Given the number of movies that have been made based on this Dickens classic, readers might think they know all there is to know of this tale without actually reading the original story.
One might also think there is little relevance or merit for the present in a tale written in 1843 England. One would be wrong on both counts.
While some of the choicest lines from the story have been faithfully reproduced and often repeated, the richness of Dickens’ prose requires reading. This wonderful description of Scrooge, for example: “Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint ... secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”
Contrast this with Scrooge’s transformation after his night of ghostly encounters with Christmases past, present and future: “I’m as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.”
Dickens’ England was not unlike Scrooge himself before his salvation. Social injustice was rampant. The impoverished working classes lived and worked in wretched conditions. Children labored alongside adults, and there were, indeed, prisons and workhouses for the poor where the treadmill was a form of punishment. Dickens’ writing was instrumental in inspiring the reformations implemented during the Victorian Era. His apparitions touched the conscience of the country as well as of Scrooge.
In his pursuit of wealth, Scrooge becomes small and mean and loses everything else dear to him. Respected in business, he is an object of scorn among those less fortunate. His fiancée, as she is leaving him, says “I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrossed you.”
When he is able to really see and understand the sufferings of others he is free of the chain he has been forging all his life.