Author Topic: A Christmas Carol  (Read 2446 times)

bgmnts

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A Christmas Carol
« on: December 25, 2020, 11:28:31 AM »
It's still one of the best stories ever told isn't it? Listened to an audiobook of it last night and it's still brilliant.

Quote
It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.

Sad to think there are still so many bastard, greedy Tories out there who make Scrooge seem like Mother Theresa but ho hum.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2020, 01:29:47 AM »
Yes, it's peerless. Not sure if it's because we know the story so well but I find it easily his most accessible piece of writing. I wonder if he had any idea that it would still be so resonant nearly 200 years later. Like all Dickens, and people often forget this, it's also very funny. That can often be lost in adaptations for film and TV.

For those who signed up to Audible for the Partridge podcast(or anyone else for that matter) they are giving away an unabridged version of 'A Christmas Carol' read by Hugh Grant for free right now. I presume if you sign up for a free trial you'll get it free, as well as The Wind in the Willows(for some reason) and any other book you choose.

Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2020, 02:32:12 AM »
Scrooge being elderly I think is key, the message that it's never too late to change your life and do good resonates with almost everyone.

Interesting how much the book itself is said to have influenced Christmas traditions as we know them today. Apparently at the time it was written, Christmas was more of a rural thing and social aspects like food and drink and games and "goodwill to all men/festive spirit" type stuff wasn't really a thing, but was kind of "emerging in popular culture" and Dickens captured it in an art imitating life imitating art kind of way (in a similar way to certain albums/films capturing new movements of the time and in turn influencing them going forward). A Christmas Carol kind of being 1843's Never Mind the Bollocks.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2020, 03:03:59 AM »
Scrooge being elderly I think is key, the message that it's never too late to change your life and do good resonates with almost everyone.

Interesting how much the book itself is said to have influenced Christmas traditions as we know them today. Apparently at the time it was written, Christmas was more of a rural thing and social aspects like food and drink and games and "goodwill to all men/festive spirit" type stuff wasn't really a thing, but was kind of "emerging in popular culture" and Dickens captured it in an art imitating life imitating art kind of way (in a similar way to certain albums/films capturing new movements of the time and in turn influencing them going forward). A Christmas Carol kind of being 1843's Never Mind the Bollocks.

That's interesting - actually I think I may have seen a programme about that.

One bit that stood out to me when I first read the unabridged version(as opposed to some children's book version of the story) was the two children Ignorance and Want - and how he makes the point that, of the two, Ignorance is the worst. It's stayed with me ever since yet I still don't know if I agree with it, and I'm fascinated as to why he was so adamant about it. It seems counter-intuitive. I suppose it's like Blair saying his first three priorities for government are Education, Education and Education(the three E's). But, you know, you still need to feed people....

Retinend

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2020, 08:08:10 PM »
Thanks for reminding me of that detail, Menu. Theorizing on the spot, I suppose he was reflecting on how he himself got out of poverty, which was by dint of devouring every book he could get his hands on, and not consigning himself to the low station in life his profligate father left him in (working in his uncle's factory putting labels on shoe polish at the age of twelve). Certainly his own father was "ignorant" in the sense that he didn't know the value of money, and never learned anything about how to handle money, not until the day he died.

According to the story the boy symbolizing "Ignorance" has "doom" "written on his forehead" which implies you are not doomed, poor as you may be, so long as you are not content to be ignorant.

This was also the philosophy of Dickens's contemporary, Samuel Smiles, a philanthropist in the tradition of Cobbett: dedicated, but highly patrician towards those he was helping.

Dickens might be criticized for only wanting to help people who were down on their luck, but extraordinary, like himself. But in those days, the extent of poverty in society was so overwhelming that Dickens's portrayal of intelligent, sympathetic working class people, far less ignorant than the schoolmasters and petit-bourgeoise merchants who earned far more than them, was a breakthrough for working class self-respect, and his works chimed with huge numbers of working class people, who adored Dickens and could relate to his petit-bourgeois background and work ethic - far better than they could relate to the "comedy of manners" genre of novel that had come before him, and which had reflected a mainly upper-middle-class social milieu.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2020, 09:58:30 PM »
Yes, it's peerless. Not sure if it's because we know the story so well but I find it easily his most accessible piece of writing. I wonder if he had any idea that it would still be so resonant nearly 200 years later. Like all Dickens, and people often forget this, it's also very funny. That can often be lost in adaptations for film and TV.

It made me laugh to find that this quick aside from Gonzo in the Muppets version -

Quote
And Tiny Tim - who did not die

- is verbatim from Dickens.

