I was writing a story last weekend about changing attitudes and Christianity. I was trying to grasp the concept of ‘being born again.’ To me, it means throwing away your old self, your old attitudes, your old prejudices, your old hatreds and putting on a new face, a new attitude, and a new way of living. I’m working on it personally, but I’m only half way there, and unlike Ebenezer Scrooge who was born again in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ I’ve got a long way to go.
The most important thing to remember about ‘A Christmas Carol’ is that Scrooge was born anew. His dead boss Marley and three other ghosts visited him one night in a dream in his spiritual darkness, as he lay there filled with hatred and scorn, to change him from the hardened, cheap scoundrel he was to a new man, a changed man, a man who was born anew with a new attitude, a new disposition, and a new outlook on life. In the morning, when Scrooge awoke and his eyes opened, he saw the light of a new attitude in a new day, finally, once and for all.
Charles Dickens lived that wonderful story and wrote it from his heart. Like most of his work, it was basically true; sad and lonely for the most part, just the way he had lived his childhood. But Dickens usually ended his stories in the happiness he himself later found in adulthood. When he was a small child, his father had a decent job with the British railway system. He made good money, but lived high above his means. There came a time when he could no longer pay his bills, and according to the law of that time and place, he was arrested for nonpayment of debt. When his father was put into a debtors’ prison, Dickens’ collection of beloved books was confiscated and the family lost their home. To have food to eat, Dickens was forced to work at 12 years old in a rat-infested, shoe-blacking factory. When Dickens’ grandmother died and left his father a little money, the old debts were finally repaid and the father was released from prison. But that didn’t make things much easier; his father was ruined and there was no work and little money. Charles’ mother didn’t want to support him, so she left him on his own, working in the filthy factory. To show his hatred of her, Dickens always portrayed women unfavorably afterwards.
In ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Scrooge was shown his past, present and future by the Ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come. They helped bridge the chasm between Scrooge’s lost life and a hopeful life, but, unlike Scrooge, Charles Dickens actually bridged that same chasm on his own, by hard work and a sound mind. He was betrayed, ignored and unwanted by his family but he grew into a magnificent human being who advocated for all poor, unwanted, raggedy, uneducated children, children just like he had been. Those four ghosts from “A Christmas Carol’ were forever on his mind, and he later dug them out and wiped them off and put them on paper.
But, alas, you won’t be so loving of Mr. Dickens when I tell you that at age 46 he left his wife of 22 years…. to take up with an 18-year-old English actress. Their intimacy produced an illegitimate son who died in infancy. In 1870, Dickens suffered a second stroke at his mistress’ house and was taken to his home to die. His family and friends did not want the general public to know of their illicit relationship. “Look into your churches – diminished congregations and scant attendance. People have grown sullen and obstinate,” he wrote in 1836 at a time he opposed organized religion. He was a professing Christian at his death; he had bridged the chasm between his old life and his new one. He had safely reached the other side, filled with hope and charity for all. In the end, Charles Dickens is known as one of England’s greatest writers and social critics. He created many of the best-loved fictional characters ever put to paper. He is the greatest of the novelists of the Victorian era.
Lewis Smith lives in Thomson. Contact him at email@example.com.