Monday, December 17, 2012

Magic on Monday: Have Yourself a Gothic Little Christmas by Christine Locke

As Michel Faber notes in an excellent article, although Dickens' A Christmas Carol is by no means a "gothic novel," strickly speaking, it certainly "...concentrates on what excites his imagination most: death, grotesquery, poverty, indignity, death, clownish pranks, death, dancing and food. Oh, and did I mention death?"

Sure, some may find it strange, or even sacreligious, to so prominently feature death and ghostly hauntings in a Christmas story, yet, I think not so much.  Sometimes we highlight positives by juxtaposing them with negatives: through dwelling on the horror of Marley's wretched afterlife, we are able to share the joy of Scrooge's life and continuing ability to alter his fate.  Dickens--as he always does so well--compels us to think about the social consequences of the wretched poverty of one family.  Then, he allows us to share in their joy and in the joy of the giver who relieves that suffering. 

We celebrate Christmas, a holiday all about giving precious, needed gifts to loved ones and to those in need, at the winter solstice, when nights are cold and food is growing scarce in nature.  The cozy cottage on the Christmas card is cozy because the snow is driving outside the window.  Happy birds flock to birdfeeders because food is scarce elsewhere.  Evergreen indoors and out reminds us that spring, and a time of plenty, will come again--and, in the meantime, we treasure what we have and share what we can.

So I tend to think that Christmas has a special place in gothic--or almost gothic--literature.  I'm saving a portrayal of Christmas at Mallace Mansion for the final book in the Trilogy.  But I ended In Time with a description of holiday sharing with Carin.

Carin opened the door wide and was happy for the deep red wool sweater over her skirt and blouse as the blast of cold wind rushed through the entry.  On the sideboard, vases of flowers and leaves and fresh greenery spread their scent through the house and candle flames guttered in surprise at the gust.  Charlotte pulled the lapels of her heavy fur up over her ears as best she could with one free hand.
            “Carin, Happy Thanksgiving!  So wonderful to see you, sweetheart!”
            “Please come in!”  Carin grinned and brought Charlotte and Bobby into the house as quickly as she could.
With Carin, the reclusive role of the Mallace family heir opens to welcome others and and build a new sense of community.  In The Legacy Series, this is best portrayed with holiday parties, and I think it has to do with an almost natural paradox between the lack and longing of the gothic hero/heroine and the portrayal of holiday bounty and generosity.


  1. Beautifully written. My 9-10th grade lit class was reading "A Christmas Carol" just before their Christmas break. I love the humor of Dickens paired with the subtle love he feels for his characters. They were obviously very real to him. But, as you point out, the change in Scrooge's life wouldn't be nearly so dramatic if the reader wasn't introduced to his dreary, selfish, melancholy life.

  2. Thanks, Marbeth. Your class sounds wonderful. How do your students respond to Dickens' writing? Are they reading anything else by him this year?

  3. Lovely blog. I think that Christmas time, with dark nights and the opportunity to be with loved ones, is ideal as a setting for ghost stories - we can ensure that all the family sees how life is, in a happy family, and how it could be, but for the grace of God.

  4. What a lovely blog! I think Christmas is an ideal time for ghost stories - it gives us the dark nights to make them memorable and the time with family to demonstrate how it should really be.