Charles Dickens—Using Symbol, Theme & Allegory to Create Enduring Stories

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Why are there certain stories we just can’t get enough of? Why do some stories fade away while others become staples for every generation? Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been made into all kinds of movies, plays, cartoons, musicals and there are countless variations of Dickens’ original story: A grumpy old miser who is transformed by the power of love.

Today we are going to explore the many brilliant layers of a very simple and timeless tale and maybe even extract some lessons to make our own writing even better.

One of my all-time favorite movies for the holidays is The Muppets Christmas Carol. I believe I’ve seen this movie a few hundred thousand times. I’ve worn out three VHS tapes and at least three DVDs. I play the movie over and over, mainly because, well, duh,  MUPPETS! I drive my husband nuts playing this movie over and over…and over.

I’m worse than a three-year-old.

Muppets aside, I also can’t get enough of the music. I love the story of A Christmas Carol no matter how many times I see it, no matter how many renditions, and I am certainly not alone. Charles Dickens’ story of a redeemed miser is a staple for holiday celebrations around the world and across the generations.

This story is virtually synonymous with “Christmas,” but why is it such a powerful story? Why has it spoken so deeply to so many? Why is it a story that never grows old? Today, I want to talk about a couple of the elements that speak to me, because they rest at the heart of great writing.

A Little Background

A Christmas Carol is a beautiful story, but I find it’s true beauty when it’s explained in the Christian context that inspired it. A couple years ago, Toddler Spawn was watching Bubble Guppies and they tried (dismally) to tell the same story inserting “holiday” so as not to offend anyone, I presume.

Yet, the story fell flat.

The PC had ruined the beauty of this tale and made it more of a lesson about embracing shallow commercialism once a year than a story of love’s power to redeem the irredeemable. Thus, this post will use scriptural and religious references to explain why I believe this story is so moving and timeless.

Charles Dickens was a Christian and his beliefs are wound all through the story, thus this post is only to explore in light of that reality. For instance, if we were parsing apart The Golden Compass we’d be approaching from a vastly different ontological angle. Namely, Pullman is an atheist and thus his fiction is also an extension of his values.

Back to A Christmas Carol…

Instead of Dickens preaching his beliefs, he created the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and then through theme, symbols, motifs and allegory drove home very powerful lessons.

The Power of Names

Naming characters can be vital. Great writers use the power of parsimony. Each element should serve as many purposes as possible. A name is more than a name. It has the power to be a story within a story.

I recall the moment I was first introduced to what would become my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Many Blessings. One verse stood out:

Here I raise my Ebenezer

Here by Thy great help I’ve come

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home.

Ebenezer? Raise an Ebenezer? I needed to know more. Ebenezer is actually ??? ????, Even Ha’Ezer, which literally means stone of help or monument to God’s glory and is referenced in the book of Samuel.

Thus, when Dickens chose a name for his protagonist, he chose the perfect name for the redeemed sinner. What is a better testament to a God of grace, than the hardened heart melted by the power of love? The current climate of political correctness aside, A Christmas Carol is most definitively a Christian story and the theme is reminiscent of Proverbs 25:22:

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat

and if he is thirsty give him water to drink

for you will heap burning coals on his head

and the Lord will reward you.

Very often this verse is misunderstood. “Yeah! BURN ‘EM! THAT’LL TEACH THEM TO MESS WITH ME! COALS! BURN BABY BUUUURN!” Yet, if one looks to the ancient Hebrew, the heaping burning coals is literally the holy fire of LOVE that melts the hardened heart so it can be remade (think of melting a weapon of war to remake it into something of beauty or a tool for healing or farming).

The path to redemption is love, for only love holds the power to redeem those who have committed grave wrongdoings. Only love can repair what’s been broken and “remake” it into something entirely new.

The Christian story is a story of love, of redemption, of second chances and not because one has earned it or deserved it.

Scrooge is a dreadful man, yet as the story unfolds, not only does Scrooge’s heart begin to melt as he’s faced with the truth of who he is, but our hearts melt toward Scrooge as we travel through the past, present and future and see what has created such a embittered, cruel person. We empathize and start to have compassion and love the unlovely.

Scrooge has done nothing to earn redemption, but his redemption is precisely why we cheer at the end.

The spectral visits serve to show Scrooge the truth, which again is reminiscent of scripture; and then you will know the truth and it is the truth that will set you free (John 8:32). Scrooge cannot change what he cannot see and it is the three ghosts who come to reveal what he’s failed to see on his own.

Repentance is not the mumbled and counterfeit “Sorry.” Rather, it is finally seeing the truth of who we are and what wrong we’ve done. It’s a decision to make things right and turn away from wrong.

