For the first time this holiday season, I have finally read Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. The dilemma for me when composing this post was what to say about this ubiquitous Christmas tale that has not already been said millions of times over. Thus, instead of writing a comprehensive analysis or review, I decided to dig a bit and focus on a relatively small point. Though I doubt that my thinking here is unique, at least I will avoid general commentary on this tale, which from me, seems to be completely unnecessary. Instead I will write a few words concerning The Ghost of Christmas Present.
When this apparition appears he is described as follows:
“there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up”
and then a little later,
“It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust. “
Having read a fair amount of Dickens as well as little about him, I have a sense that his worldview usually reflects an easygoing, non - puritanical form of Christianity. I think that “easy going” is particularly important in this instance, as this most interesting spirit seems to exhibit pagan influences.
It seems to me that there are shades of Dionysus with a sprinkling of the Santa Clause myth embodied in this figure. This ghost exudes celebration and good cheer in a naturalistic sense. His bear chest and feet, wreath and icicle adorned headgear, and free curls exude a sense of wildness. There is more then a hint of hint of hedonistic tendencies particularly connected with this character’s ever - present connection to food. The figure actually sits upon a throne of luscious foods and later shows Ebenezer Scrooge visions of even greater gastronomic excess. The ghost’s torch, which resembles “Plenty’s horn” has magical abilities to spread good cheer, and unsurprisingly, liven up meals. It seems to me that in the form of this ghost, Dickens is advocating a form of merriment and celebration that illuminates the Christmas Holidays connection with ancient winter festivals and feasts.
Obviously A Christmas Carol also champions an entire range of values including charity, empathy and kindness. Dickens is examining what he sees as the positive aspects of humanity in great and diverse variety here. Pious virtues are extolled alongside extreme merriment and even a bit of excess.
Without a doubt this remarkable character enlivens and adds spice to the famous story. It also adds an additional dimension to Dickens theme concerning the Christmas spirit. Of course the Ghost of Christmas Present is only a part of the tale that Dickens weaves here. His depiction reminds me that what we sometimes take as simple stories and lessons, are not always so simple.