December 23, 2021

#08-169: A Christmas Carol

Marley's ghost visits Scrooge

Note: The Industrial Revolution has brought many blessings--and not a few problems, including the grinding poverty experienced by people brought together into cities. Enter writers like Charles Dickens, who sought to bring the public's attention to the plight of many.

Get Ready: How do we deal with problems like homelessness in today's cities?

No modern story says as much about the spirit of Christmas--in a non-religious way--as English novelist Charles Dickens's 1843 A Christmas Carol. It tells the story of a mean old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, and his transformation into a kind, loving person.

The story falls neatly into five parts or chapters, called by Dickens "staves."

In the first Stave, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his late partner Jacob Marley on Christmas Eve--the seventh anniversary of Marley's death. Marley wears heavy chains and metal money boxes which he says were forged by greed during his lifetime. He has come to warn Scrooge that his cruelty to the poor and his dislike of Christmas will lead to the same dire consequences if he doesn't change his ways. Scrooge scoffs at his warning.

He also tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three "spirits" and that he must listen to their warnings.

In Stave Two, the Ghost of Christmas Past appears, and shows Scrooge scenes from earlier Christmases when Scrooge was younger, and had not yet become as hardened. His loneliness at boarding school, his happiness as a young clerk working for a kind boss, his fiancée Belle (who finally rejects him because of his love of money), and other scenes bring forth in Scrooge a nostalgia for the man he could have been.

In Stave Three Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present. The spirit takes him out to see people preparing to celebrate this Christmas, including his clerk, Bob Cratchit--whom Scrooge mistreats very badly. He sees Bob's youngest boy, Tiny Tim, who is extremely cheerful despite suffering from a handicap. Scrooge learns that if things continue as they are, Tiny Tim will die.

They then visit Christmas celebrations in other places--a miner's cottage, a lighthouse, and a ship at sea--before dropping in on a party at the home of Fred, Scrooge's nephew. Fred had invited Scrooge to the party, but with a "Bah! Humbug!" the old miser had refused to attend.

At last, the same spirit reveals under his long gown two horrible, emaciated children named Ignorance and Want--the hidden side of these celebrations. When Scrooge expresses concern for them, the spirit mocks his sudden compassion.

In Stave Four, Scrooge meets the third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. On a Christmas Day in the future, Scrooge sees the mourning of Bob Cratchit's family at the death of Tiny Tim.

He also sees that a man deeply disliked by others has died, and no one mourns his passing: they want a lunch at his funeral; they steal his goods; they rejoice that his passing will give them more time to pay their debts to his business.

When Scrooge asks who the unpopular dead man was, the silent spirit points to a neglected grave with a tombstone that reads "Ebenezer Scrooge." Sobbing now, Scrooge pledges to change his ways.

Stave Five opens on Christmas morning of the same year in which the story began. Scrooge has indeed changed: he sends a large turkey to the Cratchits, and spends the afternoon enjoying the company of Fred and his family. The next day, at work, he gives Bob Cratchit a pay raise. He becomes like a second father to Tiny Tim, who grows stronger every day. And "it was always said of him," we are told, "that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge."


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. dire
  2. emaciated
  3. handicap
  4. hardened
  5. miser
  6. mocks
  7. mourns
  8. nostalgia
  9. pledges
  10. transformation
  1. change
  2. extremely thin
  3. physical disability
  4. promises
  5. makes fun of
  6. desire for the past
  7. stingy person
  8. pitiless; unfeeling
  9. feels sad about
  10. terrible; dreadful

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 23, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. b; 3. c; 4. h; 5. g; 6. e; 7. i; 8. f; 9. d; 10. a