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Ebenezer Scrooge never knew the son of his sole employee, Bob Cratchit, was seriously ill. It wasn’t until Scrooge learned that Tiny Tim might actually die unless he did something to help, that he was actually willing to forego some of his personal wealth to help save the life of a sick child.

When Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, he was already a famous author. Queen Victoria was a fan of his, for whom he performed live in 1851. Knowing this, Dickens described the crushing poverty of Camden Town (lower London) in vivid detail, knowing that it would be read by Queen Victoria and the literate upper-class, in hopes that it might make them aware of what life was like for the majority of Londoners, people whom they never met or had any interaction with. And now, every rich man & woman, including the Queen herself, would willingly read a tale about poor people and perhaps even sympathize with them. And the fact he did so in a Christmas themed story ensured it would be read again & again every Christmas “when abundance rejoices” (pg. 13).

Perhaps my only Christmas tradition: every year, I watch the musical version of “Scrooge” (starring British actor Albert Finney). Not nearly as faithful to Dickens’ manuscript as other versions, it is perhaps the best acted version of them all, and Finney convinces you of Scrooge’s redemption better than any other version I’ve seen yet.

Last week, I saw the new Disney 3D retelling of “A Christmas Carol“. While the movie was heavy on the 3D, inserting special scenes simply to show-off the three-dimensional effect, it is otherwise surprisingly faithful to the original book. It’s a shame that it is so badly (voice) acted. Hollywood actors do Olde English about as well as Ghandi did stand-up comedy. You don’t buy Scrooge’s miraculous conversion by the end of the movie, and Cratchit is almost superfluous.

While otherwise faithful to the original book, one scene caught my attention: the scene where Ebenezer’s sister “Fan” (yes, “Fan”, not “Fran”) came to the boarding school to bring her brother home for Christmas. In the Disney version, Fan is considerably younger than her brother. I noticed this, because I’ve always believed Fan MUST be older than her brother Ebenezer. Let me explain:

The backstory of “Fan” creates an enormous plot-hole in the Dickens classic.

Most experts seem to agree that “Fan”, Ebenezer’s beloved sister, died in childbirth to her son, Fred, helping to explain why Ebenezer so despised his nephew.

In the schoolhouse scene when Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas Past viewing himself as a young boy, Fan tells her brother that she has come to bring her brother home for Christmas rather than him spending yet another holiday alone at school. The reason she gives: “Father is so much kinder than he used to be” (pg. 46). “Mother” however, is never mentioned. If Ebenezer’s mother were alive, how could she ever allow her only son to spend every Christmas alone at school year after year?

One can infer from all this that Scrooge’s own mother, like Fan, died in childbirth, for which his father blamed Ebenezer and couldn’t bear the sight of him, thus banishing him to boarding school and never allowing him to come home for the holidays. This would explain much. It explains why Scrooge hates Christmas, why his sister was so important to him (as a substitute mother), why he spent every Christmas away at boarding school and was only allowed to return once “Father is much kinder now”. It explains why Scrooge so despised his nephew, and Scrooge eventually coming to the realization he was blaming Fred for Fan’s death the same way Ebenezer’s father blamed him for his own mother’s death. It all makes perfect sense… except…

The problem is that Dickens describes Fan as “much younger than the boy [Ebenezer]” (pg. 45). If Scrooge’s mother died in childbirth, Fan could not possibly be younger than Ebenezer. And the story suggests she is not a step-sister because they have a long history together.

I DO think the idea of Scrooge’s own mother dying in childbirth to him was indeed what Dickens meant to suggest, but made a careless mistake saying Fan was “much younger” when writing that particular scene. Women dying in childbirth was quite common in Dickens’ time, so it is not “too coincidental” to think both women might have died the same way. If anything, Fan would of been at greater risk if that is how her mother died.

Maybe it is presumptive of me to suggest the famed author Charles Dickens “F—ed up”, but I’m curious what you think. Why is Scrooge’s father so cruel to his son and not his daughter? If Scrooge’s mother did not die while giving birth to him, why is she never mentioned? If Scrooge’s mother was cruel, distant or too cowardly to stand up to her husband, certainly this would of influenced him too (and his relationship with his one-time fiancee’ [unnamed in the book]) and of deserved mention in Dickens’ book. We are told all about his sister, his nephew and his father, but no mention is ever made of his mother anywhere in the book.

Next week, the last Monday of the year, will be my annual “Predictions for the coming year”. I did quite well (seven for 12) in 2008, and a quick review of my predictions for 2009 shows I did pretty well this year too, so be sure to return next week for a recap of how I did along with my Predictions for 2010.

Postscript: After so many mentions of it, I finally sat down and watched the Alistair Sim version of “Scrooge” from 1951. To my surprise, the Sim version includes a scene where the Ghost of Christmas Past says almost exactly what I had hypothesized… that Fan died in childbirth to Fred the same way Scrooge’s mother died in childbirth to him, AND that this was the reason his father hated him so. I’m a bit shocked that the exact same conclusion I came to appears in the Sim classic. This exchange does not take place in the original text and is an original scene inserted into the 1951 screenplay. And, as I note above, this scenario isn’t possible if… as Dickens wrote… “Fan” is much younger than Ebenezer.


 

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