Ha, did this crusty old Santa image compel you to check out my blog?
This post isn’t actually about curmudgeonly Santa Clauses but actually Charles Dickens’ Christmas novellas.
Oh! What would Charles Dickens have to say about the modern world!
I think Charles Dickens and I would have gotten along. I mean, I don’t imagine he would have wanted me for a beta reader or anything, but he was a social reformer. As a healer, I also have to cling to the knowledge that no matter what people really do want to be good and do well underneath all opposing forces to such. And that was always what he wrote about: people being good inside and good triumphing over evil, which I believe most readers find immensely satisfying. Sometimes I don’t like an ending that is too good or vindicating, and that is where sometimes my love of him falls short. Sometimes a happy ending is not everything completely righted, but can be about a small change that makes things just a little better. But that’s the healer in me, not the complete social reformer. I feel realistic about the amount of change that can make someone happier, and it does not have to be huge. A small change from the outside can be huge to the person who has experienced it.
We also like the supernatural, especially as vehicles for change and redemption. Just because people commit more to change that the ghosts tell them to make more than I can get people to commit to change is beside the point.
I didn’t know until I started looking into it that A Christmas Carol was actually only the first of a series of five Christmas novellas. I thought it was only three, each of which seems to drop a little further into obscurity than the one before it. The second and third seem to have been rescued somewhat, by Barnes and Noble reissuing classics or even before, but I had to go to Librivox and look under each title separately, instead of under ‘Dickens Christmas novels’ to get the fourth and the fifth teased out from anthologies on Amazon.
The Christmas novellas in a nutshell:
A Christmas Carol: don’t be a turd. I don’t feel the need to say much more. Except the Christmas Carol movie with Jim Carrey creeps me out.
The Chimes: people aren’t turds by nature but are pressed into crappy lives by others who openly choose to be turds but justify it by acting sanctimonious. And, turds of yore were no less turdy than modern times (1840’s England), so don’t ache for the past. Wikipedia helped me pull this story together in my mind. I don’t know if it was the story or me but I felt like I kept missing pieces.
The Cricket on the Hearth: Don’t make assumptions. Also, there are some repeat character themes from A Christmas Carol: there’s another Scrooge and a Bob Crachit and a Tiny Tim. This iteration of Scrooge is more fun to me, as he is a toymaker who enjoys making toys that are grotesque and scary. (maybe ones that kinda looked like the featured image) And when the cricket starts ripping it out you best listen because things are about to go awry. This was kind of reminiscent of a Gothic novel with its romantic drama.
The Battle of Life: Life is way too easy for people today! (1846) I wonder how he would feel about how easy it is to do anything today. I also wonder how he would feel about Donald Trump, but I have tried very hard as of late to keep my political views off my blog and its Facebook and Twitter. This one was my least favorite. It seemed to have the most talk and the least action, and again, we revisit the idea in Cricket about not making assumptions. Sister love wins out, much like today’s Frozen, a movie which makes me glad I did not have a little girl. Also the only one without some sort of supernatural intervention.
The Haunted Man, or the Ghost’s Bargain: The pain you have endured in life serves an important role in treating others with compassion. Now, this one is absolutely under rated. I can see where it can’t be adapted for children in the way that A Christmas Carol has, because it is far darker, even with how dark Carol is. Dickens knew about the psychological concept of attachment, just not in the formal way that it is defined and understood now. A man without his past hurts feels hollowed out and numb to the plight of others, and what’s worse, as part of the bargain others around him are made to feel as empty as he has. It’s a short read but compelling about the role of our hurts.
I wonder if Dickens ever was frustrated that the first of the books in this series outshone the rest so much. Like, it was over after the first story. It’s hard to bust out of the gate like that if you can’t maintain your pace. I mean, he clearly kept showing up to the page, but not always being able to get your best on the page can be discouraging for a writer.
So, I mean, you can’t do a few posts on Christmas reads and neglect arguably the most famous of them all. And they have his common themes: don’t be a turd, don’t make assumptions, don’t romanticize the past instead of trying to help the here and now, and offer help to the unfortunate rather than blaming them. Family and spirit continue to be here for us. And even if reading these requires one to put aside our 21st century mindsets and go with a little sentimentality, isn’t that the point of the season?
I see I am getting some reads, not a lot of likes. Please, if you like this post, like it. Better yet, share it. Share it on social media! Social media is so feisty lately! So what if my personal page has something to do with it! Comments too.
Let’s try to be a little less salty this Christmas.
More Christmas posts to come.