Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
Few people have read A Christmas Carol but almost everyone has encountered at least one of the many radio, theatre, television and film adaptations (the best of which, in my opinion, was done by the Muppets).
A Christmas Carol took Charles Dickens six weeks to write. He finished the novella in November 1843, just in time for Christmas and in the intervening 171 years it has never been out of print. Those who haven’t read the novella are missing out; there’s something wonderful about hearing Scrooge’s story in Dickens’ own words; in fact we can thank this particular novella for the popularisation of now famous phrases like, ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Bah Humbug.’
A Christmas Carol is a classic ghost story. In the preface Dickens writes: ‘I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.’ The story haunts ‘pleasantly’ because its focus is redemption, not revenge; the ghosts don’t punish Scrooge, they highlight his mistakes and illustrate the inevitable outcome if he should fail to change. It’s a tale of hope and a tribute to the tremendous power of imagination; Scrooge is finally moved to change once he is able to imagine a better way of living. The concerns of the novella – its condemnation of both greed and indifference to the plight of the working poor – remain topical and relevant today.
A Christmas Carol isn’t a long read. Several years after publication Dickens performed the story to a crowd of 2,000 in Birmingham’s town hall. The performance took less than three hours (including the part where he danced on his reading table). The novella is available at no cost on Kindle and it can also be read in its entirety online, however I suggest the following reading conditions for optimal enjoyment: a paper copy of the text, a comfy chair, the mantle of a dark, cold night (stormy or snowy weather may provide extra pleasure) a flickering candle or an open fire, and a large glass of something festive. Happy reading.