CHARLES DICKENS AND HEART HIGHLIGHTS
“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens is a symbol of Victorian time, vivid writing and vibrating emotional storytelling. He was one and only, extraordinary pen able to make people laugh and cry at the same time. The pure talent to breathe his own difficult life experiences into the fictional heroes, made his novels being one of the best samples of classic English literature. The world of suffering and blessing, created by Charles Dickens has changed the perspective of many generations, touching them with ethics.
Notwithstanding, one book signed by him has a special place in the global library since it has spiritual meaning for many people. “A Christmas Carol” has been published in 1843 but its beauty glows through the decades. If someone thinks that the story about grumpy and bitter old man, Ebenezer Scrooge is just a holiday tale, I must add that this novel is a more than a holiday tale. This is a timeless guide through the spiritual dilemmas, soul darkness and life challenges. Charles Dickens portrayed the hidden questions of every single human being, offering the comfort and peaceful exit out of labyrinth of fears.
What is “A Christmas Carol” about? It is about loving, giving and forgiving. The miserable life could be replaced with revitalized life; the one who is always unhappy could be one who finally shows gratitude. Everything and everyone could be changed. If there is a will, there is a way. At the beginning of our story, Ebenezer Scrooge is a cold-hearted man that despises Christmas and people who celebrate it. At the end of the story, he is thankful man that sees goodness everywhere. The fact that the last name Scrooge actually means misanthropy can tell us that Dickens has put a lot of attention on the details:” The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.” In other words, sour Ebenezer has illuminated his own unhappiness condemning other people and traditions they share.
One professor of classic English literature once wrote about the five lessons of Dickens Christmas Carol. When we think deeper, we could find more inspirational sequences within the novel, enough to hold on and never forget. What is the most important to learn from Ebenezer Scrooge? Everyone has a chance to change a life and values and it is never too late. One has to be prepared to listen and to allow the spirit and soul to lead him instead of hungry materialism. The writer tries to inspire us to be opened to learn and grow through our own awakened spirituality. The greedy Scrooge accepted the leading intensions of three ghosts: Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to come. He denied the reality of the first ghost but he felt the waves of the ghost´s teaching. The gold and dust of his own past punched him in the face while he was watching the frozen pictures of his own childhood. Scrooge was so bitter man within his heart but the tears of recalled memories shaped his stone facial expression into the pure sadness. The life itself has never been easy for him. Ebenezer Scrooge experienced poverty and despair, lack of love and understanding. He had love and he lost love since he wanted always more to achieve and more to have. According to some studies, he did not produce but earned money from interest rate on the loans he gave out. He lived from the people who borrowed money and pay interest rate for it:” I live in such a world of fools […] What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you?” He condemned those poor fools and believed that they themselves are responsible for being poor.
Mr. Scrooge has money but he does not have family and the emptiness he feels all the time is even stronger during the Christmas time. Instead of embracing his nephew Fred, he is pushing him away, laughing at his simple joy about the holidays. The first ghost of the Christmas Past is taking old man to the core of his bitterness, to the little boy who was always alone in the school during the Christmas holidays. The father had never brought him home for fest and the boy has learnt to rely on himself and to deny all family gatherings, love and hope since he never experienced them. The boy became a man who is full of negative memories and broken trust in other people but he is learning that sourness is poising him directly and has nothing to do with the rest of the world.
The second ghost is opening the windows of present time for Ebenezer. The irritable old man is now seeing himself directly through the eyes of the truth. He can see how his nephew Fred and his worker, poor Bob Cratchit are cherishing all what they have and how they fight to protect Christmas spirit within their hearts. Scrooge has never known that Bob has very ill son, Tiny Tom and the big family he is supposed to take care of. Cratchit´s tiny son is very sick but he is sharing the blessings of Christmas, hoping that people will finally learn to worship all the good things they have and not always crying over what they do not have. When the third ghost takes the Scrooge on the journey, it is the travel in the future, the world with or without Ebenezer Scrooge. I believe this chapter of the book is the most effective since it deals with the possibility for starting over, being new person in old body. The silent ghost has shown to the Scrooge the fatal consequences of his current behavior and all what he causes further with his lack of empathy and petulant emotional indifference. It was enough for him to see empty chair of little Tom to realize that poor parents did not save him. It was more than enough for him to see his own funeral without compassion of other people. The death without love, alone in darkness, despised by everyone, man who was colder as the coldest stone. Grumpy money owner did not only feel fear for himself, he was touched deep by the tragic destiny of the youngest Cratchit´s boy. The moment of selfless sadness over the life of other person was the moment of Scrooge´s spiritual renaissance, the moment of his second chance to make things good and to redirect the ship of his end.
Charles Dickens doesn’t need God to involve in his storytelling to force us considering our life values and the road we walk on. His Ebenezer Scrooge through his own pity life has shown us what is happening to us when we do care only about ourselves. His revitalizing life is a proof that it is never too late to change and to accept the blessings instead of cursing them. The Christmas is not about God but about people´s heart and souls, their will to give what they do not have and to take what they have not asked for. It is about the real values of humanity, kindness, friendship and love. It is about who we are when nobody is watching us or judging us.