Poirots BigGarlickyCorpse

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2020, 11:24:07 PM »
That's interesting - actually I think I may have seen a programme about that.

One bit that stood out to me when I first read the unabridged version(as opposed to some children's book version of the story) was the two children Ignorance and Want - and how he makes the point that, of the two, Ignorance is the worst. It's stayed with me ever since yet I still don't know if I agree with it, and I'm fascinated as to why he was so adamant about it. It seems counter-intuitive. I suppose it's like Blair saying his first three priorities for government are Education, Education and Education(the three E's). But, you know, you still need to feed people....
In the Jim Carrey version, Ignorance and Want are the ones who repeat Scrooge's words back to him, with Ignorance growing into an adult criminal as he snarls, "Are there no prisons?" Meanwhile Want grows into an adult and appears to try and seduce Scrooge before she's locked in a straitjacket and dragged away screaming:
https://youtu.be/AtWrAjtptUU?t=40
which is an illustrative interpretation, I feel.

Don't forget that "ignorance" doesn't just mean "a lack of education", it can also mean deliberately ignoring information. The Ghost says as much in the story:

Quote from: Christmas Present
“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”

The comfortable and the rich have nothing to fear from Want, but they can be Ignorant too, and in doing so worsen all of society's ills. Something that's sadly true today.


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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2020, 12:04:02 AM »
Thanks for reminding me of that detail, Menu. Theorizing on the spot, I suppose he was reflecting on how he himself got out of poverty, which was by dint of devouring every book he could get his hands on, and not consigning himself to the low station in life his profligate father left him in (working in his uncle's factory putting labels on shoe polish at the age of twelve). Certainly his own father was "ignorant" in the sense that he didn't know the value of money, and never learned anything about how to handle money, not until the day he died.

According to the story the boy symbolizing "Ignorance" has "doom" "written on his forehead" which implies you are not doomed, poor as you may be, so long as you are not content to be ignorant.

This was also the philosophy of Dickens's contemporary, Samuel Smiles, a philanthropist in the tradition of Cobbett: dedicated, but highly patrician towards those he was helping.

Dickens might be criticized for only wanting to help people who were down on their luck, but extraordinary, like himself. But in those days, the extent of poverty in society was so overwhelming that Dickens's portrayal of intelligent, sympathetic working class people, far less ignorant than the schoolmasters and petit-bourgeoise merchants who earned far more than them, was a breakthrough for working class self-respect, and his works chimed with huge numbers of working class people, who adored Dickens and could relate to his petit-bourgeois background and work ethic - far better than they could relate to the "comedy of manners" genre of novel that had come before him, and which had reflected a mainly upper-middle-class social milieu.

Yes that makes a lot more sense now. Cheers for that, Retinend.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2020, 12:05:07 AM »
It made me laugh to find that this quick aside from Gonzo in the Muppets version -

- is verbatim from Dickens.


Haha! Never noticed that.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2020, 12:06:47 AM »
In the Jim Carrey version, Ignorance and Want are the ones who repeat Scrooge's words back to him, with Ignorance growing into an adult criminal as he snarls, "Are there no prisons?" Meanwhile Want grows into an adult and appears to try and seduce Scrooge before she's locked in a straitjacket and dragged away screaming:
https://youtu.be/AtWrAjtptUU?t=40
which is an illustrative interpretation, I feel.

Don't forget that "ignorance" doesn't just mean "a lack of education", it can also mean deliberately ignoring information. The Ghost says as much in the story:

The comfortable and the rich have nothing to fear from Want, but they can be Ignorant too, and in doing so worsen all of society's ills. Something that's sadly true today.

That's interesting thanks. Maybe I should watch that version. Is it worth it? Whenever I think about Dicken's adaptations it's always the fusty old BBC ones.

Retinend

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2020, 09:07:45 AM »
The comfortable and the rich have nothing to fear from Want, but they can be Ignorant too, and in doing so worsen all of society's ills. Something that's sadly true today.

Well said. I almost forgot that this is Ebenezer Scrooge who is learning this lesson: the rich old miser knows nothing of "want", and he is wholly ignorant of how the poor live - even those right under his nose (Cratchit).

