Bardiness

"..a bardy view!"

A Christmas Carol

When the Ghost of Christmas Present parted his cloak and revealed to Scrooge the street urchins known as ignorance and want, it was perhaps one of the most powerful and emotive chapters in English literature.  Christmas-carol-a

The allegorical twins – "poor" and "wretched", represented to the author the plight of London's poverty stricken children.

"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was published just in time for the Christmas of 1843. He financed the book himself and set a price to try and make it affordable to all. But even at 5 shillings, it was still beyond the price of many – but perhaps it was meant for those who could afford it – those who needed to read the message.

Due to unrelenting poverty, disease and filth, half of all funerals in that year were for children under ten years old. Such was the plight of the poor, that sex was regarded as the only affordable pleasure, and so a cycle of distress was born upon the unplanned and unwanted children of early Victorian England.

They were a commodity to be used and abused, mistreated and unloved. Uncared for, exploited and ignored.

It's hard to imagine today the pain and suffering of children all those years ago, and yet it wasn't that long ago. Compulsory education, at it's most basic did not become law until 1870 when Dickens died. At the early part of the 21st century, we can look back and realise that only 140 years have passed since.

It is a blink of an eye in context of human development. Indeed, anyone at least 50 years old (the baby boomers) reading this, with their internet, mobile phones, cars, HD TV, multi-media systems and all the trapping of modern day comforts, might be surprised to learn that their lifespan is more than one third of the period, and that their grandparents no doubt experienced the rigourous educational regimes in force during the late Victorian era of the 19th Century and could never have dreamt in a million years that their grandchildren would live such different and alien lives, or even that their great grandchildren's primary ambition would be to be a winner on the X-Factor. It's a sobering thought.

Prior to 1870 the only free education was provided by charitable organisations and was extremely limited. Indeed most emphasised religious instruction over and above everything else. Dickens believed that the only escape from social deprivations was education and was particularly angry that the only day the working class poor had relief from the grinding back-breaking week was on a Sunday.

Dickens attacked the Christian doctrine known as Sabbatarianism – the strict observance of Sunday as a holy day reserved for worship. It imposed religious restrictions to prevent recreation, therefore ensuring severe limitations on the very day that people could relax and enjoy themselves.

The only day available for fun and play was a day of solemn and reserved behaviour. The only day when children who for six days prior climbed up chimneys, or risked their lives to oil and toil to maintain the machines which created wealth for their country's empire, working for twelve hours a day, were expected on this day of respite to behave as good little children who observed the quiet piety of the Christian holy day.

No running, no laughing, no playing, no joy.

Dickens believed that this restriction on Sunday recreation was an attempt by the upper classes to control the lives of those below them. They disguised it as religious piety to prevent them from having freedom of thought which they and their own children enjoyed every day.

A Christmas Carol is regarded as one of the most enduring stories ever to grace a library. The very essence is a message that wealth can be passed to the poor, that charity is not a concept to be given on a whim, that people need to be informed about the dispossessed, and that man can benefit his fellow man.

It's a message that says charity alone will not right wrongs, but that society can and must change lives for the better.

Its a message that society is everyone, rich or poor, and all need each other to ensure justice and equality for all.

A Christmas Carol has been made into movies and musicals through various incarnations. It's possible that the lesson has been lost in the flimsy values of sentimental and sugary interpretations of the motion picture industry.

Scrooge was a miser, who believed that the poor should die in order to decrease the surplus population. He was offered a chance to amend his ways. He saw his past and cried. He awoke to a new dawn, and was redeemed.

We tend to live with
romantic and nostalgic notions of a bygone age, where Victorian London
saw comforting fog, carol singers on street corners at Christmas,
chestnuts on a brazier, potatoes baking in a fire, footfalls crunching
on newly fallen snow, and children wrapped up warmly and playing
merrily in the streets.

The reality is far removed and Charles
Dickens through his Christmas Carol exposed the truth. He'd be
horrified to see his work turned into a whimsical musical, or a
Hollywood movie of superficial entertainment.

The book is the
testament. Enjoy it, learn from it. Once read – never forgotten. It is
uplifting and will be re-visited year after year.

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December 19, 2009 - Posted by | Culture | , , , , , ,

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