By the end of the story, Ebenezer is authentically repentant. He’s a changed person determined to share the love and grace that was freely given to him when he didn’t deserve it.

Again, what a wonderful testament to God’s love. What a lovely “Ebenezer.”

Jacob Marley is another symbolic name. Jacob Marley is the name of Scrooge’s old business partner, and it is he who intervenes to try and redeem his old friend before Ebenezer is sentenced to share Marley’s fate. The name “Jacob” actually means “thief and liar.”

In the Bible, Jacob stole his brother Esau’s blessing, then manipulated, lied, stole and connived until it came back to bite him multiple times  (Jacob later wrestled with an angel until he could be given a new name, Israel and he’d become the father of a great people). What better name to give someone sentenced to roam as a specter for eternity carrying the weight of his ill deeds than a name that literally means thief and liar?


The Power of Symbol

When the ghost of Jacob Marley visits Scrooge:

The chain he drew about his waist was clasped about his middle. It was long and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel…

Why cash-boxes? Why deeds? Why purses?

In life Jacob was a money-lender. He was ruthless in his dealings and never forgave a debt. Yet, Matthew 6:12 (part of The Lord’s Prayer) reads: Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors.

Jacob forged his chains in life. He refused to show mercy, compassion, or kindness. He was ruthless and legalistic, thus he has sealed his fate. God has promised to forgive us the same way we forgive others, which is why the scripture pleads for grace, compassion and mercy. Also, forgiveness of debts is the heart of what Christmas is about, for unto us a child is born.

Christians believe God sent His only begotten son (God in the form of Man) to pay a debt we cannot hope to pay. God loves us as His children, and our actions have left us hopelessly out off our depth, incapable of paying our debts.

Yet, Love cancels the debt.

Christ’s last words on the cross, “It is finished” literally translate “Paid in FULL.” Jacob turned away from the grace freely offered, so now he wanders, burden by the debts he cannot pay.

Jacob now finds opportunity to warn Scrooge of the chains he is now forging with his actions (and inaction), chains that are longer and heavier than even his. The only way for Scrooge to free himself is to learn to value himself and his fellow human beings.

Smaller Truths Reveal Larger Truths

Dickens makes it a point to show us that Scrooge is a miser. Scrooge shows no mercy, has no warmth, shares none of his wealth…with anyone, including himself. Scrooge is a very wealthy man, yet he wears old clothes, lights no coals for warmth because coal costs money. His home is threadbare and his food measly and meager.

The full story of redemption is that Scrooge not only sees his fellow man differently—worthy of compassion, love and generosity—but in changing how he views his fellow man, his view of himself changes (and heals) as well. The three spirits not only heal Scrooge’s relationship with his Maker, but with himself and others. Scrooge, for the first time, becomes part of the human experience, no longer content to be “solitary as an oyster.”


This point should resonate particularly with writers. There is a REASON the Ghost of Christmas Future refuses to speak. Words have creative power. If one looks at the first chapters of Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth and all living things by speaking. “And God said…”

It was only humans He breathed life into. Everything else was created by speaking. Throughout the Old and New Testament, there are countless scriptures referencing the power of the tongue, of words, and warning they carry both the power of life and death.

This idea carries into Ebenezer’s story because, by the time he has this final visit, he still has choice over what his future will be. The specter cannot speak because words would cast his future and it isn’t for the Spirit of Christmas Future to decide.

Happy Ending

Scrooge deserves the death he’s shown by the Spirit of Christmas Future. He deserves to die alone with those “closest” casting lots for his garments. This is what he has sown with his lifetime of greed, hate and spite.

Yet, he is pardoned.

Scrooge is the resurrected heart, the dead brought to life. When God promises “everlasting life” it isn’t a promise that we get to float around on a cloud in Heaven after we die. Rather, it’s a promise that life begins at the moment we decide to accept mercy and love.

Scrooge has been “alive” but not “living.” He was existing. When he is redeemed, given a new chance, he changes. Out of gratitude for the mercy he is given, he reaches out to give what he’s been given. LOVE, MERCY, GENEROSITY.


Sure, God could have rained down a miracle that healed Tiny Tim and landed Bob Cratchit a better job with a better boss, but Dickens saw God as a God in the business of finding and changing the lost, miserable and broken. Instead of giving the miracle to Cratchit and his family, God, instead, gives it to Scrooge, the least deserving of a miracle.


Because God is about working through people. Many of His miracles come from ordinary people performing extraordinary acts of kindness and sacrifice. By changing Scrooge, God could create a man who would become a benefactor. Cratchit has now a kind and generous boss, the community now had a passionate philanthropist, and Tiny Tim lives and the family thrived because one man’s heart could be melted.


