Saturday, December 03, 2005

Was Charles Dickens Liberal?

Have you read A Christmas Carol In Prose, Being a Chost Story For Christmas by Charles Dickens? I never have, but started it last night. Everyone knows the story, but I doubt many have actually read the book. Dickens is/was and always will be brilliant, I think. The words flow off the page and are timeless - it's like he wrote it yesterday and the print is still fresh. I recommend it to you, particularly in this day and age when Christmas has come to mean more about rampant displays of commercialism and capitalistic greed than anything trite like arguing whether some one should say happy holidays or merry christmas.

Now to the point of the post. Everyone knows Jacob Marley; Scooge's long since dead partner dragging around the chains of past wrongs. But, what you miss out by only watching this story on television or in the theatre is the social commentary. In particular, in the last throws of the first chapter, Dickens makes reference to the sins of those in government that could be mistaken for a blogger's post on the same subject and a powerful statement about the personal hell sown and sewn by the living administration (e.g. the muderers in the W, Rove and Co.). Have a look (from page 24 of my library borrowed copy - oh, and on a side note, let's hope the W, Rove and Co don't solicit my record of check outs by means of the illegial Patriot Act and lock me away in some Gitmo kind of place for typing this):
The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free [emphasis, but not the parethetical, added]. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.


SheaNC said...

Ooo, I'm glad you brought this up. One of my favorite subjects is how Dickens was an observor of, and commentator on, his society's failings. Sweatshops, child labor, unfair working conditions of all kinds, societal injustice, the disparity between the megarich and the abject poor who support them.

I have always thought that Dickens and Karl Marx (his contemporary) were addressing the same issues. They saw what they saw and wrote what they thought about it.

Today, republicans would claim Dickens as conservative(!) But he was a leftie radical, man!

isabelita said...

Yes, Dickens was known for his championing of societal underdogs; unfortunately, the book of his that directly addresses social ills, Hard Times, is not his best, I don't think. He larded many of his novels with social criticism, and to me, told better truths that way, blending it in with his humor, character development, etc.
Now we have Melville and Dickens in our pantheon of champions - who's next?