Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Readalong : A Christmas Carol : Stave I

I’m not a fan of Charles Dickens. As I think I’ve admitted before, one of the only assignments I never finished was reading Great Expectations in high school.* I just couldn’t get through it. I remember fighting with the language and getting bored with excessive descriptive passages, though I could have exaggerated this in my mind over the past 15 or so years. Because of these memories, I was reluctant to join The Lost Entwife’s December readalong of A Christmas Carol. I finally decided to step up to the plate after Lydia told me she wasn’t a fan either, but was actually enjoying A Christmas Carol. It didn’t hurt when I realized the whole thing is less than 100 pages long.

The assignment for December 1-7 was to read Stave I: Marley’s Ghost, which is only 18 pages including illustrations in the version I’m reading (2006 Oxford University Press e-book titled A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books).

Dickens immediately draws his reader into the story with a statement of the obvious, which, of course, casts the statement in doubt.
Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
Why is there a need to raise the issue? And wait a minute, was dead? Much of Dickens’ work was originally published serially in various periodicals. This necessitated an ability to draw the reader in and leave him wanting more at the end of the episode. From Stave I of A Christmas Carol, I’d say Dickens mastered that ability.

Dickens is also skilled in crafting pictures. The description of Scrooge as well as a later description of activities in the town streets had complete images floating in my head. I think this is also aided by a rhythmic nature to Dickens’ writing that made this easier to read than I remember from my earlier encounter with him.

I have a couple of other theories on why I’m finding A Christmas Carol more engaging and readable than I did Great Expectations. Both have to do with Dickens’ language. First, it seems somehow appropriate in the context of a Christmas story. Second, I believe I understand, or can infer the meaning of, more of the references than I probably did in high school. I’ve done a ton of reading and learning since then. For instance, I now know the story behind the word bedlam - a long standing mental hospital once notorious for the ill treatment of its patients gave us this word. So the reference to “Bedlam” makes sense to me. Scrooge is referring to the mental hospital.

Anyway, I digress. I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying A Christmas Carol so far. Thank you, Lydia, for convincing me to give it a try.

*I was supposed to read Don Quixote one summer and didn’t make it through that either.

Related Posts:
Readalong : A Christmas Carol : Staves II & III
Readalong : A Christmas Carol : Staves IV & V

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you decided to try! It's been fun seeing your discussions and I loved this post!

    I do have Don Quixote in my sights for a vote in 2011 so maybe we'll have to tackle that one together as well =)