The Dickens Effect‘There’s terms, characters, traditions, events, traditions that are popularised and actually come from A Christmas Carol’

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Is Charles Dickens indirectly responsible for films like Lethal Weapon, Groundhog Day and Home Alone? Chris Wasser believes so. He joined Sean Rocks on Arena to make his case that these films and more are influenced by the classic work, A Christmas Carol.

This weekend sees the release of The Man Who Invented Christmas, a shadowing Charles Dickens (played by Dan Stevens) during the writing of A Christmas Carol. 

“It was October 1843 and he [Dickens] was, essentially, up to his eyeballs in debt…His publishers, you know, they’re thinking about…cutting his money down. And he says to them ‘Look, my next book is going to be a Christmas story. It’s going to sell loads of copies…just leave me to it.’ And they actually rejected it. He was confident enough just based on all these characters and events that had happened to him in his own life that, you know [he thought] ‘I have a good story here. I’m going to write it and if you guys aren’t going to take it, I’ll self-publish it”.

Chris told Sean that Dickens completed the novella in “just 6 weeks”, ready for purchase – provided you had 5 shillings – 5 days before Christmas Eve. The publishing house’s lack of faith in the book was not without reason. Christmas was seen as “a thing of the past”. Defying expectations, A Christmas Carol ended up selling out its initial 6,000 print run by Christmas Eve and, in Chris’ opinion, influenced Christmas as an occasion from then on with terms like “Bah, Humbug” and “Merry Christmas” coming into popular lexicon.

Down to the important stuff. Whatever about The Muppet Christmas Carol – what do Lethal Weapon, Groundhog Day and Home Alone have in common with Dickens’ work? It’s all about redemption, according to Chris, as seen in Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McAllister in Home Alone.

He doesn’t give a damn about anybody. He genuinely believes that he has wished his family away and, for a week at least, he is delighted about this. But he learns over this week that he needs them. He learns how to love. He learns how to be a better person…He is a little Scrooge character…I do look at it and think ‘That’s a little mini A Christmas Carol right there.'”

Listen back to the full segment on A Christmas Carol on Arena here.

© The Listener 2017

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