A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is perhaps the best-known Christmas story other than the one written 2,000 years ago and set in Bethlehem. Generations of readers have enjoyed Dickens’s tale of a Christmas miracle of redemption, and it has been the basis of movies of varying genres, repeats of which fill the television during the holiday season. The book has so much that is remarkable and beautiful about it that it is little wonder that its story has endured, in varying forms of media, through the years.
Dickens fills the book with a cast of unique and believable characters. The majority of these characters are lively and personable, and whether they play a small roll or a large one, they draw the readers in with the magnetism that belongs to a loveable person. The exception to this is the protagonist, Scrooge, who is a greedy old curmudgeon who is only worthy of the reader’s dislike–or perhaps pity, if the reader’s opinion is formed with mercy. Scrooge is the sort of character that readers will love to hate.
In addition to his thoughtful characterization, Dickens artfully describes the backdrop of the character’s lives. He brings the situation of the poor and desperate in mid-nineteenth-century London to the reader’s attention, but he does not dwell on it long enough for the story to suffer, as he is prone to do in other works. Modern readers may enjoy a look back to a simpler time, but one that certainly was not without its problems, and the subtle social commentary presented by the author is still relevant today.
However, all of the beautiful setting and characters in the world cannot make a book great unless the story itself is great. Story is the heart of any good book, and A Christmas Carol shines in this department, as well. This story has heart. It is filled to brimming with touching, uplifting, and even tragic moments, and the author takes the reader through the story at a good pace. The book is primarily about a haunting that Scrooge receives, and the introduction of this supernatural and, in some places, spooky (though never overtly frightening) element must have been quite a novelty to readers in the nineteenth century, since that was a time when ghosts and supernatural happenings didn’t haunt the pages of every genre and half the shelves in a bookstore. The inclusion of this unusual plot element was a stroke of genius on the part of Dickens, and it likely contributed to the enduring popularity of the story since it sets the tale apart from others written about the holiday.
Overall, this is a good book. It is a short book and reads much more quickly than other works by Dickens, but those pages pack in as much story and twice as much good cheer as other longer works. Whether you’re reading this book for the first time or it’s a familiar friend that you pick up each year at Christmas time, it’s sure to deliver on the holiday spirit(s).
Profanity/Language: Two religious exclamations.
Violence/Gore: Character threatens another with a cane; verbal threat to kill someone; report of a death; a few brief scenes with spooky phenomena such as things moving and ghostly or monstrous apparitions; a spooky scene lasting several pages depicting an encounter with a ghost.
Sex/Nudity: Mention of “girls who break boys’ hearts”; characters dance, including holding hands; a character considers how beautiful a girl is; characters discuss their engagement; woman’s lips described as lips that were “meant to be kissed”; characters flirt and “are confidential” behind curtains in the common room at a party.
Mature Subject Matter:
Poverty; loss of a child.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Mention of characters being drunk; children and adults drink wine; brandy is used in pudding; grog (mention); characters drink mulled wine; snuff (mention); a character smokes a pipe, “spirits” used to refer to alcohol.