Before now, I have actually never read A Christmas Carol. I’ve seen movies and a few plays, but I didn’t own a copy of this book until a week ago. So when Brona decided to host a low-pressure read-along, I quickly decided to participate. But it’s hard to “review” such a classic, when pretty much everything has already been said about it.
Everyone knows the story, and everyone I am sure has either read it or seen it on a screen or a stage. The writing is typical Dickens. He sets his scenes very well and can make a character come alive with few descriptions. Reading A Christmas Carol reminded me of how much I used to enjoy reading Dickens. I still enjoy his style, though there were a few times, especially towards the end, where I found his need to interject himself a bit irritating. The moral of the story is clear enough without him having to spell it out.
Two things struck me: First, the story really put me in the mood for Christmas. It made me sit back and reflect on the meaning of the season. With young kids in the house, December is easily not only the most wonderful, but also the busiest time of the year. It is easy to get lost in the myriad of things that need to get done, rushing from one concert to the next play and adding a new item to the to-do list for every one that gets crossed off. But today, we took some time to slow down, bake some cookies, and enjoy being together, which was very much inspired by Dickens’ scenes of families celebrating together.
The second thing that struck me actually came from the brief introduction, in which Dickens’ story is set in context. Without going into too much detail, the introduction explains how Dickens’ time in a workhouse as a child influenced his writing and how he was very much against the Poor Laws that required the poor to work in exchange for food and shelter. As England was still coming to grips with the Industrial Revolution and changing working conditions, this setup was very susceptible to exploitation. And while things have come a long way since then, with laws protecting those who are vulnerable, there are still plenty of people and companies that exploit others willingly and deliberately.
In the story, Ebenezer Scrooge only cares about the people around him if they cost him money. He never considers how his action, or inaction, might affect people. Thankfully, he learns and reforms. At the end, he gets great joy out of helping others and doing good. I wish more people would take this lesson to heart. It doesn’t take much to be considerate of others. I feel that with all the bad going on in the world at the moment, the small gestures that show you care are all the more important.