“Bah, Humbug” – an iconic line from a story we all love, said by a character that was written for us to hate. A week before Christmas in 1843, Chapman & Hall published a novella by Charles Dickens that would become one of the most popular stories that still inspires millions of people. A Christmas Carol turns 176 years old this year and over the course of its long life, it has become so iconic, that even if you’ve never read the book, you probably know what it’s about.
A Christmas Carol takes place on a cold, snowy Christmas Eve in London, England, during the Victorian period in the 1840’s. It is a story of a man who feels no love or joy in his heart, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the bah-humbug-shouting man who hates Christmas, charity, the poor, and everything besides his own goodwill. To be more exact, these are his own words at the beginning – “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!” He is described as ‘a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone’, this metaphor suggests that Scrooge works hard for his money but is very tight with it. Dickens also uses the harshest weather to describe him ‘the heaviest rain, and snow and hail and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect.’ indicating how horrible of a man Scrooge is, which shows the reader that Scrooge’s personality will play an important role throughout the book. The story unfolds when he is visited by three ghosts – the ghost of the past, the present and the future. Over the course of his three separate journeys with them, he evolves into someone different, a person that he buried deep inside of him many years ago.
A Christmas Carol could be considered as a metaphor for life. The amount of life lessons that can be learnt from this book is tremendous. One of them being that as uncomfortable as we might feel about it, time only moves in one direction – forward. So, we should live our lives to the fullest, for there may be no tomorrow. Another reason that makes A Christmas Carol so beloved is its morality, the way Scrooge remembers his lost humanity and is led to find it in others. With the ghost of the past he re-experiences the loneliness of boarding school, his father’s cold disapproval and the kindness of his sister. He reminisces his most authentic memories, when he was still innocent and happy. One more great lesson from this novel, that applies to all the generations is that it shows us how easy it is to get caught up in the materialism that surrounds us, especially during the holiday season. Nowadays, we fixate so much on sales and buying many things, that we forget spending quality time with those we care about, and that they are really what should be our priority. Another aspect of Dickens’s original tale is the idea of learning to be compassionate, generous and kind, a timeless aspiration for every generation. Dickens also speaks about ignorance and want. He demonstrates a world in which the poor and suffering are ignored and taken advantage of.
Opposite from Scrooge’s initial statement, this is what he has to say in the end – “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.” by which Dickens suggests to us the importance of carrying out that philosophy year-round, not just for one day. A Christmas Carol has withstood the test of time and will never cease to touch peoples’ hearts.