Friday, May 3, 2013

The Magic of a Masterpiece

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is magical in a dark fashion. It's been remade many times because the original has a sparkling touch of creepiness that makes it timeless. I enjoy Mickey's Christmas Carol thoroughly, as well as other remakes, but they do not have the same chill of the original. I’ve been trying to figure out what that chilling element is and employ it in some of my stories. So far, I haven’t been too successful because Dickens was such a master storyteller. However, I’ve narrowed a few things down.

I'm not very religious, but I do prefer Christmas over Halloween, and elements in this tale are exactly why. Maybe, I shouldn't say Christmas either--maybe, I should say Winter Solstice. There is interesting dichotomy with holidays at that time of year. There’s a mix between light and darkness, as well as good and evil. A Christmas Carol portrays exactly those elements. Scrooge represents the rich, evil miser and the goodness of light overcomes the veil over him.

It's obvious Scrooge is consumed by evil while his nephew, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim portray the goodness of humanity. However, the ghosts illustrate physical incarnations of the dichotomy of light and darkness. These creatures are even more mysterious because they were not humans yet they are not angels or demons. They’re pushing Scrooge to overcome his shortcomings; however, they themselves cannot be considered good, especially not the ghost of Christmas future who is basically the incarnation of death. Is the incarnation of death good, evil or just a mysterious force doing its job? Either way, the angel of death has become a very fascinating icon, as have the ghosts in this tale.

I also want to mention when Scrooge looks out his window and sees tortured souls screaming in the streets, I shuttered a little. He's viewing hell, and juxtaposing a view of hell with the tranquility expected on Christmas Eve is quite unsettling, yet very entertaining. However, the ending is happy as Scrooge overcomes his faults. The true meaning of the season shines through.

There's something else about the story I want to touch upon. The Christmas Eve in this story contains a certain magic that makes it similar to the props that push plot along in other stories. Consider the wardrobe in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It's full of magic and wonder, which is similar to Dickons’ idea of Christmas Eve. Both fill the reader with a sense that anything is possible.

Because of the real contrast of night and day--a bit of magic experienced by everyone--Christmas, Winter Solstice, and all the holidays around that time of year are possessed with a certain sense of wonder brought on by the natural magic of the earth’s orbit. Maybe these holidays are not haunted with the same specters as Halloween, but they are arguably haunted with mystery. I think I love A Christmas Carol because it portrays that marvelous yet terrifying charm contained in the essence of winter nights and winter holidays.


  1. Good post. I suspect the contrast of light and dark—as well as the idea of redemption—is part of what attracts me to this story. Have you seen the 1951 movie, “Scrooge” with Alastair Sim? Of all the film versions, it is the closest to the book and retains the “dark” aspect of the story. (I still love Mr. Magoo the best, but will admit the 1951 movie is the best adaptation.)

  2. I don't think I ever spent time thinking about the spirits the way you did. Which is cool. I appreciate the occasion to rethink a classic with additional insight and you presented that well in this post.

  3. You bring up a interesting point about Christmas and Halloween. Dickens did a great job of using a main element of horror literature--making the protagonist face the darkness to appreciate the good in his life--as a way to expound the great ideas and themes of the Christmas season. Yet, when ever Halloween is used as a setting, it's always the same thing. I want to see a horror story that does for Halloween what Dickens did for Christmas.