“Marley was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that…Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.” It dawns upon me that Charles Dickens could really write. Off he goes, and it’s “Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone. Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!.. secret and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”
We all know, or think we know, everything about Charles Dickens’ short book, A Christmas Carol. We’ve all seen it, several times, in innumerable movies or TV shows. In fact, Pine Bush Public Library has the show in several versions on our DVD shelves. The one I like best is The Muppets Christmas Carol, in the Children’s Department. Charles Dickens, the author and narrator, is played by The Great Gonzo. Rizzo the Rat is played by himself. Unless you are Hamlet, you have to have someone to talk to, so Gonzo and Rizzo talk back and forth and fall into snow drifts. Gonzo, as Charles Dickens, uses the phrase “solitary as an oyster” to describe Ebenezer Scrooge. It occurs to me that he’s right. Nothing is more solitary than an oyster, nor deader than a door-nail. Dickens has hit the (door) nail on the head.
But I decided to get out the actual book, and see what Charles Dickens had to say for himself. We have A Christmas Carol in Children’s Department and upstairs in Adult Services. The book is a little different from the movies.
There’s something that’s bothered me. Any good cook would wonder about it—It takes hours and hours to roast a turkey. Ebenezer Scrooge has seen the three Spirits and been converted, and on Christmas morning he buys a huge turkey and has it sent, anonymously, to Bob Cratchit’s house. Now, in the movies, he sometimes shows up at Cratchit’s house with the bird, and asks himself in and is shown with the family, eating the turkey. But it takes hours to cook a turkey. This “show up at the door and eat” does not work out.
It turns out, in the book, that Scrooge does not go to Bob Cratchit’s house on Christmas Day, but goes to his nephew Fred’s house and has dinner with his own family. Fred is one of the unsung heroes of the tale, going to Scrooge’s counting house and wishing him (and Bob Cratchit) a Merry Christmas. When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge the house of mourning that the Cratchit house has become, because of the death of Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit tells his family that he had seen Mr. Fred, who had said, he was heartily sorry for them, and if he, (Mr. Fred) could be of any service to them, Bob Cratchit was to come to him and ask. And this wasn’t empty sentiment. Mr. Fred really meant it.
In the book, Scrooge waits for Bob Cratchit to come to work on December 26. First he plays at being his old, heartless self, and then changes his tune and shows the new, improved Scrooge. He will raise Cratchit’s salary and find a good doctor for Tiny Tim.
“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more, and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.” Charles Dickens could really write. “God bless us, Every One,” said Tiny Tim.