Dickens’ Christmas Carol

I feel sorry for Scrooge.

His workspace is intruded on by presumptive, manipulative money grabbers.

Christmas cheer is an irritating concept and to many, salutations can be cloying, especially if said without meaning, and if your season is anything but merry.

Scrooge, as the Muppets point out, is alone and has been for many years. It is pointed out that he thinks of no-one, but who thinks of him? His partner is long dead and he since youth has never had any of the romantic kind; friendless, his business is all he has to focus on.

His cruelty is stuff of pantomimes, throwing people out of homes and jobs at Christmas and almost relishing it.

I enjoyed the insight into Scrooge’s past – a lonely boy sent to school by a volatile father. What really turned him so nasty?  Love of money does not seem suffice.

Scrooge makes an interesting point: he gives to a system – why should he give again to charity canvassers? Does he mean through taxes, or is he referring to private gifts?

Such an attitude to workhouses and prisons for the poor is not at all far from government and right wing thinking – work or starve… it is very close to how we think about animals, including those in ‘rescue shelters’. It is frightening that an old story often filmed, dramatised and even Muppetised feels so fresh.

Dickens’ Christmas Carol feels very apt this year especially. It is easy to update Scrooge. But he seems more complex than the villain who has given his name to meanness, who goes from hard master to a giddy weak character, enjoying silly games. His is not a religious conversion and if he finds a true meaning in Christmas it is a surfacey one, having little to do with the Nativity and more to do with fear of death, loneliness and being reviled. He gives into Christmas by buying large carnivorous gifts, joining in party games, and smirking benignly at all he meets, by making a large donation to the poor, and drinking. That sounds like commercial festivities rather than anything profound.

Scrooge is a charismatic man, who we enjoy booing but don’t really hate, although our modern real Scrooges incite a different reaction.

It is right that a change of heart is what Scrooge most needs and an understanding of what people really think and what his decisions do to poorer people. But the twee, unspiritual end of conforming to a false jollity is not a satisfactory wrap. What then instead? Perhaps a question for the Occupy camps as well as the literary adapters and analysts.

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Filed under literature, society, theatre

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