Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I am always startled by how short this book is. A cultural icon ought to be the size of Micheangelo’s David or at least, War and Peace. But this story that has been on stage and screen from cartoons (Mr. Magoo, The Muppets) to a modern setting (with Vanessa Williams as a female Scrooge) is less than 130 pages long. It has been published in many forms since 1843, including volumes illustrated by artists such as Arthur Rackham.

Everyone knows the story; a crabby, miserly man has a vision of 3 ghosts one night which scares him so badly that he becomes a generous person who even saves cute little handicapped kids. It’s so familiar, that people think they’ve read it, even when they really haven’t. If they had, they would remember Dickens’s facility of language, his descriptive passages and eye for detail that makes the story even richer on the page than screen. Passages such as describing Scrooge’s home, “They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with the other houses, and have forgotten the way out again.” A librarian told me that was an example of Dickens appealing to children, since the book works on so many levels: fable, ghost story, Victorian morality tale, social commentary, just to name a few.

The first time I read A Christmas Carol years ago, I was surprised at how much humor was sprinkled through it. The funny asides, amusing incidents and droll irony provide welcome relief to such a dark story.

Dickens is a master at metaphor, comparing Scrooge to weather “The cold within him froze his old features….A frosty rime was on his head…” indicating that not only is Scrooge an icy creature, but also a force of nature. The details are marvelous and one finds new ones with each reading. For instance, Marley’s ghost shackled by a chain full of cash-boxes, ledgers and heavy purses. Noting that Topper prefers “the plump sister” in the game of blind man’s bluff. Or the activities of the spirits when “the air was filled with phantoms” that Scrooge sees out his window.

It’s quite remarkable to think of the impact that this simple story has had over so long a time. Evidently, its message of hope and redemption has a timeless appeal, which I suppose is a heartening sign for humanity. We have some redeeming qualities, after all. God bless us, everyone!

Various publishers 1843 aprox. 128 pp.

12 comments on “A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

  1. Anne Brooke
    December 26, 2007

    It’s certainly a marvellous book – thanks for reminding us about it!

    Happy Christmas to you!


  2. Jackie
    December 27, 2007

    At last a comment! I was about to say “Bah Humbug!” to the lack of them.

  3. Anne Brooke
    December 27, 2007

    Sorry, Jackie – I’m notoriously slow this time of the year. It’s the chains dragging me down as I visit people …



  4. Jackie
    December 28, 2007

    No need to apologize, as the sole commentator, you are to be commended!

  5. sequinonsea
    December 29, 2007

    Great review, Jackie. I have never read A Christmas Carol, I am ashamed to say, although I do seem to remember having a small part in a school production of it. I think I was a turkey.

    The Muppet Christmas Carol was fantastic. As was Scrooged of 1988. Almost twenty years old! Blimey.

    Anyway, I do solemnly swear to read this by the end of January. Or Easter.
    Thanks for posting such a festive review.

  6. Rosyb
    December 30, 2007

    Hmm,something your review reminded me of is that the main character appeals to children and yet is not a child ,or even an animal! Interesting point for discussion at some point maybe or maybe when we do our favourite childrens books. Sorry for not commenting sooner, jackie, but i,ve been without internet access.

  7. Rosyb
    December 30, 2007

    Ps sorry for mess of typos above. On a mobile and no idea how to use this thing or how to capitalise anything.

  8. Jackie
    December 31, 2007

    That’s alright and you make a good point with that question. Personally, the story frightened me as a child & it was only as an adult that I could even read it. There’s still parts that make me nervous. I’m such a wimp. Maybe if the Muppet version had been around when I was little?
    A turkey, Sequinonsea? Was this a starring role or did you lay on the table at dinner during the play? lol

  9. sequinonsea
    December 31, 2007

    I think I waddled about a bit and followed Scrooge to the Cratchits when he’d seen the error of his ways. Luckily there was no carving.

    The Muppet version was brilliant but still a teeny bit scary, if truth be told.

  10. rosyb
    December 31, 2007

    I LOVE the Muppet’s Christmas Carol! Maybe we should review film versions of books too – hehe!

  11. Jackie
    January 1, 2008

    Oh no! And here I was going to look for the Muppet version at the library.
    Love the idea of a turkey following Scrooge around. That must’ve been hilarious!

  12. Pingback: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and the Disney Movie | Books of Mee

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This entry was posted on December 24, 2007 by in Entries by Jackie, Fiction: 19th century and tagged , , , .



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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