(Book) “A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Stories” Review

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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It’s Christmas! what’s more perfect of a way to commemorate the international festivity, a sacred day where people greet one another with heart-warming gentleness, a day of sharing, giving, and caring. Families gather, and relish in pleasant chatters as jubilant laughter fills the dining room. In some parts of the continent, snows start to descend to the soft earth and solid concrete, painting the landscape with whitening-tranquility. On the streets, lights can be seen from the windows of the people’s neat abodes, merrily having dinner, and the smell of turkeys wafts around town. Once before this joyous day, a man read his most enduring tale aloud to the children and adult assembling for a jolly evening, and until this day, Charles Dickens’ ability to hold readers in captivity with his Christmas mood-blanketing tale does not cease to amaze.

“A Christmas Carol” tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge; a grumpy, overly-frugal old man that refuses to share a penny or even anything at all; his clerk is underpaid, and he is infamous in the neighborhood for being a figure that does not possess a single joy in his countenance. One day, the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley, appears before him and informs Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts; these ghosts can help him in mending his ways before it’s too late, before Scrooge’s eternal condemnation to wander the earth aimlessly after his death.

From thereon, readers will stumble upon fantastical tales about the three ghosts’ visit and Scrooge’s traveling through time with them; all of which affect the stingy fellow to change himself for the better. From Scrooge’s past, the townspeople’s celebration, to the lonely, grim future,  Scrooge witnesses all of the Christmas occurrences before and after he became the grouchy old man he is. The presentation of the scenes he witnesses is simply gorgeous; Dickens’ detailed style in describing the backgrounds is immensely rich, and readers are truly taken into the world of Ebenezer Scrooge; from the snows upon the ground, the street merchants’ display of their goods, to the inviting atmosphere of the celebrating families, nothing in the book fails to deliver the mood of the joyous holiday.

The story’s ingenuity in delivering the mood and vibes of Christmas is commendable, but its execution in choosing the scenes to show Scrooge is even more wonderful; readers are shown festive celebrations, games, dinners, and then moving on the darker events concerning heartbreaks, farewells, and loss of identity. Dickens did not simply write a book where a hateful protagonist realizes his ways through people’s happiness; rather, he exposes the protagonist through emotionally-strong scenes that directly correlates to him. This makes Scrooge’s later epiphany all the more believable; readers will root for Scrooge to change, and liking him in the process.

“A Christmas Carol” is a wonderful tale of self-realization, but it is more than just a tale about an old man changing his life, and ultimately, the lives of those around him; it is a story that continually reminds us every year or more that change is not impossible, that one’s goodwill can significantly affect the other’s, that kindness in itself brings joy, and that during the simplest, or even impoverish circumstances, Christmas can spread its wings of happiness. Dickens did a great job of illustrating the way the Cratchits celebrate Christmas without much lavishness, portraying the inequality of the social classes, yet they can still be part of the celebration.

To not mention about the other stories beside Scrooge’s adventures would be a grave injustice; apart from “A Christmas Carol”, the book contains three more Christmas tales (also by Dickens), with the titles “A Christmas Tree”, “A Christmas Dinner”, and “A Good-humored Christmas”. These stories contain of one chapter each, as they are short stories (even though two of them are chapters taken from Dickens’ two stories, “Sketches by Boz” and “The Pickwick Papers”).

“A Christmas Tree” explores the narrator, possibly Dickens himself, and his Christmas Tree; with the various ornaments and toys dangling upon the tree, he describes the tree in a plethora of imaginative lines, before sharing a number of ghostly stories. “A Christmas Dinner” tells the story of a family’s reunion, and emphasizes the undiscriminating nature of Christmas. Both of these stories are fine, but I don’t really find “A Christmas Tree” all that interesting, as most of the pages explain about the toys found on the iconic decoration, and there really isn’t much meaning behind it; however, for a story that provides insights to the Victorian-era Christmas trees, or one with plenty of imagination, the short chapter delivers.

As for “A Good-humored Christmas”, I actually feel somehow guilty for not taking an interest at it; as part of “The Pickwick Papers”, I do not have any sense of attachment for its characters, and ended up breezing and skimming through the pages until the short-story part, which is strikingly charming; it is a short-story by the title “The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton”, which is somehow similar to Scrooge’s tale in theme.

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Want to know how a goblin teaches a sexton some manners?

Dickens might be great, but the primary obstacle that intimidates people to read him is probably of the archaic language, intricate plots, and overly-detailed backgrounds. “A Christmas Carol” is considered to be his most enduring and accessible work, but I still find several passages to be exhaustive by including even unnecessary details, such as Dickens’ explaining a large number of goods sold by the street merchants. In terms of plot, however, “A Christmas Carol” and the other stories are certainly straightforward and do not contain the slightest confusion. For the language, there are, naturally, plenty of weirdly structured sentences, archaic words and spellings, as well as dialogues which drag on and on only to prove one short, simple point, but it does not make the story incapable of being understood; I personally believe anyone can read it and understand it by context,  even though it may not be word by word.

Granted, I felt that I have missed several beautiful narratives because of my lack of vocabulary and habituation to Dickens’ styles (this is my first Dickens book), but that’s what reading is all about; you finish a tale, enjoy it, and some time later, return to the pages to discover things you missed before.  Slowly, I plan to work my way up to read his other works, but for now, Merry Christmas, everyone!

Rating from me: 4/5

Have you read “A Christmas Carol” or Dickens’ other Christmas stories? 

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