Monday, December 3, 2007

An 1843 Cold Case

Far be it from me to criticize the masters, but something has been bugging me about Charles Dickens for the past several years and it's time to talk about it.

For the fifth year, I reviewed Dickens' A Christmas Carol again this weekend and each time I see it I wonder how this passed the censors. I even went back to the original text to make sure that it wasn't just the playwright who goofed.

The opening scene is in Scrooge's office and, at the end of the work day he says to his clerk, Bob Cratchitt:

You’ll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.

“If quite convenient, sir.”

“It’s not convenient,” said Scrooge, “and it’s not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound?”

The clerk smiled faintly.

“And yet,” said Scrooge, “you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”

The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. “But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.”

Got that? It's Christmas Eve, Scrooge has given Cratchitt the next day off and tells him to be in early the following day.

OK. Now Scrooge goes home and, as we all know, he is visited by the ghost of his deceased partner, Jacob Marley, who goes on at length about the chains that he forged in his life and how Scrooge's chains are even longer and heavier than his own. Then he talks about the spirits who are going to visit Scrooge:

Expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls One." ....

“Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate.

Now, by Scrooge's conversation with Bob Cratchitt, Marley's visit occurs on Christmas Eve and he predicts that one spirit will visit Scrooge tomorrow and the next two spirits over the next two days.

When the last spirit has left, Scrooge wakes up and it's Christmas morning.

Now, I can accept that the spirits work their magic and that They can erase the three days which have elapsed and return Scrooge to the morning of Christmas day, but what did the old man do in the days between visits by spirits?

Did he go to work?

Was he still mean to Cratchitt?

Are we to believe that he slept the clock around for each of the 3 days until the next spirit comes?

Fallacy somewhere, I fancy. Or have I just been watching too many detective stories on television?

How can I get these pressing questions answered when the author of the work has been dead for more than 130 years? Where is Kathryn Morris (of Cold Case) when I need her?


1 comment:

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Happy Holidays!