Have you ever wondered what character you would be in Charles Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol?” Is it Ebenezer who holds on to his money and watches it grow; Scrooge’s nephew Fred who embodies the merriment and sharing of Christmas or Bob Cratchit who epitomizes the financially challenged; those who work hard, but cannot reach the second rung of the ladder to success.
Dickens’ novel is an allegory for the separation of the classes during Victorian England. Even though it takes place approximately 70 years ago it could just as easily be today.
As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the middle class is losing status rung by rung.
Remember “Great Expectations?” I imagine we all do. I think it was a requirement in high school literature. “Expectations,” another of Dickens’ allegories, compares those who have and those who have not. Pip climbs from farm boy to gentleman, not because of his own doing but that of his unknown benefactor, the convict Abel Magwitch.
Joe Gargery is Pip’s brother-in-law, who raises him, the village blacksmith who remains humble but never losing his love for Pip. Once more Dickens accentuates the separation of the classes. A reflection of what’s to come?
We all think of Dickens this time of year. The stories he tells seem courageous and bittersweet. He hides moral lessons inside what is a very good narrative.
He does it again in “Oliver Twist.” Oliver is an orphan born in a poorhouse. In the 1830s, if you were poor you could be sentenced to a workhouse or poorhouse. Dickens uses Oliver’s situation to criticize public policy toward the poor in 1830s. Today, it’s not so much policy as public opinion.
The story of class is told over and over in literature. The inequities, ridicule and refusal to understand why underprivileged exist in a time when many have so much.
One of my favorite movies and I’m sure one of yours is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Frank Capra directs the number one movie (American Film Institute) and once again represents the battle of the classes. George Bailey, who is a stockholder in and runs the building and loan, offers loans to people who cannot get a mortgage from Henry Potter’s Bank. Subsequently, a subdivision is built for the less fortunate in Bedford Falls. Potter represents the haves, Mr. Martini, who buys a house in Bailey Park, the have nots, and George Bailey the middle class.
The classes are represented in books and movies during periods when the economy gets tough and the chasm between the classes widens.
During this time of year folks dig into their pockets and kitchen cupboards and donate to the Christmas Mother, CHASSM and churches. The rest of the year these organizations receive significantly less. It’s the Holiday spirit that brings out the best in us.
We do deserve an “at a boy” for our charity during the Holidays. But what happens the rest of the year? There is less benevolence and more concentration on ourselves. We give to our church, but many of us must be prodded to donate much else. Church building funds grow but how much money does a church have that can miss in a $700,000 embezzlement?
I think it’s attitude for the most part. I already gave. I gave at the office. Why don’t those low paid workers lift themselves up. I would advocate for higher wages for Walmart and McDonald’s workers. But what would happen to our economy when we have to pay a higher price for a hamburger and more for a DVD of “A Christmas Story.”
Those who blame those who are less fortunate, calling them lazy, welfare queens and the politically correct – underprivileged. The yard stick by which they are measured, does not take into account their health, opportunities and their abilities. Not everyone has the wherewithal to go to college and some even have a hard time getting through high school. That’s their own fault some say. If you take away their subsistence check, maybe they would work harder.
Hogwash. Those who pick up something to give their children, a gift from Santa Clause, from Toys for Tots have no other means. Do you think they are proud to carry their bag of toys from the Marine-based charity? Do you believe we have to collect toys for the families of our men fighting overseas? Linda covered a charity called the Betty Vinson Christmas Toy Air Lift that flies gifts to needy children of military families.
I’m accused of having a glass half empty, but do the families less fortunate than us have a full glass? We gave some food and what money we could afford to Christmas charities, but just like many of us, we will probably forget our charity during the rest of the year.
Merry Christmas to Bob Cratchit, Able Magwitch, Oliver Twist, George Bailey and you.