Before attending this class, I had never once read A Christmas Carol. Not only that, but I had never even seen any kind of adaptation. I knew the story. I knew the symbolic ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. And I knew the story about the redeemable Scrooge. After digesting Charles Dickens’ version, I was curious and decided to watch a few adaptations to see the differences. As expected Charles Dickens’ version was more grim, more relevant to the issues surrounding Victorian Era England.
I was introduced to Charles Dickens through Oliver Twist. Much of the themes in the orphan boy’s tale are very similar to A Christmas Carol. With constant references to the current economic situation – the massive poverty line plaguing many individuals – the two stories fit thematically together. A Christmas Carol uses the symbol of time though to great effect. Past is ambiguous in both imagery and reality. Perception changes. And as the story is about Scrooge needing to change that perception in order to secure his soul, it is very telling that the Ghost of Christmas Past is the one without a solid form. The Ghosts of Christmas Present and Future are arguably more stable in their presence. It raises an interesting question about why. If the theme of the story relates to Scrooge redeeming himself internally, then why would the past be the most ambiguous portion? The theory is that Scrooge has glued himself into a particular mindset, and in order to change the outcome of the future the past has to be put into perspective. As the ghosts are set in chronological order, Scrooge has to rearrange those portions of his time span in order to obtain that.
However, compared to other adaptations like Frankenstein, which heavily and liberally stray from the original source material, A Christmas Carol’s many adaptations seem – generally speaking of course – to stick closer. Frankenstein elicits fear and can be chalked up to a thriller. So why does A Christmas Carol escape that treatment. It certainly has the elements of a thriller or something more akin to horror – ghosts of monstrous forms coming in the midst of the night to give a foreboding warning. Instead these adaptations are more didactic and geared towards children, since the ending is more optimistic and spirited than the ending of Frankenstein
So while A Christmas Carol is darker than its current adaptations, the themes are present in both for the most part. Both written story and movies show that it is possible for a man as greedy and scrupulous as Scrooge to right his wrongs.