Advent Firesiders

Scrooge's Comeback (2019)

As Charles Dickens has steadily disappeared from our television screens, one of his works survives in a variety of presentations. A Christmas Carol, with the caricatures of the miser Scrooge, the cheerfully disabled Tiny Tim and the ever patient Bob Cratchit tells us what we want to think about ourselves. We who are greedy would like to reform but, as in the plea of Saint Augustine, not quite yet. We who count ourselves compassionate want Tiny Tim to have everything, although we won't vote taxes for him to get a proper Special Education. We who are apt to be more than a little impatient, wish we could summon the equanimity of Bob Cratchit. And there is, too, more than a little nostalgia for our childhood times when things were better.

Our challenge is to remember that Dickens' sentimentality is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is so easy, as did Oscar Wilde, to ridicule Dickens' death of Little Nell but her plight was a product of the compulsive gambling of her father, the unmitigated nastiness of Quilp and general social indifference to destitute and desperate children. Scrooge is all very well in the context of "Just one more Belgian chocolate", "Just one more macadamia not", or "Just one more glass of prosecco" but it doesn't seem to work so well in the cold light of day when the dual realities of taxation and public spending come back into focus. Every year Scrooge knows he will make a Boxing Day comeback.