Charles Dickens wanted to change hearts and minds about the plight of the poor in Victorian London. But it wasn’t originally a narrative message he was planning to write. Even Dickens changed course on this message himself. He wrote to a friend…
I’m not going to do the political pamphlet. I’m going to put out something at Christmas time. And that’s going to have 20 times the force.
Blog posts, Atlantic monthly essays, Tweets, NYTimes features just can’t make the same impact as a powerful story like A Christmas Carol now the 2nd most popular and recognized Christmas story — following the biblical nativity. To back up these stories, the author lived the life of many of his famous characters — Oliver Twist, David Copperfield. He saw the world of debtors prisons, misers, work houses, charity. We talk about being a “Scrooge” even “Scroogicizing” with a “Bah Humbug” around seasonal celebrations.
We can read or watch the real life contemporary versions of Dickens’ narratives. But what can we do with so much information? I sometimes feel numb after an hour of clicking, scrolling, reading. Another shooting. Another disaster. Another attack. Another post. An analysis — intelligent and less than 1000 words. Would a Scrooge be transformed and take action by reading Tiny Tim’s obituary from a social media link, and its subsequent analysis on poverty in London in a monthly magazine? Or shake his head and expect Tim’s father to show up for work after the burial?
As much as I’ve seen or read passages from A Christmas Carol it’s one of those stories worth the time it takes to pause and revisit again and again — until we get it right. The story makes all that information intended for the head, make its connection to the heart.
Below is a story about Charles Dickens and a visit to the Charles Dickens Museum in London (decked for the holidays) that broadcast on CBS Sunday Morning December 19, 2015.