Reading: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I try to re-read this story every Christmas season. I feel like I “dropped the mic” last year when I was gobsmacked by the realization that Scrooge’s adventure is another telling of the universal hero’s journey “monomyth”. In this cross-cultural Myth (capital “M” to distinguish it from its common usage as a synonym for “lie”) a hero travels to an unnatural land where s/he battles a powerful force, then returns home with riches to bestow boon on his/her family.  The hero journey is my jam and I talk about it ad nauseam with my friends. The Wizard of Oz and Hansel and Gretel are two other examples of the hero journey.  Dorothy travels to another world; battles unnatural forces by killing two witches and gains a brain, a heart, and courage for her new family. (Parenthetically, I love the TV Guide description of this movie: “A stranger comes to a town and kills the first person she encounters; then forms a gang to kill again.”) Hansel and Gretel  travel to a land where they battle and kill the witch, then return home to their father and share their treasure with him. The hero story is hiding in plain site in so many modern books and movies.

In this year’s reading I focused on the confusing time scheme in the story. Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge on Christmas Eve to tell him three ghosts will appear on three successive nights. But after the ghosts appear, Scrooge wakes up on Christmas Morning. I figure one of two things is happening.

  1. Dickens wrote this in serial form and simply forgot the original plan foretold by Marley. This doesn’t make a lot of sense; after all, the whole point of the story is to have Scrooge wake up on Christmas morning.
  2. Dickens is trying to tell us something else. What, I don’t know.

Well, isn’t that what Google is for? This topic was touched on in SparkNotes:

Dickens uses the temporal inconsistencies to emphasize the supernatural powers of the spirits–when they are around, normal earthly standards, including the flow of time, have no effect.

That makes sense; given that this is a hero journey – where the hero travels to the unknown – it is understandable that time doesn’t matter.

Anyway, this is a great story, and if you are concerned, not overtly religious. You still have time to read it before Christmas/holidays. It is short and readily available. I think there is a free Kindle version on Amazon; or get an audio version and listen while you prepare for the holidays.

Too busy to read? Watch the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott as Scrooge. It is on AMC a few times during the season and, I imagine, available on streaming services.  I’ve watched a lot of the movie adaptations; this version is, I think, the closest to Dickens’ work. Much of the dialog is taken directly from the book.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5 stars.

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