“A CHRISTMAS CAROL” by Charles Dickens has been a holiday favorite since 1843. The novella explores the vast divide between the rich and poor in 19th century Victorian England, as well as the timeless themes of greed, suffering and redemption—all of which resonate in 21st century America today.
The story’s main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is a rich but profoundly unhappy misanthrope, hoarding his money while looking down upon his employee, Bob Cratchit, who struggles to support his family and Tiny Tim, his sickly son, on his inadequate salary.
Dickens himself came from a formerly middle-class family that was sent to debtor’s prison when he was 12 years old. The young boy was forced to work 10 hours a day pasting labels on bottles of shoe polish at Warren’s Blacking Warehouse. The six shillings a week he earned was used to pay for his lodging and help out his family.
The story’s well-known plot involves Scrooge going to bed alone the night before Christmas and being visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, who showed him how his love of money had ruined any chance for happiness by alienating all those around him.
In the end, given the bleak future the Ghost of Christmas Future lays before him, in which he dies bereft of love and human companionship, Scrooge resolves to change his ways. He makes amends with his estranged nephew, who is delighted by his uncle’s late-in-life transformation, and then scurries to his office so as to get there before Cratchit, who arrives at work later than usual:
“ ‘Hallo.’ growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. ‘What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?’
‘I am very sorry, sir,’ said Bob. ‘I am behind my time.’
”‘You are.’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.’
”‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. ‘It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’
“ ‘Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,’ said Scrooge,’ I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,’ he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again;’ and therefore I am about to raise your salary.’
“Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.
“ ‘A merry Christmas, Bob,’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year. I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop [mulled wine], Bob. Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit.’
“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. …
“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!”
And a Merry Christmas to all our readers from the staff of the Free Lance–Star.