For December, the Classics Club's question came at a perfect time: we were discussing A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at my book club, so I grasped the opportunity to have a mini-test with my group to see what the various opinions were. Nothing out of the ordinary, actually, but what impressed me was that several of the members had not read this as children... I can't imagine the current young generation not having at least seen the adaptations, but still I wondered: why should anyone read this book?
Without a doubt, the most impressive moment for the group was the third ghost and the scene with the tombs. Quite horrible and scary, it moved everyone. I would agree that this moment of truth that makes Scrooge rethink his life is striking - I, however, would go to the very next minute, when Scrooge is a new person. What I like about this moment is the roller-coaster he (and everyone else) have to go through to identify the priorities in life and live our lives accordingly - leaves a really nice feeling of accomplishment!
Are adaptations better?
Well... there are some tiny things lacking from the written story... As several in the group pointed out, given its length, one cannot expect great character development. Even some parts of the story, or characters get a better treatment in the adaptations (tiny Tim for one...). And, it has to be said, adaptations are much more exciting! What I like about the book, however, is that the main message is so much stonger - by the time the third ghost has made its point, it's clear that Scrooge has to change. We beg him to change, because we don't want him to end up like what he sees - and we want him to change now. This gets slightly lost in the adaptations because all other parts have gained in importance as well. So, read or watch? if you have to choose, watch and enjoy a great story. But always bear in mind that there is no substitute for the written word...
Is it really a children's story?
Yes and no. The fact that it's a short story does appeal to children, as does the fact that Scrooge's reactions to the three ghosts comes almost immediately - children have to have immediate cause and effect. But, the whole philosophy behind this seemingly straightforward plot can be grasped primarily by adults. Even the background and social context to this story cannot be fully comprehended by children. It doesn't matter though, because the message is universal for both children and adults: 'tis the season for love, sharing and caring - and we should never forget that!