I know that Charles Dickens is considered by many to be one of the greatest writers of the nineteenth century, but I found this book extremely difficult to get through. It consists of A Christmas Carol, as well as three shorter Christmas-themed stories: A Christmas Tree, A Christmas Dinner, and A Good-Humored Christmas. The book also contains a lengthy introduction by Frederick Busch, as well as a lengthy after-word by Gerald Charles Dickens, Charles Dickens’ great-great-grandson. I personally never saw the point in introductions and after-words, especially since they are, in this case, about as long as the short stories themselves.
A Christmas Carol is perhaps the best of the four works, as well as the longest. I’m not particularly fond of Dickens’ writing style; he does not use much descriptive language or imagery, and the only reason why I can imagine the story’s setting is because I saw the Disney version of the story, the one with Mickey, Goofy, etc. For the most part, Dickens does nothing but describe what people do. It isn’t just his main characters that he describes; he describes the actions of random passers-by as well. Dickens also doesn’t develop his characters very well. It seems odd to say so, but in the Disney version of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge and his miserly lifestyle is described in much more depth. The viewer sees several ways in which Scrooge’s selfish actions affect not only his own life, but the lives of those around him as well. He hoards and spends hours counting money and makes life miserable for his poor clerk. In the novel version, however, Scrooge came off as nothing more than a grumpy old man. He didn’t seem particularly selfish in the least. Also, Dickens takes his sweet time saying or revealing anything. For example, in the chapter where Scrooge meets the Ghost Of Christmas Future, it takes Scrooge exactly seventeen pages to realize that he is the dead man whose death is being either celebrated or ignored. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem, except that the entire story is only about one-hundred pages, and not much happens, plot-wise. So when it takes about one-fifth of the story to reveal a minor plot point, the reading can become rather dull. Ignoring all other interpretations of the story, and focusing solely on Dickens’ original novel, I would say that he did such a poor job of characterizing Scrooge that, in the end, I felt that his previous actions did not really warrant the coming of the Spirits at all anyway. However, the conclusion to this story was rather good, as the effects that the traumatic experiences had on Scrooge were well illustrated. I do wish that there had been more mention of Tiny Tim in the written version; he plays a large part in the aforementioned Disney version, and it is always touching when a child warms the cold heart of a hardened old cynic.
The second story, and the first of the three short stories, titled "A Christmas Tree", was equally unsatisfying. It is merely twenty-one pages of Dickens’ description of a Christmas tree that he remembered from his childhood. This would not have been so bad, if Dickens had not tried to make the story into a narrative, and drift off on a tangent about the many instances in which people he knew were haunted by ghosts, only to die shortly afterward.
The third story, and the second of the three short stories, titled “A Christmas Dinner”, is a narrative about people becoming excited over a Christmas dinner complete with turkey, pudding, and the like. I read this one only a day or so ago, and cannot remember a single detail of it. That statement alone should tell you everything that you need to know about this piece.
The fourth story, and the third of the three short stories, titled “A Good-Humored Christmas”, is the story that I stopped after reading about one-quarter of the way through it. There are at least five characters, who have been given names or titles, yet I cannot remember who a single one is, because they are so poorly developed. These men are traveling somewhere (apparently to a Christmas wedding, according to the book’s back cover), but that has not been revealed yet, as far as I’m concerned. All that I’ve gotten out of this story is a bunch of oddly-named men riding around with horses. People have conversations with other random people, leave, and do the same thing again. There isn’t much of a coherent plot, and I can’t bring myself to finish the story. I will eventually force myself to do so eventually, after I tend to the other unread titles on my shelf.
Overall, I am very disappointed in Charles Dickens’ style of writing. He uses little imagery and does a poor job of developing his characters or bringing any of them to life. The character given the most attention and personality was Scrooge, and even he seemed like nothing more than a mere cynic. He didn’t even seem to really deserve being tossed about through time by three Spirits who nearly gave the old man a heart attack. In the end, I found Dickens’ stories very dull and difficult to read through. On the book’s back cover, Dickens’ Christmas stories are described as “nostalgic”, though all they did was make me want to watch the Mickey Mouse version again. On a final note, I would also like to tell the people that write these twenty-page-long introductions and after-words that if they aren’t going to write a novel of their own, they need to stop wasting pages in everyone else’s. Why do I need you to summarize for me and tell me how great Charles Dickens’ stories are? Am I not about to read them for myself and find out?
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A 224-page book containing Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", as well as three other Christmas stories.