Why Dickens Haunts Us

Why am I posting this article on Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol now? Because while Christmas day is over, it’s still Christmastide, which runs until the Feast of the Epiphany, on January 6.

Dickens can be said to have almost single-handedly created the modern idea of Christmas. Christmas morally radicalized Dickens. The disparity between the circumstances and fates of different people offended Dickens in the Christmas season. For him, it was a time to think about what we owe one another, how we live with one another; a time to have a proper sense of outrage about inequality and injustice, and to think about the past, present and future and how much they have to do with each other

You might enjoy this NY Times article Why Dickens Haunts US


It was a nice article indeed. I’ve always enjoyed “ A Christmas Carol “ because it has bits of a sort of horror vibe running through it. I read once that in the Victorian age Christmas was synonymous with ghost stories. That families use to sit around telling ghost stories loss , making peace and having a chance at redemption. But I never managed to get any of the books on the subject and moved to other odd histories.

I am interested in looking into any work by Maria Tatar that is focused on why folklore and fairy tales are important. Reminds me a bit of the Brothers Grimm and how they set out to collect stories from the country side in order to supposedly help use them to shape law and social justice. Something I also never dived too deeply in. But one day hope to go back through studying those two things out.

Thought it was funny that he said he imagined being happily with Red Ridding Hood. Lots of social concepts tied up into that French story as well.

It was a really good short article.

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How dreadfully apropos. I just had to turn away a beggar at the door, who comes every few months, saying I couldn’t help him. Because I couldn’t without causing my sick wife a meltdown. And yeah, it haunts me. I shouldn’t have opened the door. If I knew where he lived I could do something. Need a Ring doorbell.


If he knocked on your door, he knocked on others. You aren’t doing nothing and probably provided him with a referral to someplace that could help. Particularly, if you are acquainted.

I’ve referred him to what he already knew, before. I’ve never seen him at any venue. He has a room somewhere, he’s not on the street. He’s too clean. And intelligent. A cold, lonely room.


You said you have never seen him at any venue…where other people are…where it is less lonely. Yet he made his way to your home to beg assistance, not human connection.
There are things (situations and people) we can’t fix. It kills us to watch, sometimes even worse the more information or insight we have.
And it kills us to admit, “There is nothing in my power to meet the deepest, most real need of this person.”


Aye, but apparently if he were Mozambican God would fix him.

Care to elaborate?

It’s in the NYT so it must be true.

Has anybody else seen the recent Apple production: ‘Spirited’?

Our family enjoyed watching it - and it could probably best be described as Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” rebooted into today’s culture. It’s funny and well-done, and doesn’t neglect to poke a lot deeper (whether successfully or productively or not can be left to your judgment) into the core issues raised by the original “Christmas Carol”.

I’m not here either recommending or dis-recommending it with regard to what Christian eyes may make of it. It still stays well within the realm of exploring human goodness (or lack thereof) with secular language. But the questions are good ones to be addressed by all, and much fun is had along the way playing off of the original “Christmas Carol” tropes.

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Haven’t heard of that one–will check it out. I figure that if something doesn’t denigrate the faith and has good moral lessons, what’s not to like?

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I hadn’t read the article from that thread, because…time has been short, among other reasons. Pain being one. Sometimes the things that cause me the most doubt are things like well-meaning insistence on “the provëdness” of things I don’t see as proven.
I do understand your point.


A grown up theology of suffering would be good wouldn’t it? Love the umlaut.

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Yes, it would.

[Glad you like the umlaut. Older writing of “naive” used it to indicate to the English-speaker, that each central vowel was pronounced separately. I’m borrowing that convention, rather than leaning on German, which has no umlauted “e”.]

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I have, I couldn’t get myself to finish it though soo… can’t recommend. Nothing I haven’t heard before.

I’m with you

Now to answer the question from the OP:

It haunts us because deep inside we know not a lot has changed. Ok, so England isn’t exactly Dickensian anymore but…to give few examples, the Friday in the week before Christmas was the busiest day ever in my town…at the food bank. Several hundred people queued for hours on one of the coldest days of the year to get a bag of food. As if there was nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon a week before Christmas. Staying with food banks, in 2010 there were allegedly only 35, now it’s over 2500.
Only yesterday I’ve heard on the news that homelessness is at it’s worst it’s ever been in my region.
So the problems highlighted by Dickens are still very much with us and it isn’t going in the right direction.

Also I agree with the author of the article about the materialism and mawkishness associated with Christmas.


All I know is that as I walked the most ethnically diverse neighbourhood in the UK on Christmas Eve, only one person beat me to it with Merry Christmas. And he was a minority native like myself. One man walking toward me had a magnificent black slab of an impassive face. When I spoke the magic words his face split up to his ears with ivory as he echoed them.

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