And, of course, in a subtextual sense, Scrooge was, spiritually speaking, the "poor man" all along... until he learned to become rich in friendship - in the process of learning the deep extent of his former ignorance.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2020, 09:36:01 AM »
I got paranoid that actually that was "text" and not "subtext", but I was right: at no point does Dickens actually say "and he was a richer man for what he learned", but who could fail to make that inference? I'll quote the wonderful lines:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

THE END

www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm


edit: notice how the new Scrooge regards those who "have the malady" of mocking what is good (the "malady" of a false consciousness). We can all learn from the way that the new Scrooge now meets the bitter laughter  ("humbug!") that once possessed him with a new sort of laughter: the laughter of knowing mankind better. The former is only the pretense of knowledge ("knowing" that everyone around is a fool) and the latter is its cure (knowing that oneself is a fool, too, and loving one's own foolishness).

edit2: if you think twice about it, it's odd to pun on Scrooge's "abstinence from Spirits" ("spirits" also meaning "alcohol"), since we have grown to love the characters of the three Spirits and so the metaphor doesn't sit quite right...  but I guess Dickens's intention was to compare Scrooge's new lease on life to that of a reformed alcoholic, which is - on the other hand - an incredibly apt metaphor, and to those who know alcoholism, one that faces a fantastic story with a concrete reality, and gives hope to them.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2020, 11:32:16 AM by Retinend »

Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2020, 06:17:20 PM »
The "Ignorance" and "Want" children are the scariest bit of this excellent short animated version from 1971
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN6IMZFwY50

I suppose Scrooge's ignorance is the germ of the story. If only the rich, by some supernatural miracle, could be made to understand how things really are.

Poirots BigGarlickyCorpse

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2020, 06:20:56 PM »
That's interesting thanks. Maybe I should watch that version. Is it worth it? Whenever I think about Dicken's adaptations it's always the fusty old BBC ones.
The Disney/Jim Carrey version is fairly decent, yeah. Points for leaving in Ignorance and Want and for Christmas Present being suitably disgusted with Scrooge's former attitude.

The version from 1998(?) with Patrick Stewart is also good, fairly faithful to the book and does a really good job of making Scrooge's change of heart believable. The best attempt to modernise the story (imo) is Scrooged, with Bill Murray as the Scrooge figure, a TV executive named Frank Cross. It's a bit dated now, having come out in the 1980s, but I like it because it's not a straight retelling (there's a Christmas-loving brother instead of a nephew, Bob Cratchit is split into two characters, the Tiny Tim character is mute from PTSD instead of physically disabled). It's different enough that it works for the era in which it's set.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2020, 01:47:36 AM »
I got paranoid that actually that was "text" and not "subtext", but I was right: at no point does Dickens actually say "and he was a richer man for what he learned", but who could fail to make that inference? I'll quote the wonderful lines:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

THE END

www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm


edit: notice how the new Scrooge regards those who "have the malady" of mocking what is good (the "malady" of a false consciousness). We can all learn from the way that the new Scrooge now meets the bitter laughter  ("humbug!") that once possessed him with a new sort of laughter: the laughter of knowing mankind better. The former is only the pretense of knowledge ("knowing" that everyone around is a fool) and the latter is its cure (knowing that oneself is a fool, too, and loving one's own foolishness).

edit2: if you think twice about it, it's odd to pun on Scrooge's "abstinence from Spirits" ("spirits" also meaning "alcohol"), since we have grown to love the characters of the three Spirits and so the metaphor doesn't sit quite right...  but I guess Dickens's intention was to compare Scrooge's new lease on life to that of a reformed alcoholic, which is - on the other hand - an incredibly apt metaphor, and to those who know alcoholism, one that faces a fantastic story with a concrete reality, and gives hope to them.

This is great stuff, Retinend. Enjoyed reading this.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2020, 01:48:11 AM »
The Disney/Jim Carrey version is fairly decent, yeah. Points for leaving in Ignorance and Want and for Christmas Present being suitably disgusted with Scrooge's former attitude.

The version from 1998(?) with Patrick Stewart is also good, fairly faithful to the book and does a really good job of making Scrooge's change of heart believable. The best attempt to modernise the story (imo) is Scrooged, with Bill Murray as the Scrooge figure, a TV executive named Frank Cross. It's a bit dated now, having come out in the 1980s, but I like it because it's not a straight retelling (there's a Christmas-loving brother instead of a nephew, Bob Cratchit is split into two characters, the Tiny Tim character is mute from PTSD instead of physically disabled). It's different enough that it works for the era in which it's set.

Thanks for all this. I have seen Scrooged and enjoyed it. Will try to find the others now

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2020, 01:49:06 AM »
The "Ignorance" and "Want" children are the scariest bit of this excellent short animated version from 1971
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN6IMZFwY50

I suppose Scrooge's ignorance is the germ of the story. If only the rich, by some supernatural miracle, could be made to understand how things really are.

Thank you, I'll take a look.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2020, 09:30:57 AM »
The "Ignorance" and "Want" children are the scariest bit of this excellent short animated version from 1971
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN6IMZFwY50

I suppose Scrooge's ignorance is the germ of the story. If only the rich, by some supernatural miracle, could be made to understand how things really are.

