Every year for the past 26ish years, I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions. The other day, my dad asked me if I get anything new out of the book each year. My mom chimed in that there’s always something to discover in a good book. I agree. Every year when I read the book, I take something different away from it, but it’s hard to put my finger on what exactly changes. After my dad asked the question, I realized that I have a way to check. In 2016, I wrote five blog posts (here, here, here, here, and here) as I was reading A Christmas Carol. I went back and reread them (always an onerous task) to compare how 2016 Gene read the book compared to 2023 Gene.
The changes aren’t drastic, but they are there. The biggest change was in how I read stave three, the Ghost of Christmas Present. In 2016, I was kind of down on the stave. It seemed to me that it was more a general celebration of Christmas than about Scrooge’s transformation. 2023 Gene disagrees. There are two times where Scrooge is explicitly the subject of the other characters’ conversation. One is where Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, makes Scrooge the answer in Yes and No. The other is when Cratchit toasts Scrooge as the, “Founder of the feast.” In both cases, Scrooge is greatly affected by the comments. They go a long way towards his reclamation. The third stave is also where the spirit repeats Scrooge’s words back to him. The “decrease the surplus population” quote in reference to Tiny Tim really upsets Scrooge. He’s appalled that he ever said such a thing.
2016 Gene seemed to think that staves two and four did most of the work. 2023 Gene thinks 2016 Gene was a sloppy reader. Stave three does a ton of work.
So, to answer my dad’s question, yes, I get something new out of the book every time I read it. It’s a wonderful little book. I wonder what 2024 Gene will think about it.