Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Few Thoughts on A Christmas Carol

I've been reading A Christmas Carol with my son this year. He is fascinated with the story. A few years ago, I worked on a small production of a stage adaptation of the book at Capital Repertory Theatre. The story was re-told by 2 actors using puppets made out of found objects as the characters. It was done for schools so it was pared down to 45 minutes. For the most part the production worked because the adaptation relied heavily on Dickens' own words.

Working on the production, I loved listening to Dickens' day after day. When an author writes so well, it is a joy to listen to the music of the words and to discover nuances and imagery with each new hearing. It's like playing a favorite song over and over again. That first line: "Marley was dead to begin with" can be said so many different ways - try it, emphasizing different words or parts of the sentence. My kids and I had fun reading and re-reading that line. Or how about this description of Scrooge:

Oh! but he was tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing,
wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!

So brilliant and the music of the words!

The New York Times today has an interactive article about A Christmas Carol. They have scanned in 4 of Dickens' original handwritten pages from the story. Readers are asked to decipher the changes that Dickens' made and comment on which change the reader believes to be the best or most interesting and why.

I jumped quickly to the comments section to see what readers had observed. There were a few comments that took me aback. Several people feel the story is very cynical because everyone (excepting his nephew) wants Scrooge to give them money. They feel that Scrooge should be able to "keep Christmas in his own way." To each his own, but I'm always amazed when people have a different opinion of something than I do. How can that be I wonder?

It reminds me of the time my mother and I were having a political discussion about George W. Bush. She insisted that no one in America could possibly like or respect him. I had to remind her that the country voted for him twice (okay once, he was appointed the first time). Funny, I know but you have to remember that she lives in Vermont which is its own secluded world of liberalism.

Anyway, I don't agree that it's a cynical work; how can it be with that rich, melodic language? I'm interested to see what readers come up with after perusing the text. In the meantime, do you have a favorite holiday tale? Or perhaps a literary work whose language just sings for you?


  1. intriguing...i will chase that one down. i dont think it is cynical either, but maybe the pinch of the economy makes me people see a little of themselves in there.

  2. They feel that Scrooge should be able to "keep Christmas in his own way."

    That sounds typically anti Obama-esque to me and the attitude that many Americans seem to have that they can look after their own when in fact few do! I dont think it's cynical at all otherwise why would Scrooge be 'liberated' in the end and see the error of his ways. It's a fabulous book and translates so beautifully into film and stage on so many levels. I'm not a great reader but love that story in all it's manifestations.

  3. What immediately came to my mind of a book that sings is The Princess Bride. I think everyone knows the movie better than the book but then, 95% of the book is the script. I daresay a large percentage of the population will recognize and identify "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, prepare to die!". Or perhaps, "Bye, bye boys, have fun storming the castle!" and "Drop your sword". Last but not least, the charming "As you wish".

  4. It is a shame that I don't read! :) I cannot offer my opinion.

  5. Love glad he gets some press this time of year. But I have to say "Scrooged" with Bill Murray is my favorite adaptation.

  6. I'm going to have to go check that out, thanks for the tip!

    I love Dickens...

  7. On a slight tangent... have you seen the new movie?