Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"A Christmas Carol" Unplugged...or Overanalyzed...

by Naima Simone

This weekend I indulged in one of my Christmas traditions...watching "A Christmas Carol". It's one of my favorite holiday movies and it really doesn't matter which version or what year it was made. From Vanessa Williams' "A Diva's Christmas" to "Scrooged" with Bill Murray to the classic black and white version with Alastair Sim, I love 'em all!

Sunday I happened to watch "A Christmas Carol" with George C. Scott. And I was struck by a question I've never wondered about before. The three ghosts that visited Ebenezer Scrooge...what do they symbolize and why are they depicted as those specific characters?

Okay, yeah, I went a little deep with it, but once the question took root in my mind I couldn't shake it! Anal and obsessive!

I did a little investigating and here's what I came up with:

The Ghost of Christmas Past: Now Dickens wrote the ghost as an "it", genderless. Old, young and sexless. The movies portray the ghost in several variations. An old woman. An old man. A young woman. A young boy. Disney's latest depicted the ghost as a candle! What's common to most of them, though, is the light that envelops them. A light so bright Scrooge asks it to dim its radiance. Also, it carries a cone shaped candle extinguisher. Regardless of the representation--man, woman, child--the light represents enlightenment or illumination. It reminds me of the saying that reminds us if we don't learn from our past we're doomed to repeat it. And the cone-shaped funnel allows man the choice to extinguish this light. We have the choice to either learn from our past or remain in darkness...as Scrooge did when he couldn't bear any more of the ghost's shadows and smothered it with the cone.

The Ghost of Christmas Present: This ghost is represented as a jovial, generous--both in physical proportion and spirit--giant. He is the epitome of generosity, cheer and goodwill. He not only symbolizes what Christmas is but what the spirit of mankind should be. I couldn't help but be reminded of the phrase, eat drink and be merry for tomorrow is not promised to you. Men indulge in the present and live for the day. Which, with his fleeting lifespan of one Christmas Day, the Ghost of Christmas Present does. Now, that's just my take on it. I found out a really cool fact about the Ghost of Christmas Present though. Umm...how geeky did I just sound? Remember when he told Scrooge he had over 1,800 brothers? Well he had 1,842 to be exact. Anyone remember what year "A Christmas Carol" was published in? 1843! Hah! How's that for a bit of trivia!

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: This specter may seem the easiest but that's not necessarily true. At least not for me. The first thought that came to my mind was The Grim Reaper. Death. He symbolizes fear of the unknown. His face, which we never see, shows us that we don't know the future...have no clue what it holds or looks like. We, humans who want control over our futures and destinies, want to know what's ahead and fear what we can't see. And remember how Scrooge would ask him a question and he never answered but instead pointed. Always pointed. It shows us we have to keep moving forward because time waits for no one. Lest anyone think I came up with that on my own, I didn't. Not that brilliant but wasn't that deep??

So that's my take on the ghosts of "A Christmas Carol". As I found out in my digging, the meaning behind the book and the characters are debated and debated again. My conclusions may not be completely accurate, but I had a great time researching! Too bad Dickens isn't around to ask!

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Think I have too much time on my hands? (I heard that!)

Merry Christmas!!

6 comments:

Wynter Daniels said...

What a good post. I always saw the third ghost as the Grim Reaper, too. I like the Scrooged version best, but I enjoy them all. It's fun to dig around and learn this stuff, huh? I'm right there in Geekdom with you!

Katie Reus said...

Wow, what an intensive post. Thanks for the lesson :) The one with George C. Scott is definitely my favorite. Next time I watch it will be with new eyes.

V. J. Devereaux said...

Naima! What an amazing post. It seems like we have something else in common!! I love A Christmas Carol and try to watch some version of it every year. (But not the Jim Carrey version, I'm not a fan of his really) But it's my mental comfort food of the season, and brings home the true meaning of the season - home, family, loved ones...

Naima Simone said...

I have to admit I had a good time doing my investigative reporting...I'm so pretentious! LOL!! I had several "a-ha" moments and from now on will watch "A Christmas Carol" a little differently. Pretty much all of 'em are my favorites. I love how every one will vary or are more detailed. If I had to pick a favorite it would be a toss up between the one with George C. Scott and Alastair Sim. From what I found out they both follow the book pretty close.

And Wynter, I'm sending you a pocket protector for Christmas to match mine! LOL!
Merry Christmas!!

Jina Bacarr said...

Excellent post, Naima! Very insightful as well as entertaining. As a writer, what has always resonated with me was Dickens' superb sense of storytelling and the charcter arc of Scrooge. To go from hating him to cheering for him is a wonderful emotional roller coaster ride that continues to thrill the reader no matter how many times you see or read The Christmas Carol...

Naima Simone said...

You're so right, Jina! One of the things I love when watching the movie is seeing how mean Scrooge is in the beginning and seeing the points in the movie when you actually witness and note him melt and change. Like when he sees Fezziwig (spelling? LOL!) again and you see the joy of the young boy in the old man. *sigh* Love it!