December 1, 2008

Classics Bookclub: A Christmas Carol

We meet Scrooge as a cruel, self-centered man who sees no point in helping the needy. Many hateful things he says in the first chapter come back to "haunt" him later on as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come usher him through time. The first of the 3 spirits takes him to the past where we see snippets of Scrooge's painful childhood. Even though we saw enough to understand he was slowly being hardened, I definitely was left wanting more (what happened right before and what happened after??). I'm sure Dickens planned it that way!

From scene to scene (shadow to shadow) I kept thinking how afraid he was...of trusting people, of hoping, of enjoying the moment, and of financial stability. These fears had been cultivated as a young child, but as he grew they grew. And so when his affections eventually turned towards a "fair young girl", he had to make a choice: fear or love. Sadly, he rejected love and accepted the fearful path of greed that made him lonely and bitter.

That could have been the end of the story, as scrooge observes with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Instead, his friend Marley intervenes, not wanting Scrooge to suffer the same consequences as he did. (Side note: I think most people have a "if I'm going down, you're coming with me" mentality, so this was a refreshing change). Scrooge must boldly and painfully observe the actions of his life AND the painful repercussions those actions have on those around them. He must also observe how very little everyone thinks of him. I would not want to go through that myself!

But of course Scrooge has no choice. And by taking an honest look at his sin and pain, the fear has nothing else to do but vanish. Sacrificing love swallows him and becomes his overwhelming motivation. He learns that by caring about others and focusing on their needs, his needs get met. Perfect love casts out fear.

Dickens words paint a picture, and here are some of my favorite quotes...

"Old Marley was as dead as a door–nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door–nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin–nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door–nail."

In light of next month's Classic selection, I loved this: "If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot--say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance--literally to astonish his son's weak mind."

"The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the threshold."

"I made it [the chain] link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is it's pattern strange to you?"

"Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!"

"The Spirit must have heard him thinking..."

"There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which showed the passion that had taken root, and where the shadow of the growing tree would fall."

"You fear the world too much..."

"That they [the shadows] are what they are, do not blame me!"

"And that nothing between a baby and a rhinoceros would have astonished him very much."

"...for it is always the person not in the predicament who knows what ought to have been done in it, and would unquestionably have done it too..."

"...for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when it's might Founder was a child himself."

"Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!"

"God bless Us, Every One!"

For more perspective on A Christmas Carol, head over to 5 Minutes for Books.


Jennifer, Snapshot said...

I so loved this story! I'm glad I finally read it.

Alyce said...

I think the story is the perfect picture of how we can let life pass us by without even noticing, while we worry about the little things.

I liked all of your quotes!

ibeeeg said...

I liked all of your quotes. They are good ones. My favorite though is of when Scrooge was laughing...your second to last quote.

Kipi said...

A great review! I love all your quotes, especially the next-to-last one about Scrooge's laughter. What a transformation!

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

The quote about chains reminds me of Beth Moore's Breaking Free. Great review! Makes me want to read the book.

krazzymommy said...

Great comments, and your kids are adorable. :)