Dickensian

“Marley was dead, to begin with.”

The day I visited Dickens’ house, it snowed.  I couldn’t have asked for more.  It was a sparse snow, I was wearing wool and freezing my ass off, and I had pleasant company, cheerfully tolerating my quest.  Finally, I got to open the banker-green door, which Mr. Dickens himself had opened.

Dickens was a social activist, and prolific like somebody who needed the money.  (He did.)  There are a lot of his novels I can’t stand– Great Expectations, for one.  But I love David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, and enjoyed Hard Times twice during college.  At his house in London, I saw a door knocker that may have been the knocker described in his most famous story (“Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change-not a knocker, but Marley’s face”).  I love Dickens because he fought for the poor, and because he helped birth the novel, which is possibly my favorite art form.  A novel is almost as good as being someone else.

I have seen our local production of A Christmas Carol so many times that I think I could perform it myself.  And last year, I ended up at the Silver Dollar City production of the story, which is an amalgamation of Dickens and “Ave Maria” and the ghost portrayals from various films, wrapped up with skill and schmaltz.  Actors fly, and one set piece has children trapped in a snow globe, reminding me of that scary scene in “The Abyss” where someone has to breathe the pink liquid in the helmet.  I’m sure Dickens would love it.

There are tons of film adaptations of the story, and I always think it’s funny when people remark that they are “scary.”  Possibly too scary for children.  You think?  “Ignorance and want”?  We won’t even let children now know what a workhouse is.  And then the man sees his own grave.  He confronts his mortality.  How could that not be scary?   For a story based on a Christian holiday, it’s odd that there is nothing particularly Christian about the story.  There is no heaven or hell in A Christmas Carol.  The story requires no faith or dogma.  There isn’t even a God.  There is just Death, and you being lost and gone once he’s gotten you, wishing you had been more cheerful, more aware, and less uptight, while you had the chance.

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