I've mentioned this elsewhere but this is the best adaptation for me.  Visually beautiful and occasionally terrifying.

Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2021, 11:44:50 PM »
I think I mentioned in another thread that it was one of those books that I just assumed I must have read, given how familiar it has become just by cultural osmosis. But I hadn't actually read it until last year, and I'm very glad I did. Dickens was school-poisoned for me, so as much as I could say I was familiar with him through being forced to pretend to read Great Expectations for a year, I'd kind of written him off as another cliché that you're supposed to say is one of the greats.

It was reading A Christmas Carol (which can be done in only a few hours, really) that showed me just how wrong I was - the man was an incredible writer. The story itself is one thing, but I especially appreciated how witty and often laugh-out-loud funny the writing was without sacrificing the earnestness of its message and bleaker passages. He also has this uncanny ability to conjure up vivid images of a place, person or setting without resorting to laborious descriptions of how each beam intersects to fill out the pages, which was common in a lot of Victorian literature I've read and seems to be making a rather unwelcome comeback. One of the best reading experiences I've had of late, along with Treasure Island (I'd similarly written Stevenson off after school ruined Jekyll & Hyde for me).

bgmnts

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2021, 04:33:13 AM »
What I love about parts of it is that Dickens quickly breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly or goes off on a little tangent, only for a quick comment or two though he's not Victor Hugo.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #20 on: January 13, 2021, 09:52:30 AM »
Alastair Sims and Patrick Stewart are my two favs, love the Muppets too.

Tried the George C Scott once but it seemed quite lifeless. Found the Jim Carrey one too action-y. I've got no interest in seeing the main character shrunk to size of ant and forced to surf an icicle. You know he's not going to come to any harm so those minutes are just dead time, animators showing off.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #21 on: January 13, 2021, 10:14:36 AM »
I only properly watched the George C.Scott one over Christmas. Thought it was great. I like the mood and setting of it.
Ended up watching it a couple more times over Christmas.
Havent watched the Patrick Stewart one. I'll keep that one for next Christmas.

Muppet one is a classic. Think the Jim Carrey one was made with 3D in mind. It was a big fad at the time. I own it on 3D but dont have the 3DTV or Bluray player set up downstairs anymore.

The Audiobook by Hugh Grant was free on Audible before Christmas too.

Happy Christmas everyone.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #22 on: January 24, 2021, 02:23:38 PM »
I do wish though that they would release a few films every now and then that aren’t A Christmas Carol.  Even just two films a year that aren’t about Ebenezer Scrooge would make all the difference.

Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #23 on: February 02, 2021, 05:56:22 PM »
Great book- having to read it for school kind of sucked the fun out of it, but it’s got this unflinching approach to depicting poverty and greed which makes it quite timeless. The bleakness of the novel I don’t think gets captured enough in a lot of the adaptations I’ve seen- obviously there’s the Scrooge seeing his grave bit which appears in all of them, but other stuff, like the stealing and selling off of Scrooge’s possessions after he dies, the living conditions of the poorer characters seem to be left out underplayed in favour of some jolly Victorian Christmas antics. Suppose a lot of them are aimed at kids at Christmas, so can’t complain. I haven’t seen the Tom Hardy one, IIRC that was a bit bleaker? I remember the non-stories in the Metro or whatever about the swearing.
My favourite adaptations I’ve seen are the Doctor Who episode, mainly for the future bit and the security for the loan which is suitably grim, and the Dee Dee sketch in the Limmy’s Show Christmas special, which I think sends up the story and Dee Dee’s character perfectly.

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Re: A Christmas Carol
« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2021, 01:03:03 AM »
The bleakness of the novel I don’t think gets captured enough in a lot of the adaptations I’ve seen- obviously there’s the Scrooge seeing his grave bit which appears in all of them, but other stuff, like the stealing and selling off of Scrooge’s possessions after he dies, the living conditions of the poorer characters seem to be left out underplayed in favour of some jolly Victorian Christmas antics. Suppose a lot of them are aimed at kids at Christmas, so can’t complain.

There's a one-man adaptation starring Simon Callow based on Dickens' own public performances that I'm quite fond of. Callow performs the story inside an old rat-infested munitions depot in the bitter cold and visually it's stripped down to the bare bones with minimal costume changes and some very clever art direction which manages to bring to life the bleakness and dark humour of the original work.

I haven’t seen the Tom Hardy one, IIRC that was a bit bleaker? I remember the non-stories in the Metro or whatever about the swearing.

I've not see it either but I remember reading about it at the time and thinking it sounded pretty dire.

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