This post contains spoilers for the entirety of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
My apologies for the lateness of this post. I had hoped the holidays wouldn’t interfere too much with my blogging schedule BUT ALAS.
Thoughts? Feelings? Check out the #carolalong for others’ thoughts and feelings.
On to the fourth stave! When we left off last time, Scrooge was watching a member of the Nazgul float toward him and was, understandably, frightened nearly out of his stockings. Stave Four enters in with a rhythmic description:
“It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.”
[My headcanon is that one of the Ringwraiths escaped and hung out for a while in the basement levels of shopping malls until Mandos caught him and gave him the job of Christmas Future. That’s the kind of shenanigan Mandos would pull, lbr.]
In Stave One we saw how the narrator gave human characteristics to buildings. Here we have a really great moment where it does the same but with the entire city: “They scarcely seemed to enter the City, for the City rather seemed to spring up about them, and encompass them of its own act.”
Scrooge’s attitude has really improved. He assures Christmas Future that “I know your purpose is to do me good,” which is pretty trusting of him considering his situation, alone at night in some timeless timeline with a Nazgul for company. What if the ghosts WEREN’T armed with good intentions? That’s the horror movie version, I guess. In any case, Christmas Future shows Scrooge a couple of seemingly-innocuous conversations between his former colleagues. It’s pretty obvious to the reader what’s going on, but Scrooge is blissfully ignorant, although he has no doubt that “they had some latent moral for his own improvement.” Scrooge is still a very self-centered guy, did you notice? But at least he’s realized that he has a problem that needs to be improved upon.
The scene with the charwoman, the laundress, and the undertaker is pretty upsetting. I’m not sure if the line “If we haven’t all three met here without meaning it” is a reference to Macbeth but it reminded me of it. Their behavior and theft of the dead man’s things is horrifying to Scrooge, but their attitudes reflect his as they were at the beginning of the story. “Every person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did!” It isn’t explicitly said that his contempt for human life made them become contemptuous as well, but it’s interesting to think about. If Scrooge turns his life around, will these three be influenced by his change of heart and be better, too? On the other hand, I can’t imagine Bob Cratchit acting the way these three do, even given the means and opportunity. The narrator, with his usual lack of chill, compares the three to “obscene demons, marketing the corpse itself.”
I’m always surprised that we don’t get to “see” the Cratchit’s response to Scrooge’s death. Do they just not care? The only people with a Feeling about Scrooge’s death are the debtors who suddenly have a lot more time to get their money together (ps I want to know more about them). Anyway, the Cratchits. They make me happy and sad both together.
Seriously, I am such trash for the setting descriptions in this book: “Here, then, the wretched man whose name he had now to learn lay underneath the ground. It was a worthy place. Walled in by houses, overrun by grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation’s death, not life; choked up with too much burying, fat with repleted appetite. A worthy place!”
Christmas Future, in spite of his scary appearance, is revealed to be “kind” in the last page of Stave Four. He doesn’t speak at any point, and has more in common with Past the record-keeper than Present, who has a brief but joyful life and has more influence on actual events.
I’ve mentioned previously how much time and the function of time is emphasized in this story. But I didn’t remember the culminating moment with Scrooge, when he proclaims to Christmas Future: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” (emphasis mine) Scrooge has learned his lesson, and is determined to keep it by remembering the lessons of his past, and his present, and his possible future. SO INTERESTING.
Stave Five is short and sweet and definitely my favorite bit. Scrooge is such a rascal – especially to Bob, poor guy! Scrooge: “Now that I’m good, I’m going to PRETEND TO BE EVIL and make Bob sad! Bwahahaha!” Bob needs therapy. I like how we finally see the familial resemblance between Scrooge and his nephew and it is their laugh. Scrooge shows himself to have “a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs.” Awww.
There are two jokes in particular in this chapter that I love.
- “[Scrooge] had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle ever afterward…” Get it? Because alcohol is also called “spirits” and he didn’t see any ghosts but also he didn’t drink ever again? Bahahaha. Love it.
- “‘I don’t know what to do!’ cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath, and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings.” I don’t understand why Dickens would compare a hysterical old man with a guy who gets murdered by snakes because he defied the gods, but I’m into it. I’m really into it.
I’d like to end on that note, but Scrooge’s newfound enthusiasm for Christmas is fun, funny, and worthy of emulation.
“Oh, glorious! Glorious!”
“An intelligent boy! A remarkable boy!”
“It’s a wonderful knocker!”
“He looked so irresistibly pleasant.”
“[He] found that everything could yield him pleasure.”
“Nice girl! Very.”
“Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!”