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'A Christmas Carol' - A Whimsical Sort of Masque

The Ghostly Christmas Classic by Charles Dickens

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A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

HarperCollins

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On December 17th of 1843, Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol." It was the first of his Christmas books, but it wasn't his last. Though this first work was his most popular, he followed the work with "The Chimes," "The Cricket and the Hearth," and other works.

Hidden Identities

Charles Dickens called his tale "a whimsical sort of masque." It was designed to entertain, but it also succeeded in gathering elements of the horrific and ghostly into an exploration of the metamorphic power of the human spirit. Interweaving dualities with a mythic dimension, Dickens created an unforgettable tale of death, depression, loneliness, near-madness, and the overwhelming power of forgiveness and love.

"A Christmas Carol" is also a story of discovery. A prodigal human being lost his way in the maze of life, and he has to find his way back to himself. The statement of purpose and reconciliation translates even more powerfully to our age of postmodern devastation than it did in the Victorian age, when technology seemed to be tearing the very soul out of the people.

Now, more than a century has passed since the book's publication. But, there's something still there! The story is ageless. It's been adapted to film, audio, television, and the stage. Patrick Stewart has famously acted out his award-winning version of "A Christmas Carol." And, with each retelling, the story gains momentum...

Each voice captures a different facet of Scrooge's voice and personality. His past, present and future are analyzed closely, and then those other selves come to life. All of those past selves are a part of who he has become, even though he would rather forget, hide away behind that cold hard mask: "Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster."

The book acts like a sort of masquerade, with characters wearing elaborate costumes and masks. And, that icy mask can't be truly thawed until he is shocked into a realization of his own mortality. He will die soon enough. And, in that end, he realizes that no one will weep.

In Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen," hot tears melt the boy's lump of a heart. As Dickens writes his resolution, it is the absence of tears that draws Scrooge out of his shriveled shell of existence into the light of Christmas morning. Like the boy, true emotion frees Scrooge: "He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears."

Study Guide

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