[Created for English 394 (The Victorian Novel from Dickens to Hardy) at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada].

Passage: Pp. 54-5 in the Penguin edition of A Christmas Carol

In the Dickens canon, by far the most popular work for cinematic and television adaptation, according to Philip Bolton in Dickens Dramatized (1988), is A Christmas Carol. The best-known cinematic adaptation is the 1951 British version in black-and-white, starring Alastair Sim (Renown Pictures: produced and directed by Desmond Hurst).

There are no scenes of him dunning his creditors or counting his money. Noel Langley's script also removes many of Scrooge's witticisms. Scrooge is fearful rather than witty. He is vulnerable, troubled, and insecure. (Paul Davis, The Lives and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge [1990] 189)

Discussion Questions

1. The essence of film-adaptation is economy and condensation of a text. In this scene on film, what is lost in the process?

2. Davis calls this film "the best example of the psychological Carol" (189). What aspects of this scene confirm his analysis?

3. The New York Times has described this version as "heavy on the Freudian sauce," and critic Regina Barreca links the three spirits to the Freudian dimensions of personality, "the Spirit of Christmas Past with Scrooge's id impulses (the emotional, irrational child), the spirit of Christmas Present with his ego and the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come with his super-ego (to imagine the effects of his actions on himself and others. ..)" ("The Ghost of an Idea. .." [1985] unpublished lecture).

What does the ghost of Jacob Marley contribute to a Freudian interpretation?

4. "Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker's-book, went home to bed" (54-5). To what purposes does Langley put this little scene? How has the twentieth-century screenwriter integrated his expanded scene into the fabric of Dickens's text? Is Scrooge here consistent with the text's Scrooge?

5. Is Scrooge more amusing in the film or in the text? Explain your decision with reference to both.

6. Dickens's novella takes its origin in the German "gheist" or "ghost story." But what new uses does Dickens make of his Gothic material?


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol

Last modified May 21, 2003