A Christmas Carol
Set in Victorian England on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and short by Dickensian standards, this “ghostly little book” has become, like many of Dickens’s works, a classic of Western literature. A characteristic of the author’s narrative style is his vivid social commentary. It has one of the great opening lines in Western literature: "Marley was dead. There was no doubt about it." It tells the story of the conversion of Scrooge from a miserly misanthrope to a generous, open-hearted man. The author first introduces Scrooge in his trading house along with his long-suffering clerk, Bob Cratchit. Scrooge is painfully cruel not only to Cratchit, but also to his own nephew and some visiting businessmen soliciting for charity. Before returning to Scrooge, Dickens introduces the reader to Cratchit's son, Tiny Tim, who suffers from some mysterious debilitating disease. Scrooge's conversion process begins when Scrooge's dead partner, Jacob Marley, appears to Scrooge, bound in chains and predicts three spirits will appear. In turn, Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future come to Scrooge showing him moments from history, the present and the (possible) future. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear to the reader and to Scrooge how he became the man he is. Ultimately, Scrooge is shown that if he does not change, he will die unmourned and unremembered. He awakens a changed man. Rushing to the window, he yells out to a passing urchin the famous question "What day is it?" to which he is told "Why, it's Christmas Day, sir." He showers generosity on all who know him, demonstrating the redemptive power of Christmas.
There have been numerous adaptations, derivative works and parodies of A Christmas Carol, perhaps because its universal themes lend themselves well to dramatic interpretation. Of these, the best known and most critically-acclaimed is the 1951 film version titled Scrooge, which starred Alastair Sim as the title character.
Other acclaimed versions include film adaptations starring Sir Seymour Hicks, Reginald Owen, George C. Scott and Patrick Stewart as the miser, and a reading starring Martin Sheen as Cratchit and James Earl Jones as Scrooge. A popular and critically-acclaimed cartoon version stars Mr. Magoo, voiced by Jim Backus. There are many stage adaptations as well; these have become staples of some pantomime and repertory companies.