Hope & Joy in a Classic Tale

By Janice McCaffrey      a christmas carol

While pondering the upcoming holidays my stream of consciousness meandered over past memories and future dreams. A few quiet moments of reflection led of course to Dickens’ ghosts.  My favorite version is The Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine.

I love the little mice bookkeepers working dutifully and diligently in the cold office under the supervision of the kind-hearted Bob Cratchit performed by Kermit. Best of all though is the interplay between Rizzo the Rat acting as sidekick to Gonzo while he narrates the story as Charles Dickens himself.

My thoughts bumped over the moral of the story and what it means in today’s world. I got stuck on ‘don’t be stingy’ but wanted more. So what else is Dickens telling us?

On enotes.com’s website where they proclaim “We’re the Literature Experts” I found an article by Christian Themes (literary essentials: Christian fiction and nonfiction) titled     A Christmas Carol Themes. Let me paraphrase:

Scrooge’s initial penny-pinching reflects the values taking hold during the Industrial Revolution. Dickens illustrates what happens when individuals view relationships and other people through their financial worth. The author exposes the tremendous gap between the rich and the poor.

Then he illustrates a solution, individual redemption. The world becomes a better place almost immediately after Scrooge changes his outlook. The story implies that a renewed connection to humanity is, in fact, the very essence of redemption. His change is not introspective and personal; it is outward-looking and social.

While the results of Scrooge’s change didn’t alter the social structure itself, the compassion he showed to individual people did change the social relationships they shared. Despair turned to hope. isolation to belonging, and unhappiness to joy.

Wow! And I thought it was just fun to watch.

Yes, it’s a Christian based tale, but certainly can be applied to all of us no matter our beliefs. Let’s follow Scrooge’s example, enhance our relationships, and join Tiny Tim in his prayer.

tiny tim 2


“God bless us, every one!”


The Maternal Instinct


Considering the theme of motherhood, I, who adopted my children, started thinking of adoption in literature. I was going to tackle the wicked stepmother thing in fairy tales, but that led to thoughts of Miss Haversham. In Great Expectations, Dickens’ presents her as a mother with an agenda. She schools her adopted daughter Estella to be the ultimate heartbreaker. Miss Haversham, abandoned at the altar decades before, is an uber man hater. She blames all men and warps lovely Estella to be a human revenge weapon. Our hero Pip saves Estella as much as he can, but only after feeling the requisite heartbreak. Revenge via kiddies is bad.
Let’s move on to Marilla from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery. Good at heart, Marilla is aging, unmarried, and lives with her shy bachelor brother Matthew. They planned to adopt a boy to help with farm work on their land on Prince Edward Island.
When Anne arrives instead, Marilla first balks at keeping her, then sees it as her Christian duty, but finally can’t resist the volatile, imaginative, bright, and affectionate Anne. Anne becomes the beloved daughter both Marilla and Matthew didn’t know they were missing. A gentle agenda doesn’t rule out love.
Perhaps my favorite adoptive mom is Clara in Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. Clara takes in the baby abandoned at her ranch by his mother. When his father arrives, Clara tells him, “I like young things…Babies and young horses. I get attached real quick. They don’t have to be mine.” Both baby and young father become part of Clara’s family. She has enough love and common sense to go around.
The theme of maternal instinct in literature is dramatized by many characters, and it makes for some great reads. Happy Mother’s Day.