Victorians! discussion

A Christmas Carol
This topic is about A Christmas Carol
34 views
Archived Group Reads 2018 > A Christmas Carol: Week 1 - Stave 1

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Cindy, Moderator (new) - added it

Cindy Newton | 423 comments Mod
Welcome, and Merry Victorian Christmas, everyone! Is there any more festive way to celebrate this season than with this beloved classic? I'm so excited to experience this with the group! Is there anyone who doesn't already know the bones of this story, even if you haven't ever read this before? There are SO many movie versions out there. We will, of course, be discussing and comparing these at the end of the book, which will be so much fun! An excuse to sit and watch multiple versions (as if I needed one!) I have to admit, though, that as I am reading, George C. Scott's voice is echoing in my head, giving life to Scrooge's bitter words. The anguished cries of Marley's ghost ring so true, the fine actor (whose name I don't know) who plays him having uttered them so many times to me. I can't wait!

The book begins with Dickens asserting insistently that Marley is dead. Once this point has been well-established, we meet Scrooge, "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!" (46). The imagery Dickens employs in this description is vivid and bone-chilling. Feel free to share your favorite part!

Then we meet Fred, the antithesis of his uncle. Ruddy, handsome, friendly, and good-spirited, he comes to beg his uncle to join him and his wife for Christmas dinner. Scrooge refuses, being as rude and obnoxious as possible in the process. Undaunted, Fred leaves, but not before getting Bob Cratchit in trouble. Do you find it interesting that we are not given Bob Cratchit's name at this point? He is only referred to as "the clerk." What might have been Dickens' purpose in doing this?

Having rid himself of his troublesome, encroaching nephew, Scrooge is then besieged by gentlemen daring to importune him for donations for the poor. Scrooge begrudges the money he had to spend on his own food! The audacity of these men to think he would give his hard-earned money to idlers who couldn't be bothered to work! After Scrooge satisfies himself that the poor still have the luxuries of the workhouses and the prisons to avail themselves of, he speedily sends the gentlemen on their way.

As Scrooge is entering his house (which is not his--he merely rents rooms), we get the first evidence that this is not going to be a normal evening. For a brief moment, Scrooge finds himself staring at Marley's face imprinted on his door knocker. It's gone in a blink, but it's enough to unsettle Scrooge. He's even more unsettled when Marley shows up in person a short while after that! This scene is so satisfying (to me, anyway)! To see Scrooge shaken out of his mantle of complacency, that selfish cocoon he is in where he takes virtually no notice of anyone else's existence and dismisses them as quickly as possible from his presence, is rather enjoyable. He is speedily brought to the realization that he can't dismiss Marley's presence as easily as he would like. He ends up on his knees in front of the apparition, trembling in terror.

Marley's ghost reveals that his mission there is not to visit harm on Scrooge but is actually to help him. Marley wants to save Scrooge from himself. Do you think Dickens' message is already beginning to make a strong statement at this early stage in the story? Aside from Marley's own pathetic story, we are given the view from the window as he departs of the tortured spirits, roaming the streets, desperately trying to assist those below them but unable to do so.

Marley informs Scrooge that he will be visited by three more spirits, a prospect that Scrooge views with a marked lack of enthusiasm. He clearly needs some more paranormal intervention; one ghost would probably be enough to scare most of us into shape, but Scrooge seems to be made of sterner stuff. He isn't quite able to bring himself to say "Humbug!" again, but he tries. He also goes immediately to sleep, something I don't think I would be able to do after an encounter with a ghost in my bedroom!

So what are your thoughts on this first part? Is this your first encounter with this story, or are you revisiting and an old and beloved friend? Here are some questions I thought of that we might like to discuss. Please feel free to answer any or all of them, or none! Share your thoughts and impressions, and/or your favorite parts so far.

