As I mentioned in an earlier post, Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat) and Delia (Postcards from Asia) have very kindly organized the inter-blog event “Dickens at Christmas”. I have written two posts (here and here) as contributions to this. And today is a “readalong” of A Christmas Carol.
In preparation, Caroline had sent me a questionnaire about this book. Here it is, with my answers:
Is this the first time you are reading the story?
It’s part of my Christmas tradition to read this every year.
Did you like it?
I think I can safely answer “yes” to that!
Which was your favorite scene?
Sorry about this, but there are at least three scenes I must mention. The first is Christmas dinner at the Cratchits’ house: some find this sentimental, but I don’t. Dickens believed in human goodness, and here, we see a convincing picture of people who actually love and care for each other. The next scene I should mention is the other scene set in the Cratchits’ house: this is set in the future, after their child has died. Scrooge had asked the Ghost of Christmas to Come to show him some real human feeling, some “tenderness”: and here, we get it. This is an utterly convincing depiction of how people grieve for those whom they have loved. (Incidentally, at the very end of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Alyosha makes a speech at after the funeral of Ilyusha, and this speech is a very close reprise of what Bob Cratchit says to his family at the end of this scene in A Christmas Carol.) And finally, I must mention that scene where the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge those two hideous children, and when Scrooge asks whose children they are, replies “They are Man’s”. It’s a scene that still horrifies me: no sentimentality here.
Which was your least favorite scene?
I love every line of this novella.
Which spirit and his stories did you find the most interesting?
All in their different ways are interesting, and vital. But if I had to choose, I’d go for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. It starts with a glimpse into the abyss: we are shown a world devoid of human feeling, of human love. This is, indeed, Hell. If there is joy at the end of this story, this joy is hard won: it had required a glimpse into the abyss. (Previously, I had mentioned Dostoyevsky’s debt to this novella, but Tolstoy too was indebted: there is a scene in A Christmas Carol where some business associates of Scrooge talk about his death in indifferent and uncaring terms; this scene reappears at the start of Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Illych.) And then, of course, when Scrooge, in despair, begs to be shown some evidence of human “tenderness”, the Spirit obliges. Whatever anguish the Cratchits are going through, they are not in that Hell in which human feelings don’t exist.
Was there a character you wish you knew more about?
I think we are told as much about each of the characters as we need to know.
How did you like the end?
Wonderful. It is a joyous ending, and this being Dickens, the joy is expressed in whimsical terms. But the joy has been very hard won.
Did you think it was believable?
Literally, no: this is intended as a fairy story. But psychologically, and morally, yes.
Do you know anyone like Scrooge?
Scrooge is obviously a caricature, so no, I don’t know anyone exactly like him. But there are people aplenty who think that paying their taxes is enough, that they don’t need to consider those in society who are less fortunate. (Some even stop short of
paying taxes!) There are people aplenty who feel that following the rules of business is enough (“Mankind was my business!” says Marley’s ghost). I still hear people speak of the “surplus population”. The depiction of Scrooge still hits home- very strongly, I think. Often, to my shame, I can find elements of Scrooge in myself also.
Did he deserve to be saved?
Yes. Scrooge’s redemption comes through his own effort. It is not a gift.
Many thanks to Caroline and to Delia for arranging this.