The novella, and subsequent multitude of film adaptions of Charles Dickens’ classic represent a long time honored pastime for Western civilization during the months leading up to Christmas and the holiday itself. In case you’ve not turned on a television between December (or rather late November), A Christmas Carol is the story of a billionaire (according to Forbes 2005 list of richest fictional characters) and a miser during the industrial revolution in London, England. He is visited by three spirits: past, present, and future, each providing him with a glimpse of shadows past and those, which have yet to be. Following Scrooge seeing his lonely tombstone, he is transported back to his bedroom where he begins reforming himself and becoming a generous Englishman. Today, we see this as another movie classic we watch between Home Alone and Christmas Vacation. However, what was the underlying meaning, what can we gleam from this retelling of fictional events nearly two centuries later?
One could argue from the successful, billionaire standpoint, Scrooge exemplified the modern objectivist philosophy argued by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Objectivism is the philosophy whose ethics are based around the ideals of self-interest and the use of logic to identify and reason with the world. I will not speak more to this theory, but I have listed several sources below if you are interested in reading more. This theory has gained traction over the years, but has been argued by many as being trite and arrogant. Christopher Hitchens, an outspoken critic of nearly all mainstream thought, repeatedly stated his views towards the theory of objectivism itself, claiming “I don’t think there’s any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings.”
Inherently, this is a flawed philosophy, leaving little time for your family or personal hobbies when taken to the literal sense. We see how Scrooge, who exhibits many of these traits, finds himself lonelier with each passing year. With his greed knowing no bounds, he takes over his former partner, and only remaining friend’s (Marley) estate. Scrooge’s business acumen allowed him to grow his fortune and a business empire, but was it his passion…rather was it really, what he had wanted to do? Ambition poignantly overtaking passion?
Dickens penned the novella during the Industrial Revolution within England, where the gap between rich and poor continued to grow and the Poor Laws, passed by Parliament required many of the beneficiaries to continue to work in horrid conditions. Dickens wrote the novella to shine light on how the industrial revolution displaced and disenfranchised many workers, moving from an agrarian lifestyle to the city, often times in the worst neighborhoods to work in factories and ‘treadmills’. If one were to look deeper still, Dickens childhood and father’s imprisonment for several months in 1824 influenced his novella and future work as well.
I really take heart to Alastair Sim’s version, as it shows Scrooge’s childhood, early career, and his ruthlessness in overtaking his mentor’s business. As his mentor, ‘Old Man Fezziwig’, who stands in stark contrast to Scrooge stated in Sim’s version, “It’s not just for money alone that one spends a lifetime building up a business…. It’s to preserve a way of life that one knew and loved.” In contrast, Scrooge’s attitude towards Christmas and his business. The themes of utilitarianism run throughout the movies and novellas, the greater good. We should get into business for the right reasons, not just money, but because we have something, we want to show the world, and change it for the better. In addition, when possible, help out those less fortunate grow with us as well.
Sim’s “A Christmas Carol”: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044008/
Christopher Hitchens on Objectivism: http://flavorwire.com/400084/the-all-time-greatest-ayn-rand-takedowns/7
Objectivism: https://www.aynrand.org/ideas/philosophy, you can also read one of her novels “Atlas Shrugged” or “The Fountainhead” to further understand the theory of objectivism.