A Christmas Carol is one of Charles Dickens’ most adapted works, and for good reason. It is one of the best stories he ever wrote. Dickens has a habit that was common in his era of portraying characters as wholly good or evil. This is still present within this story. After all, it would be difficult to find a single flaw in Tiny Tim’s personality, but where the story is complex is in the character of Scrooge. Despite the fact that he is a miserly, selfish, person it is impossible not to enjoy him. Everything about him is larger than life, from his dark cutting wit to this description of him:
External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down“ handsomely, and Scrooge never did.
Another thing that has to be remembered is that he is still redeemable. At the beginning, he is extremely grouchy about letting his workers off for Christmas. However, in the Victorian era, worker rights didn’t exist yet. He is under no obligation to let his worker go. This shows that he does have a tiny sliver of goodness in him. Whatever he may be, he is worth saving. The Cratchits are the other most important characters because it is their plight to be under Scrooge. If they were not sympathetic, then we wouldn’t care how Scrooge treats them.
A Christmas Carol is commonly adapted into television Christmas specials. This means that a lot of people get tired of it. I have not, simply because it’s still a wonderful story no matter how often it is repeated. I will say that when it is being done by shows that are not doing a direct adaptation I prefer it when they change or twist the story somewhat, such as in Doctor Who or Atop the Fourth Wall. There are two very interesting elements to the continuing adapting of the story for Christmas specials. The first is that it was arguably the first Christmas special ever. In fact, many of the ideas of how Christmas should be were first created by this story. The second aspect that makes it interesting is that unlike many Christmas stories, it is very dark. Beyond the fact that Scrooge’s reasons for being the way he is involve an abusive father, beyond the possible death of Tiny Tim, there is the fact that it is a ghost story, with ideas that would be just as appropriate for a Halloween story. This is part of the story’s strength. All of the dark elements highlight the good elements and the change Scrooge has undergone.
The weakest part of the story, and the part that almost every good adaptation gets rid of, is how Scrooge quickly learns his lesson from the ghosts. In the book, he immediately becomes repentant after meeting the Ghost of Christmas Past. This is way too quick and doesn’t feel real. After all, he’s been a bad person for such a long time and it doesn’t really make sense that he wouldn’t be set in his ways. This is particularly a problem because he is so strong-willed. It makes sense that confronting his own mortality changes him, but not that he is immediately humbled. The story feels strongest when all the ghosts’ cumulative efforts change him, as it is in some adaptations. It’s the rare case where the adaptation is better than the original.
The story has aged so well because of the journey Scrooge takes. It is brilliant how he goes from a cold-hearted selfish miser to a warm and generous character. A particularly good scene is when he pretends to be his old self to Bob Cratchit.
A Christmas Carol is a wonderful story with a well-made character arc and great characters.