“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”
Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is afraid. Though his agents agree that his writing is superb, the last three novels he wrote and published were monetary – and critical – failures. On the cusp of Christmas, Dickens must pull off a literary success to appease his dwindling bank account and his family. With the help of a few surreal encounters, Dickens pieces together a story about a grumpy old miser whose penny-pinching might come back to haunt him. Dickens works on A Christmas Carol with bursts of creative energy, though his father John Dickens (Jonathan Pryce) and his own ghosts may stop Charles from finishing the novel in time to redeem himself.
Taking a step outside of Ebenezer Scrooge, this film follows his creator, author Charles Dickens. An interesting take on Dickens’ life, The Man Who Invented Christmas explores Dickens’ struggle with his own past, present, and potential future. In this light, it is clear how the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future evolved.
One widely accepted fact about Charles Dickens is that he once worked in a shoe polish factory to support his family. While doing so, Charles’ father was in a debtors’ prison, which was a prison specifically for people that owed money. It is definitely a good thing that today with the college debt bubble, these institutions no longer exist…
Anyway, The Man Who Invented Christmas delves into Charles’ distaste for his father’s incapacity to handle money. The film also indicates that the fears Charles had about ending up in a debtors’ prison color his writing of A Christmas Carol. John Dickens is shown as a likeable, but manipulative father whose unchanging nature makes it clear to see that Charles’ fears are not entirely unfounded. John Dickens serves to annoy his son at every turn, but Charles’ continued irritation with John could thwart any literary progress he hopes to make in time for Christmas – or beyond that.
A Ghost Story
A Christmas Carol is a ghost story. In fact, the arrival of each spirit does disturb Ebenezer Scrooge, although he is warned about all but Jacob Marley before they appear. The Man Who Invented Christmas characterizes details such as a broken door knocker, a cemetery in the winter, and a well-meaning housekeeper to illustrate how a writer can take whispers from their real life to shape a whole other world.
As he conquers his complex feelings about his father, Charles Dickens uses the ghosts of his past and his possibly penniless future to tell a story about another man haunted by a gathering of specters. Though the film implies that Charles Dickens invented Christmas and some of its messages that we embrace today, perhaps the financially inept father behind the author is owed some credit. The challenge John Dickens imposed upon his son may be partially responsible for the invention of A Christmas Carol. In fact, it is only in the presence of conflict that anyone can truly succeed.
To the author and his father, the holiday certainly owes a great debt for the making of an unforgettable story and for the reminder that it is never too late for a change of heart.
Merry Christmas to you all!