, but never struck me as overtly Christian.

Then there is this closing paragraph:
Quote:
"He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!"
Note that the mention is Spirits, not angels or visions of Christ. “Keeping Christmas well,” based on Scrooge's behavior on Christmas Day, seems not religious, but just taking the time to put aside business and quest for profit and show goodwill and generosity.

Could be an interesting discussion to hear what others might think. Bwah-haa-haa!

Edited to add:

I was curious and so did a word search through ACC (love ebooks!):

The word Jesus never appears. The word Christian appears just three times. The word God twelve times, mainly in such common expressions as "God knows." The word church or churchyard appears ten times, almost always just describing the surroundings of a location.

Last edited by Hamlet53; 12-23-2011 at 09:44 AM.
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Old 12-23-2011, 01:30 PM   #4
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I don't mean to keep bringing up the annotations in the version I read, but it's pertinent to this discussion -

The Christian aspect is discussed. Basically what I took is that Dickens purposefully kept religion mostly out of it. Strict religion, and the Puritans, were in his mind what were destroying the Christmas celebrations (the Puritans thought Christmas celebrations were too similar to a Pagan Roman holiday and so didn't want to celebrate it).

So he wanted to write a book celebrating the spirit of Christmas and the joy and fun and charity and warmth of it without really including religion.
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Old 12-23-2011, 01:34 PM   #5
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The two quotes that occured to me off the top of my head seem more overtly Christian. The first, what Scrooge's nephew had to say in inviting his uncle to dinner, "But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time when it has come around--apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that"

And then, when Bob returns from church he said of Tiny Tim, "that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember, upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see."

I think in the context of Victorian England, when virtually everyone was Church of England and that would be the background to any thoughts on morality and mortality, that you can't say it's not Christian, even if it doesn't seem overtly Christian to our more multi-cultural, areligious mindset.

That said, I think if all the Christian references were excised, it would be pretty much the same story, although not with the staying power that being related to Christmas gives it.
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Old 12-23-2011, 01:34 PM   #6
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I vote no. It is not a Christian story.

With all the buying being done at the end, it is a consumerism manifesto.
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Old 12-23-2011, 05:01 PM   #7
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I don't mean to keep bringing up the annotations in the version I read, but it's pertinent to this discussion....
I wish you'd bring it up with every post. Ever since I saw you had read an annotated version, I wish I had done the same. An annotated version can bring a depth to the discussions that would otherwise be lacking, so please, don't hold back. Your input so far has been greatly appreciated and thought-provoking.
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Old 12-23-2011, 06:36 PM   #8
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Although the book was written a long time ago, I found it quite pertinent reading it coming up to Christmas. I get a little bah humbug at Christmas time myself. Not like Scrooge - I do celebrate Christmas. However, I get so involved in the preparations: presents, Christmas turkey, cleaning the house for guests etc.. that I can get stressed and negative.

To me the book is very "fellowship of man and woman", about spreading love rather than, well I guess an absence of love - or indifference. I don't think Scrooge really hated anyone, he was just completely selfish.

I think I understand selfishness because I believe we live in a very selfish world. I see it as a form of protection - a shield against the barrage of negative and hateful people, institutions and conditions humanity faces.

To me, A Christmas Carol encourages us to embrace each other with the spirit of goodwill as much as possible - even if only during Christmas time. And as much as I think selfishness equals protection - at the same time I think optimistic goodwill to others is restorative.

Anyway - I guess I took a personal message from the book rather than anything else. I didn't read the annotated version and consumed the story without much understanding of what was occurring in Dickens' England at the time of writing.
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Old 12-23-2011, 06:58 PM   #9
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To me it was a morality tale that used the structure of the culture's prevailing majority religion as a framework. It would have worked equally as well in any other culture, using their majority religious system as a backdrop.
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Old 12-23-2011, 08:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WT Sharpe View Post
I wish you'd bring it up with every post. Ever since I saw you had read an annotated version, I wish I had done the same. An annotated version can bring a depth to the discussions that would otherwise be lacking, so please, don't hold back. Your input so far has been greatly appreciated and thought-provoking.
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To me it was a morality tale that used the structure of the culture's prevailing majority religion as a framework. It would have worked equally as well in any other culture, using their majority religious system as a backdrop.
Get out of my brain, Tom! (on both points)

It did feel more secular to me - "good will to all men", "money isn't everything".
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Old 12-24-2011, 03:40 AM   #11
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To me it's not primarily a Christmas tory. I also agree that it's not really tied to any specific religion. Almost the opposite (sort of):
Things aren't so much in God's hands, but in your own. YOU can make a difference in the world, and what you do affects your own destiny. Do good!
(Actually, come to think of it, isn't that kind of Buddhism? Karma.)

