THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS: The Legacy Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Leaves Behind in Martin Brest’s “Scent of a Woman”
The future is unknown until we create it ourselves. In life we experience a surplus of situations that are out of our control. We do not get to choose which disease takes over our body, which one of our best friends dies next, or if our parents are going to get a divorce. These are situational circumstances that are inevitable so to speak. The irony in this is that our reactions are what affects our futures the most. Our attitudes will be direct reflections of our futures. Through Charles Dickens’ classic novel, A Christmas Carol, and Martin Brest’s infatuating movie, Scent of a Woman, we are able to identify a loose comparison between the two main characters that cement the legacy that Charles Dickens left behind with Ebenezer Scrooge. In the beginning of Fred Guida’s A Christmas Carol and Its Adaptations, he mentions the factual comment that when calling someone an “Old Scrooge” that “it is doubtful that more than one person in ten thousand will not instantly comprehend your meaning” and that you would have to look even further “to find someone unfamiliar with at least the basic framework and moral.” As a result of the influential fictional character of Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge and the loose comparison of Brest’s Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, we are cautioned to remind ourselves of the joy we once experienced and to know it still exists despite any negative beliefs.
Ebenezer Scrooge and Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade experience, like majority of people in this world, a situational circumstance that they both let dictate the rest of their lives. For Scrooge, his beloved sister dies abruptly leaving his charismatic personality to quickly fade with her. While Colonel does not lose an influential person close to him, he does lose one of the most valuable senses: eyesight. Both men chronically feel lost and alone which eventually leads to greater distances between those they once cared for despite their relatives’ valiant efforts. For instance, Scrooge’s nephew visits him they day before Christmas gleefully inviting him to his family’s annual Christmas dinner to which he quickly declines by skeptically questioning how one can be “merry” while simultaneously being “poor” (Dickens, Charles 1378). Scrooge claims to be surrounded by “a world of fools,” and Colonel can attest as he impatiently introduces his niece’s “tots” as “twits” to Charlie Simms, his weekend-long aide (1378 Dickens, Scent of a Woman). As the two men continue to distance themselves they inherit characteristics of greed, anger, and annoyance. They are eager to snap and quick to judge. It is not until they are forced to face the reality that the world still spins regardless of their personal setbacks.
Sometimes it feels effortless closing ourselves off from others and even easier ignoring their advice, but it is when those people refuse to see someone they care about selfishly suffer for the rest of their lives that change is made. Scrooge and Colonel’s mindsets became so self-absorbed that they became blind, literally for Colonel, to the considerate actions of those around them. The two have their own personalized epiphanies that undoubtedly result in similar endings: redemption.
Scrooge experiences a multitude of guidance from the Spirits but even more specifically when witnessing the joy that Tiny Tim possesses despite his unfortunate situations of being debilitated and impoverished. He additionally comes to the harsh realization that “all [his] other hopes have merged into the hope of beyond the chance of its sordid reproach” as his “nobler aspirations [fell] off one by one” until it consumed him (Dickens 1396). By observing the Spirits of Christmas Present, Past, and Future, Scrooge encounters a type of self-discovery he had not yet known existed until the very moment it occurred. Scrooge had not recently cared how he was perceived to others until he anonymously witnesses the various perspectives of those he had positively and negatively influenced and continues to in life and their miserly opinions of him. He realizes that his actions were consequently affecting people he encounters in everyday life as well as those he had not seen in years. “His heart and soul were in the scene” as “he corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything” and concluded that his current-self was not his best one and certainly not what he wants to be remembered by.
In comparison, Charlie Simms, a meager young boy, exemplifies an extraordinary account of tough love towards his new friend. Charlie attends a local high school funded solely by scholarships and is in search of a weekend job for the Thanksgiving holiday since he cannot afford to go home for the weekend. He stumbles upon an ad in the school newspaper for taking care of a family member and eagerly calls to apply. When first meeting Colonel he is greeted in a cold manner that would typically scare most people away. Charlie initially expresses hesitancy but eventually agrees to stay solely so he can make enough money to fly home for Christmas. Colonel has prepared an extravagant weekend in New York City as he plans to go out with a bang and “blow [his] brains out” due to his unsatisfied life. Charlie exhausts all efforts to change Colonel’s mind but he is convinced that he is “in the dark here” (Scent of a Woman). Charlie hands it to him bluntly by calling him a “miserable blind mother-fucker” and that “the day we stop looking is the day we die” (Scent of a Woman). Colonel immediately changes his outlook on his own life as well as others and eventually helps Charlie overcome a personal obstacle of his own.
In conclusion, the fictional character of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol is one of the most influential and timeless a narrative has ever seen as the story emphasizes seeking joy despite inevitable adversity while simultaneously signifying the importance of redemption. The loose comparison between Scrooge and Colonel’s situations and personalities embodies the lingering lessons that Dickens leaves behind with his novel. The adaptations are of equal relevance as each one allows us to continue to apply these original morals to our lives at any stage of our lives. It is crucial to remind ourselves that the elated feelings we once felt in the past have the same potential to be experienced in the future regardless of uncontrollable circumstances. It is our very own attitudes that control the outcome. Those feelings are not dead until we are.
Brest, Martin, Bo Goldman, Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, Gabrielle Anwar, James Rebhorn, Thomas Newman, and Giovanni Arpino. Scent of a Woman. Universal City, CA: Universal Home Video, 1998.
Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870. A Christmas Carol and Other Stories. New York :Modern Library, 1995. Print.
Guida, Fred. A Christmas Carol and Its Adaptations: A Critical Examination of Dickens’s Story and Its Productions on Screen and Television. McFarland, 1999.
Scent of a Woman photo https://drafthouse.com/show/scent-of-a-woman