1. Why does Dickens make such a production about announcing Marley's death? Why does it seem SO important that this fact is established?
2. Not to be the Grinch, but do you believe that Fred's desire to befriend his uncle is completely disinterested? Do you think he would be as persistent in his pursuit if Scrooge were an impoverished old man? Would you continue to reach out to someone who treated you like that?
3. Why do you think Scrooge's parsimony includes self-deprivation? A hateful, cynical person would, predictably, not want to help anyone else, but why live like a hobo himself? Why not have a comfortable house with servants to wait on him, delicious foods to eat, roaring fires to keep him warm, all so he can be comfortable while he contemplates the deprivations of others?

One of the parts I particularly liked (out of many) was when Fred was able to confound Scrooge. When Scrooge growls at his nephew, "What right have you to be merry? what reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough!" Fred promptly replies, "What right have you to be dismal? what reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough!" (47). This is so true that Scrooge has no answer to give, and is forced to fall back on his standard, "Bah, humbug." Way to go, Fred!


message 2: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Renee M | 1974 comments Mod
One of my very first versions of this story was Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. Which I mention here because the scene with Marley in the knocker was absolutely terrifying. It’s not. But it was to my pint-sized self.

I’m a fan of nephew Fred. I think if Scrooge were destitute, Fred would demand he live with them. The money gives Ebenezer the independence to be stuck in his rut.

As to Ebenezer’s life choices... maybe a touch of OCD? It’s all about control.


Brittany (Lady Red) (ladyred19) | 152 comments That’s interesting Renee. It’s very possible, although he himself probably wouldn’t have known it.


message 4: by Cindy, Moderator (last edited Dec 02, 2018 11:38AM) (new) - added it

Cindy Newton | 423 comments Mod
Renee wrote: "I’m a fan of nephew Fred. I think if Scrooge were destitute, Fred would demand he live with them. The money gives Ebenezer the independence to be stuck in his rut. ..."

I like to think that Fred would still reach out to his uncle. I just feel a desire to play devil's advocate from time to time! And Dickens was not above creating such characters--I'm reading Nicholas Nickleby right now, and the Kenwigs are beside themselves when their beloved, wealthy Uncle Lillyvicks marries a young woman late in life. They see their inheritance going to this scheming hussy! I think Dickens is presenting a purer version of the human spirit in this book, though. So, Renee, like Mrs. Cratchit, I'll agree with you for your sake and for the Day's sake! :)


message 5: by Cindy, Moderator (new) - added it

Cindy Newton | 423 comments Mod
Renee wrote: "As to Ebenezer’s life choices... maybe a touch of OCD? It’s all about control. ..."

Good point! I kind of thought of it as a form of self-loathing (also unconscious, Brittany). Since he has not always been this way, maybe there is some small part of him, that part that the ghost believes is still there and is trying to reach, that despises what he has become and believes that he doesn't deserve anything nice or comfortable. He feels he deserves the misery he daily inflicts upon himself through deprivation and discomfort. Just a theory!


message 6: by Kerstin, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerstin | 623 comments Mod
Scrooge is very much turned into himself. His world circles only around work and making money, he gives literally nothing of himself, the few charities he supports serve to keep the plebs in its place, not to make their lives better.

Having a nice home would not only cost money, but it would be an expression of himself, and he can't give even this much. Rather, he rents some shabby rooms that are cold. The cold mirroring his acerbic nature. He sustains his body with gruel and shuns the pleasure of a fine meal in the company of his nephew. Dickens places him in complete isolation from normal human interaction and at the same time shows Ebenezer's true poverty despite his monetary riches.


Nina Clare | 135 comments Cindy wrote: "Welcome, and Merry Victorian Christmas, everyone! Is there any more festive way to celebrate this season than with this beloved classic? I'm so excited to experience this with the group! Is there a..."

I can't believe I haven't read this before, it must be because I don't often do ghosts, vampires, or zombies! The thud of the cellar door and the rattling of chains up the stairs was very creepy, not to mention Marley unhinging his jaw!! and I can't believe Scrooge just went straight to sleep after his encounter! But overall it's a fun read, diving straight into the story without any long setup, yet creating such vivid settings and characters in the short space of one chapter - such is the Genius of Dickens! Can't wait to read the rest.


message 8: by Kerstin, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerstin | 623 comments Mod
"Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good St. Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit's nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose."

