Excerpt from my article for ScreenMayhem.com.
Charles Dickens was a writer who cared deeply about the world and his fellow man. His books were hugely popular, particularly as they were released initially as chapters in magazine serials, so that you had to wait til the next issue to discover what happened to your favourite characters, just like we do when we wait for the next episode of a TV show. (The stories would then be released as a whole in a book, so you could essentially read it whole, like we binge watch series now). During publication of The Olde Curiosity Shop, British readers got their next chapter before American readers, and passengers disembarking from ships on US shores were mobbed by people demanding to know if Little Nell was alright.
Part of the reason for this popularity was that he wrote about everyone, from the very poor and destitute to the wealthy, and he had compassion for all walks of life. He also had a way of creating vivid characters and placing them in situations that were perilous, emotional and where a good heart and true character always won in the end.
At Christmas, Dickens would publish a Christmas story in his magazine. And the most famous of these is A Christmas Carol.
I like to think that the reason that this story is a perennial favourite is that it has heart. In this story, a man whose heart is as tough as an old boot and as warm as a gravestone find himself changed by the magic of this time of year. He’s a hard, cynical businessman in a cold, hard world, and yet, right at his fingertips are the Cratchits, a warm, loving family who are kind and happy in spite of their poverty. Even now in the modern world, it’s nice to think that someone could be changed by being visited by three ghosts who show them the error of their ways and help them find the flickering flame of warmth hidden deep inside themselves….