One forgets, upon opening Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, that Scrooge is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve. The first is his partner, Marley, who tells him, “I wear the chain I forged in life…I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?” Immediately we are confronted with the image of bearing what we have ourselves created, a string of good deeds or bad all connected and resting round our bodies.
This is what I loved most about A Christmas Carol. Not the wonderful descriptions of Victorian England, which indeed feel more like Christmas to me than any other setting, but the way Dickens’ story caused me to reflect on my own life.
How funny, in a terrible way, that when Scrooge’s nephew leads a Game called Yes and No, he was “thinking of an animal, a life animal, rather a disagreeable animal, a savage animal, an animal that growled and grunted sometimes, and talked sometimes and lived in London, and walked about the streets, and wasn’t made a show of, and wasn’t led by anybody, and didn’t live in a menagerie and was never killed in a market, and was not a horse, or an ass, or a cow, or a bull, or a tiger, or a dog, or a pig, or a cat, or a bear.” And so with wondering what kind of chain I have created in my life, I’m now wondering what kind of animal I would be…
The revelation of all the woe that one has consciously, or unconsciously, wrought begs only one question: “Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life?” Because the hope of Christmas brings a new beginning, a new year in which to try to set things right.
That is what I love most about this story, for it is a story of redemption. Once shown his evil ways, Scrooge wakes on Christmas Day, a bright, sunny, cheerful morning with a bright, sunny, cheerful heart. He is determined to make up for what he had failed to do in his stinginess and depravity; once shown the error of his ways, he now begins anew thus negating everything the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has revealed.