Thursday, December 20, 2012

Raiding the Stacks: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Our Raiding the Stacks feature comes a little early this month in preparation for Christmas. This month we're taking on the out-of-copyright classic, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Now, I'm sure all my dear readers know this plot forwards and backwards, so I won't go through the plot of this story. In fact, A Christmas Carol is by far and away my favorite Christmas story. But instead of talking about the plot, I want to talk about the importance of A Christmas Carol to the development of Christmas as a holiday that we know and love today. Despite having been written over a hundred and fifty years ago, A Christmas Carol remains a central part of many people's Christmas traditions and its message of charity and goodwill towards our fellow man is still a timely message.

By the early nineteenth century, Christmas had become a relatively unimportant holiday that was rarely celebrated. In previous centuries Christmas had a strong religious focus and was celebrated largely in a community setting with events such as the wassail, but in an increasingly urban population the old celebrations had significantly reduced significance. What is important about A Christmas Carol is that it invented, almost from whole cloth, many of the traditions that we perpetuate today. Family gatherings, songs and games, turkey dinners, and charity towards the less fortunate are all aspects that Dickens wove into A Christmas Carol and remain essential parts of our current celebrations. In addition, the message of charity towards the less fortunate and the need for social change remains important today, perhaps even more so because of the ongoing global economic recession.

In regards to the actual text itself, it's a rather short story. I know, I was surprised too! Something short from Dickens! The weird thing is it feels far too short for a well-developed story. All of the essential elements of the story are there, of course: Scrooge, the ghosts, Bob Crachit and Tiny Tim. The problem is that the story feels almost fragmented to me, with many important pieces of dialog glossed over in a paragraph. While I understand that this is a short story, which enabled Disney to make a very short special with their classic characters, I felt like it could have been just the slightest bit longer to provide more depth to the characters and situations. Of course plenty of people have obviously enjoyed this story for a century and a half, otherwise we wouldn't have it today, I just wish it took longer than about two hours for me to read the story. I honestly think that you'd be better off going with one of the many film adaptations as part of your holiday traditions

 If you really want to enjoy this Christmas classic this year, I definitely recommend either A Muppet Christmas Carol, or Scrooged with Bill Murray. The Muppet version has plenty of awesome songs that you'll remember throughout the Christmas season, and Scrooged is a hilarious 1980's update of the classic tale. Obviously there are dozens of adaptations and versions you can watch with your family and friends this Christmas and I encourage you to find one that you love. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas this year and I leave you with this song from A Muppet Christmas Carol.

- Kalpar

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