The writing was funnier than I expected it to be.

On a personal note: I'm very much "Bah, humbug" this time of year. I really don't "do" Christmas and I actually to some degree feel a kindred spirit with Scrooge. Although I'm his complete opposite when it comes to money and giving, I do get his "Bah, humbug" feeling!
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Old 12-24-2011, 06:07 AM   #12
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One thing that has always disappointed me about the story, both in the book and the screen adaptations I've seen, is Scrooge's reaction at the end of the story. Not that he turns his life around, and not that he is transformed from a mean, small-hearted miser into a generous human being who learns the meaning of charity, but that he is transformed from a dispicable yet wholly recognizable character into a giddy, silly, prancing idiot. I would hate having the former in my life, but I'd secretly want to slap the latter.
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Old 12-24-2011, 06:36 AM   #13
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...but that he is transformed from a dispicable yet wholly recognizable character into a giddy, silly, prancing idiot.
I'm not sure you're being entirely fair to the old Scrooge. He seems overly enthusiastic because he has come out the other side of a rather grand epiphany. Although I do think he will go on to be a more joyous soul, I'm not sure I'd agree that he'd remain "a giddy, silly, prancing idiot" for the rest of his life.
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Old 12-24-2011, 07:18 AM   #14
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I'm not sure you're being entirely fair to the old Scrooge. He seems overly enthusiastic because he has come out the other side of a rather grand epiphany. Although I do think he will go on to be a more joyous soul, I'm not sure I'd agree that he'd remain "a giddy, silly, prancing idiot" for the rest of his life.
I agree. I think it's the aftereffect of a profound experience. I mean if someone were in a car accident for example and by some miracle escaped serious injury they would no doubt feel a bit giddy from the shock of the experience. Scrooge has just seen his own grave and thought that he was about to be brought to judgement then and there. When the spirit of Christmas yet to come turns into his bedpost and he realizes that he has a chance to amend his life rather than being judged he loses control of himself for a little while. It's been a while since I read the book but there is more of a Christian aspect to some of the movie adaptations including a reference to the child born in Bethlehem and how he lives in the hearts of men all the days of the year. Things have changed since Charles Dickens wrote the book. Back then the poor were out of sight out of mind to many. Dickens himself had had some problems financially I believe and his father had been sent to debtors prison (where the rest of the family lived with him)when Dickens was a young boy. Incidentally I looked up what a half-crown is. A shilling is 12 pence and a half-crown is 2 shillings and 6 pence which means it's about 30 cents. Of course 30 cents probably went a lot farther back then too.
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Old 12-24-2011, 09:36 AM   #15
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Christmas Carol is thoroughly modern. The battle between the lords of finance and the wage slaves is still being fought, with each side laying claim to having the just cause. Witness the current US presidential election--it's disconcerting that economic thought can still be rooted in Adam Smith and Malthus. We have learned nothing in 150 years.

I think the biggest difference to a modern sensibility is that Scrooge is clearly damaged by his unfortunate childhood and his avarice is an attempt to compensate for the love he didn't receive. We can regard him with a modicum of sympathy and understanding, the more so since he doesn't live well off his greed. The Cratchits probably eat as well and live as warmly. The numbers in his ledgers drive him--and who's to benefit when he's gone, also? There's no point to his greed. Contrast that to the robber barons and aristocrats of yesterday and today. I think Dickens pulled his punch on that one. The upshot of the spirits' visits is not only that the poor and disadvantaged will benefit from Scrooge's generosity, but that Scrooge himself will benefit materially as well as spiritually and emotionally. I don't remember specifically, but don't Scrooge and Tiny Tim die at roughly the same time? Scrooge manages to stave off his own death as well. It's a double pay-off; he's redeemed when it comes to judgment at death, but he also gets to enjoy and prolong his physical life. Win/win.
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