COLUMN: Dickens, Scrooge and the message of A Christmas Carol

Imagining a meeting between the author and the main character of a well-loved story, 175 years later

The winter street scenes around British Columbia, with colourful lights and festive displays, are far removed from the wintery images of 19th-century London depicted in Charles Dickens’s novella, A Christmas Carol.

The novella was first published 175 years ago, on Dec. 19, 1843, and since that time it has never been out of print.

The story, set on a Christmas Eve night, is well-known as Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser, is visited by three ghosts during the night. In the morning, he discovers what it means to celebrate Christmas.

In the story, Christmas is downplayed, but here it is the biggest celebration of the year and from late November until early January, the signs of the season are everywhere.

RELATED: Mega’ holiday home displays using up more power: report

Imagine if Dickens and Scrooge could visit us here this year and observe the Christmas season here.

* * *

From their table at the rear of the coffee shop, the two men, now retired, sipped their tea in the late afternoon.

For a time, neither man spoke. Finally the slender man broke the silence. “Each year I dread this season a little more,” he said.

“Why, Ebenezer?” Charles Dickens asked. “At the end of our story, you promised to observe this season.”

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Scrooge recited the lines found near the end of the novella. “The story is told every year. People read the book, or see movies or stage plays.”

“Please, Ebenezer,” Charles Dickens replied. “Some of the movies and stage adaptations have been quite accurate.”

“Yes, that’s true. But there’s also the animated Disney version and the Flintstones version. The Muppets took a turn at it. And let’s not forget those Canadian Tire commercials in the 1980s and 1990s. Give like Santa and save like Scrooge.”

Dickens sipped his tea. “I had never intended for you to become an advertising gimmick. I am sorry,” he said. “Still, the story and its message are known.”

“Are they really?” Scrooge asked. “Have you read the news? Controversy over the lyrics of Baby, It’s Cold Outside made the headlines. There’s outrage because a city councillor in Victoria, B.C. wants to remove Christmas displays. And somehow the song Santa Baby, the movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas all generated some anger.”

RELATED: ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ yanked from some Canadian radio stations

RELATED: If you’re going to pull Baby It’s Cold Outside, pull these songs too, B.C. man writes

RELATED: B.C. city considers scrapping funds for Christmas decorations

“I suppose such things are to be expected when Christmas is such a big celebration,” Dickens said with a sigh.

“And here,” Scrooge flipped through the pages of a newspaper. “Pictures of gift drives and donations to food banks.”

“Much better than in our day,” Dickens says to Scrooge.

“If these people understood and believed your message, then they would show generosity all through the year, not just in December.”

Scrooge turned the page and pointed to another story. “The richest in this province have a net worth nearly 6,000 times that of the median middle-income homes,” he said. Then, pointing to another story, added, “There are almost 8,000 homeless people in British Columbia. How can a society with such inequalities claim to honour Christmas?”

RELATED: Nearly 8,000 homeless in B.C., first province-wide count reveals

RELATED: B.C. billionaires worth 5,845 times average middle-income household

“Yes I know,” Dickens said. “Still, I choose to find hope in the fact that there are food banks and gift drives. There is a spirit of charity. And perhaps in future, that spirit will show itself throughout the year. I shall never stop hoping.”

Their tea finished, the two men slowly stood up, put on their coats and hats and left the coffee shop. The streets were dark now, illuminated by street lamps and Christmas lights.

“Shall we meet here again next year, my friend?” Dickens asked.

Scrooge nodded. “Of course, Charles. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you too,” Dickens said.

* * *

As the two men disappear into the darkness, I am left wondering how I, like Scrooge, can “honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Editorial: Bus connection to ferry terminals good next step

In fact, it’s something we think is long overdue.

Cowichan Capitals add two points to lead over Clippers

Tensions between rivals come to a head in third period

Work has started on Malahat Skywalk, expected completion in 2021

$15-million project expected to open in spring, 2021

Baby Bear statue returned to be reunited with Mama and Papa

Culprit left it near the Henry Road roundabout in Chemainus with a note attached

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Off-duty Nanaimo Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

Nanaimo man hit with pole in dispute over off-leash dog

RCMP say no charges recommended at this time

Was there a tornado on Vancouver Island Monday?

Suspected phone app glitch gives eerie warning

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Bystander who tried to help dog being attacked not liable for its death: B.C. tribunal

Owner of dog killed tried to get $5,000 in damages from man who tried to save it

Most Read