We all know this story. We’ve seen it acted out with Muppets, or Mickey Mouse, or monstrosities that reside in the Uncanny Valley of Doom. We had the story read to us when we were children, and grow up to read it to our own brood. It’s been adapted numerous times for every medium. It is as ubiquitous as Shakespeare, and as indelibly tied to the Christmas season, ironically, as Capitalism itself.
Which makes it almost impossible to review. It’s impossible to look at this story with fresh eyes, and there are no surprises here.
Even if you’ve never read Charles Dickens, you probably have some feeling about his work. He’s like Steven Spielberg – everyone knows who he is, and what he’s done. Like it or not, you’ve probably been exposed to his work in one form or another. He is both beloved and openly mocked – and often for the same reasons as Spielberg. His sentimentality, his tendency towards schmaltziness, makes him ripe for detestation. I get it. I mean, try to say, “please, sir, may I have some more?” without twisting it into perverse mockery of an orphaned child. Or, “God bless us, every one!” Good luck saying that with any level of authenticity.
But, look. There’s a reason this story has been around for 170 years. It’s good. Try to imagine reading this in 1843. The themes of this story, the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge and desire to spread wealth to those in need, came with a palpable sense of urgency for Dickens (who grew up working 10 hour days in the harsh environment of a manufacturing warehouse) and his audience. This story must’ve been rousing, it must have reached to the very soul of an audience hungry for social change. And it’s so inventive.
Dickens created both a personal masterpiece, and a cultural touchstone.
It’s impact is so great, in fact, that it’s hard to understand a world where there was no A Christmas Carol. I can’t imagine anyone being on the fence about whether or not they should read this for the first time. I don’t even know how to go about convincing you to give it a chance apart from saying that this story, in it’s own small way, shaped the world in which we all live. I don’t know that greater praise can be given the creation of an artist.
Especially one who inspires so much vituperation.