Of the many themes that Charles Dickens’ explores in his novel A Christmas Carol, the most powerful is that of redemption. Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner, is given a chance to see his past and future if he doesn’t change and endeavor to assist his fellowman. The redemption theme continues in two novels which are sequels to A Christmas Carol that I’ve had the pleasure to read:
Mr. Timothy, by author Louis Bayard, takes very few cues from the original and creates a story with a tone and character all its own. It’s been about twenty years since Ebenezer Scrooge made his promise to help his clerk Bob Cratchit and family with relief from poverty, and he has indeed made good. The Cratchits have lived comfortably, and the children have done as well as can be expected. But Tiny Tim, now an adult and cured of his crippling disease, has failed to live up to his father’s expectations, and lives as a loner in a brothel, frequenting the grimy areas of London and subsisting on Scrooge’s charity. Around Christmastime, Timothy, as he is now called, discovers a young orphan girl with a mysterious mark on her body: a mark like that found on two dead girls he’s seen in weeks past. Fearing her fate to be the same, Timothy begins an effort to rescue her. But he soon uncovers a diabolical network of several nasty people, lead by a shadowy aristocrat, which preys on young girls for unspeakable purposes. Timothy finds that his fate may be the same as that of the girl whom he’s trying to save.
Don’t expect to find the world Dickens created in A Christmas Carol: Even Timothy isn’t the same! Mr. Timothy is an effective thriller set against the seamy side of Victorian London, more so even than what Scrooge sees in Christmas Future. Like his benefactor Scrooge, Timothy is haunted by a ghost – his father’s – and seeks to right the disappointments he has within and with his father. It’s a good read for anytime of the year.
For something a bit lighter, try Scrooge and Cratchit, a sequel by Matt McHugh. In this short story, Scrooge again has kept his promise to keep Christmas all year ’round. Only he’s kept it a little too well: Ebenezer has given away nearly all of his personal and business wealth to the point of bankruptcy. Bob Cratchit, now Scrooge’s business partner, has the unpleasant task of dealing with their creditors, who threaten foreclosure if payment isn’t made immediately.
While A Christmas Carol emphasizes the responsibility of man to look after his fellowman in need, Scrooge and Cratchit examines to what extent does man need to go. Cratchit struggles with the thought, knowing that his partner’s generosity is the cause of a predicament that’ll put him back in poverty where he started. Scrooge is fully aware of what he’s doing, however: He’s on a mission to not only redeem himself of his selfishness, but to atone for it, too.
Don’t forget to read Dickens’ original tale, of course!
A listing of A Christmas Carol adaptations and sequels, found at Wikipedia.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is available at CCLS in book and audiobook versions. The complete and public reading versions can be found at various sites online, such as this one from Project Gutenberg (complete) and Gaslight (condensed).
Check out our Dickens Resource Guide