Who is St. Dunstan, and what is this about nipping noses, I wondered...?

This is one of those stories that proves saints are never boring :)

St. Dunstan (ca. 910 - 988 AD) was archbishop of Canterbury and very much venerated in the Anglo-Saxon Church. He was a very pious man and one of the legends goes that he was tempted by the devil appearing as a woman. He took hot blacksmith's tongs and and pinched the nose of the lady, to which "she" howled hellishly, and the fiend didn't bother him again.

http://catholicsaints.info/golden-leg...

Bio:
http://catholicsaints.info/saint-duns...


message 9: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Renee M | 1974 comments Mod
Ha! Good thing it wasn’t really a lady.


message 10: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 827 comments Mod
I cannot remember the number of times I've read this book but this is the second read after joining GR. Normally I just read it in one go, but thought to expand my read this time; to give more time for me to "digest" it.


message 11: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 827 comments Mod
Cindy wrote: "Not to be the Grinch, but do you believe that Fred's desire to befriend his uncle is completely disinterested? Do you think he would be as persistent in his pursuit if Scrooge were an impoverished old man? Would you continue to reach out to someone who treated you like that?..."

I think Fred's desire to entertain his uncle on Christmas day springs out from his heart. He doesn't seem interested in his money for he is rather happy in his home though poor. He pities his uncle who he sees unhappy though rich.


Brittany (Lady Red) (ladyred19) | 152 comments There’s a Braddon novel in which the villain has similar “feminine “ hands, I wonder if it’s a trope of the time.


Brittany (Lady Red) (ladyred19) | 152 comments Sorry wrong thread, I meant for that to go in East Lynne


message 14: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Renee M | 1974 comments Mod
Lol. Isn’t it great when there’s two such interesting books going? :D


message 16: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 827 comments Mod
Brittany wrote: "There’s a Braddon novel in which the villain has similar “feminine “ hands, I wonder if it’s a trope of the time."

I would like to know the name of the novel, Brittany. :)


Laurene | 158 comments I have read A Christmas Carol so many times but this time I am slowing down. On my previous reads, I did not pay attention to the detailed setting which Dickens describes so perfectly. "The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale."


Brittany (Lady Red) (ladyred19) | 152 comments It’s the Trail of the Serpent. I still haven’t figured out how to link on here, sorry.


Rosemarie | 213 comments Brittany, you can only create a link by accessing goodreads via the internet. You can't do it using the app. (I speak from experience. 😉)
You click on "add book" and type in the title of the book you are looking for.


message 21: by Suki (new) - rated it 5 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 25 comments These are intetesting questions, Cindy.

1. Why does Dickens make such a production about announcing Marley's death? Why does it seem SO important that this fact is established?

I think Dickens places such emphasis on Marley's being dead to make it very clear that this is a ghost story, and he is leaving no room for it to be interpreted in any other way.

2. Not to be the Grinch, but do you believe that Fred's desire to befriend his uncle is completely disinterested? Do you think he would be as persistent in his pursuit if Scrooge were an impoverished old man? Would you continue to reach out to someone who treated you like that?

I personally wouldn't keep reaching out to someone who was always rude and irritable, but I think Fred has a very strong sense of family. I don't think that the story leaves room for Fred to have an ulterior motive-- Scrooge is so angry and bitter that the story balance requires the good people to be very good and pure of heart.

3. Why do you think Scrooge's parsimony includes self-deprivation? A hateful, cynical person would, predictably, not want to help anyone else, but why live like a hobo himself? Why not have a comfortable house with servants to wait on him, delicious foods to eat, roaring fires to keep him warm, all so he can be comfortable while he contemplates the deprivations of others?

There have been a surprising number of stories in the news over the years of impoverished people passing away, and people clearing out their effects finding millions of dollars squirreled away in the mattress or hidden elsewhere. I don't know what causes this-- maybe it is a form of the hoarding compulsion. I think in Scrooge's case, self-loathing is at the root of it. He hates himself, and, by extension, everyone else.


back to top