On Dickens and Time -- by Jen Doktorski

This month we’ve been writing about time: To begin with.

And all month long I’ve been running out of it. There is no doubt whatever about that.

For these reasons, and because my post will appear on Christmas day, and because a certain middle schooler’s Charles Dickens project has been eating up a great many of my waking hours for the past two weeks. I’ve decided it was only fitting that I write about A Christmas Carol. NOTE: The project involved the creation of a Dickens top hat, several essays, and a test given in true Scrooge-like fashion on the day before the winter break.

Additionally, my critique partner just completed an amazing retelling of this classic tale, and so it seems, all signs point to Dickens this month. Plus, A Christmas Carol is, after all, about time. Specifically, Ebenezer Scrooge’s past, present, and future, which converge on the stingy misanthrope between the hours of midnight and dawn on Christmas Eve sometime in the mid-1800s. Scrooge’s dead friend Marley warns old Ebenezer that he will be visited by three specters and given the chance to either mend his bah humbug ways, or share Marley’s fate of roaming for all eternity shackled by chains.

It made me think. If three ghosts visited me on Christmas Eve, forcing me to relive scenes from my life, what would they be? My decision to drop out of high school trig? That office party in 1995? Shivers. Best to stick to Dickens for this post.

Most of us have either read the novella or seen one of the many adaptions; from The Muppets and Bill Murray, to local theater and the London stage. Like all great writing, A Christmas Carol’s timelessness has allowed it to endure. Since 1843, it has never been out of print. Interesting to note that Dickens originally self-published this iconic Christmas tale. And though many credit Dickens with painting a picture of a more secular, Victorian Christmas with traditions that have lasted until today, it was Dickens concerns about income inequality that drove him to write this story. He hoped to inspire charity. In his words, this season is “a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.”

May that be truly said of us, and of all of us!

Wishing you all peace, hope, joy, and the gift time.


  1. I am a total sap about A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I love it so so much. It's on my life-changing "short list" and it's one of those I wish everyone would read because, while I love the adaptations, I feel like the larger social issues Dickens addresses usually get left out and Scrooge gets made so much worse than he is in the text--probably to keep viewers at a comfortable distance from the old misanthrope.

    P.S. Nice top hat!

    1. I love A CHRISTMAS CAROL and DAVID COPPEFIELD is a favorite too. You're right, the adaptations lose the driving message behind A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Dickens was the Bernie Sanders of the mid 19th century.

  2. This is such an interesting post. I had no idea the book was originally self-published. Love the top hat!

  3. I got an ooooold copy of CHRISTMAS CAROL a few years ago. So fantastic.

    1. It is, right? :) Glad I got the chance to revisit the novella.


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