Scrooge´s personal history is a wonderful life reminder that we all have to keep within us, not only during the Christmas holidays but during the whole year: „I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.’’
The purpose of our existence is to love, give, cherish, and not to hate, take and despise. Every new day is a chance for a new beginning, new life and different end. Carpe diem, just like Ebenezer Scrooge made it long time ago, in one of the Dickens dusty books.
4 thoughts on “A CHRISTMAS CAROL: TIMELESS LESSON FOR A NEW BEGINNING”
Sarah’s touching and beautiful article brought to mind the progenitors of the ‘A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas (1843), by Charles Dickens; in the context of the social history of England (so-called Christian country) during the 1840s: the author was deeply affected by the plight and overall impoverishment of poor Working Class children of England; himself a victim of factory work in childhood. In early-1843, he toured the Cornish tin mines, where he was angered after seeing children working in appalling conditions. The suffering he witnessed there was reinforced by a visit to The Field Lane Ragged school; one of several draconian schools set up for the education of London’s malnourished and illiterate street children.
In February of 1843, The Second Report of the Children’s Employment Commission was published: it was a Parliamentary report exposing the negative effects of The Industrial Revolution upon Working Class children. Horrified by what he read, Charles Dickens planned to publish an inexpensive political pamphlet titled ‘An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child’, but changed his mind, deferring the pamphlet’s production until the end of the year.
In a fundraising speech in October of 1843, at The Manchester Athenaeum, Charles Dickens urged workers and employers to join together to combat ignorance with educational reform, and realised in the days following that the most effective way to reach the broadest segment of the population with his social concerns about poverty and injustice was to write a deeply felt Christmas narrative, rather than polemical pamphlets and essays.
The Industrial Revolution led to a population increase, but the chances of surviving childhood did not improve throughout The Industrial Revolution. There was still limited opportunity for education and children were expected to work. Employers could pay a child less than an adult; even though their productivity was comparable: there was no need for strength to operate an industrial machine, and since the industrial system was completely new, there were no experienced adult labourers. This made child labour the resource of choice for manufacturing in the early phases of The Industrial Revolution, between the 18th and 19th centuries.
Many children were forced to work in relatively bad conditions for much lower pay than their elders. Beatings and long hours were common. Conditions were dangerous, with some children killed when they dozed off and fell into the path of the carts, while others died from gas explosions. Many children developed lung cancer and other diseases and died before the age of 25. Workhouses would sell orphans and abandoned children as ‘pauper apprentices’; working without wages for board and lodging. Those who ran away would be whipped and returned to their masters, with some masters shackling them to prevent escape. Children employed as mule scavengers by cotton mills would crawl under machinery to pick up cotton; working 14 hours a day, six days a week. Some lost hands or limbs, others were crushed under the machines, and some were decapitated. Children employed at glassworks were regularly burned and blinded, and those working at potteries were vulnerable to poisonous clay dust.
Some Liberal politicians tried to limit child labour by law, but factory owners resisted. In 1833 and 1844, the first general laws against child labour (i.e. The Factory Acts) were passed in Britain: children younger than nine were not allowed to work, children were not permitted to work at night, and the work day of youth under the age of 18 was limited to twelve hours. Factory inspectors supervised the execution of the law, but their scarcity made enforcement difficult. About ten years later, the employment of children and women in mining was forbidden.
Ebenezer Scrooge could be based upon two misers: the eccentric John Elwes, MP, or Jemmy Wood, the owner of the Gloucester Old Bank who was known as ‘The Gloucester Miser’.
For the chained fictional character of Jacob Marley, Charles Dickens had remembered a visit he had made to The Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The United States of America, in March of 1842, where he saw miserable and ghost-like fettered prisoners. For the character Tiny Tim, the author used his nephew Henry; a disabled boy who was five at the time ‘A Christmas Carol’ was written. The two figures of Want & Ignorance, sheltering in the robes of The Ghost of Christmas Present, were inspired by the children Charles Dickens had seen on his visit to a ragged School in The East End of London.
As Sarah exclaims ‘Nobody is useless who lightens the burdens of others…’
What a beautiful hope-building article, Sarah !
As you have very well described in your article, herein, Christmas is about giving and is about love ! In addition, the Christmas spirit may and should exist year round !
From this Christmas forward, I hope that “humans” learn the quintessence of “A Christmas Carol” and that they will apply it to their lives !
It’s time for humanity to rid itself of “selfishness” and “greed” once and for all, as these are the main two ingredients of evil in our society !
My Christmas wish is for all Animals to live and be free without “human” intervention !
Thank you so much, Sarah, for giving us hope and making us feel optimistic !
Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to generate a great article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t seem to get anything done.
I could not resist commenting. Perfectly written!