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Literature, Christmas and festive greed

STANDARD ENTERTAINMENT
By -John Mwazemba | December 22nd 2012

By John Mwazemba 

Every year, there is joy to mark birth of Christ. This should be accompanied by generosity to the poor    

Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents, are the sad words of Jo, a girl character in the Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women.  The novel is an old one but its message is timeless in this season of festivities. Christmas means many things to many people; a time of deep nostalgia, to others it’s time for mince pies, laughter and a lot of giving.

 To some people, however, like Jo in the novel, it’s a time of sadness, lack and abject poverty, which somehow take away some of the joy of the season. In fact, another girl character, Meg, sighing and looking at her old dress adds, bluntly agreeing with Jo, “It’s so dreadful to be poor!” Amy compounds the misery with the words, “I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all”.

The conversation of these young girls, actually happens in Kenyan households.  Indeed, Christmas was no Christmas without presents.  This is where another famous Christmas novel comes in. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

In this novel, Dickens, considered as the literary colossus of the Victorian age, writes almost like a preacher, scolding us for our greed, selfishness and meanness towards each other.

The narrative revolves around a man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who becomes mean spirited over time as he advances in age and due to lack of human interaction.

Joy of living

He has lost all joy of living and only derives comfort from making extra money and sharing none of it – even during Christmas! Dickens is brutal in his description of Scrooge. He writes that Ebenezer Scrooge was ...a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone...a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster...

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, `My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me? Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, `No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!’“

A Christmas Carol is very relevant in our commercialised, “man-eat-man” society where the principle seems to be “everyone for himself and God for us all”. Dickens does a wonderful transformation to his character, Scrooge.

In a dream, Scrooge sees three Ghosts (the ghost of Christmas Past, the ghost of Christmas Present and the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) that stir the gentle and tender side of the old miser’s heart. When he wakes up on Christmas morning, he is, for once, very jovial and generous. He no longer finds it hard to help the less fortunate.  Dickens seems to stress that Christmas is a time of giving not only cheer but also our material things.

The writer is the CEO of Phoenix Publishers.


 

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