Charles Dickens’ seasonal masterpiece A Christmas Carol is one of the greatest stories of all time, and I will brook no argument with that. The original novella is not merely a flawlessly executed narrative with exquisite dialogue and prose; it contains, at its heart, the most brilliantly convincing argument for acting with kindness and charity towards ones fellow human beings – and not just at Christmas.
However, even if you detest A Christmas Carol (in which case, I pity you) consider just these two aspects of its impact on western culture:
1) It seems virtually impossible to make a bad film out of it. There have been many adaptations over the years, in film and TV. My personal favourites are the 1951 monochrome masterpiece with Alistair Sim, the 1992 Muppet version, and the much underrated 2009 Robert Zemeckis motion capture version with Jim Carrey. It does seem that one has to actively try to make a bad version of A Christmas Carol. The story seems idiot proof in that respect, and not all great stories are idiot proof. For example, it would have been very easy indeed to make a bad film of Life of Pi or The Lord of the Rings.
2) Ever since the story was first published, grouches who dislike Christmas are battered with the Bah Humbug! stick.
These days it is trendy to complain about the soulless commercialisation of Christmas, and certainly celebrating without understanding or appreciating why is an empty experience. But once one does understand why, the reason for spending more than usual on food, drink, presents and so forth becomes abundantly clear. Ebenezer Scrooge moans about people spending their money on frivolities at Christmas, but once he understands the reason they purchase said frivolities he becomes a changed man.
Thus, because of A Christmas Carol, seasonal naysayers will forever be greeted with the dismissive “Bah Humbug!” response. This is shorthand for “Remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place” with all it’s connotations of what Scrooge was like before his redemption. Deep down, even the most miserly and anti-social don’t want to be thought of as a Scrooge.
Love it or loathe it, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol had a profound impact on our culture, as did many of his other works.