It is no great feat to love the lovely. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much (Matthew 5:46). This story is so powerful namely because it shows that every human has value and is worth and an opportunity for redemption. God is in the business of changing hearts, and Dickens wanted to show that. A Christmas Carol is a masterful exploration of the true nature of Christianity, what it should be, what it was meant to be. Love. Above all.

What is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol? What do you love about this story? What is your favorite part? I love The Muppet’s Christmas Carol (already told y’all that), but THIS is my FAVORITE part!


Also, here is my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I cry every time I hear this:


Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

Enough of that…

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOVEMBER’S Winner of the 20 page critique is Toni Kennedy. Please send your 5,000 word WORD document to kristen at wana intl dot com. Congratulations and thanks for supporting my guest blogger!

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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  1. Love the way you step out in boldness with the truth. Great post.

  2. Cool! I’m re-reading A Christmas Carol as we speak 🙂 Love his style so much, always have. The time frame and settings are exactly my thing too.

  3. Excellent post! I, too, cannot get enough of the Muppets!

  4. How odd – I posted my (humble) review of A Christmas Carol and then popped over to my Reader to see recent posts by those I follow, only to find that you had posted this about 15 minutes earlier 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed reading what you have written! And here’s my little take:

  5. Thanks for this, Kristen. (And just for the record, one of my favorite renditions is “Scrooged”, with Bill Murray. So funny and heartbreaking.)

    1. That is my other favorite. “Oh look, a shiny new TOASTER!”

      1. “Sometimes you have to SLAP them in the face to get their attention.” : )

  6. One of the best and strongest posts you’ve written, simply timeless. Thank you!!

  7. LOVE this! I just watched Muppet Christmas Carol last night–I watch it at least three times during December and at various times throughout the year. Because Muppets! I can’t help singing along to Marley and Marley, and it makes my husband crazy. 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on Chaos breeds Chaos.

  9. What a wonderful post about my favorite ‘Christmas-time story’ ! And how true. All of it!

    My absolute favorite is George C. Scott’s version, which edges a nose ahead of The Muppets’ version. Actually, Scott’s needs some adjustment: an echo chamber for Jacob Marley and leaving out the screech they give the Ghost of Christmas to Come.

    In the Muppet version I love how Scrooge warms and softens. It makes me choke up.

    By the way, the final song, in the closing credits of the Scott version have this lovely song:

    Thank you for this post (as well as your other ones).


  10. Loved your reflections on this timeless classic. I can’t pick a favorite! Sharing this on my facebook page.

    • Chris on December 7, 2015 at 12:01 pm
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    My family reads “A Christmas Carol” aloud every year, stretching it out for 3-4 nights before the big day. Over the years, we’ve found ourselves looking forward to odd details in Dickens’ wonderful descriptions. One of our favorites is when the knocker turns to Marley’s face, and it “glowed like a bad lobster in a dark cellar”.

  11. Oh, and I just have to brag – I just bought your book from Amazon. So excited about this!

  12. I love A Christmas Carol and I agree completely that we can learn a lot from Charles Dickens’ timeless tale.

  13. Well said.
    A classic story seems to need to be specific enough to pull on universal threads in people, yet vague enough to leap time barriers and survive for always emerging new audiences.
    English/language arts teachers used to tell kids, you must read not only classic time honored literature and the Bible – even if it isn’t “your own culture” – in order to understand and appreciate the art and craft of literature/stories as well as you relationship with society and the world itself (and do well in college courses, not to mention social “small talk” at dinner parties.) A bit sad that concept is usually absent. So many reflections and conversations only on a shallow superficial pop culture level now.

    1. Well, I am not per se writing this to preach even though I am a Christian. But a good parallel would be Dune. I think you get a WHOLE new layer out of Frank Hebert’s series if you study Islam and the history of colonization in the Middle East. If you don’t there is a lot of depth you miss out on.

      1. Definitely. (Great example) A broad education/widely read habit will take anyone to a new awareness.

  14. I have always loved this story and Dickens remains one of my favorite authors of all time. I love your post and connecting everything together for those who may not truly understand what Dickens was going for. As for my favorite rendition of the movie, mine is the classic 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Cratchit. I liked the Muppet version but not as much as this one. I still cry at the end. I’m such a sap. 🙂

  15. Thanks for your insightful commentary on “Christmas Carol.” My favorite is Patrick Stewart’s classic version, which he did as a one-man show for years in Los Angeles.

    It’s worth noting that Dickens also used mythology from even older religions than Christianity, like Zoraster, Mithras and the story of Horus. These larger mythological themes that reach into human pre-history may be part of why this story resonates in such a deep way for all of us.

    1. That might be worth another post entirely. I just used Christianity to keep it relatively short and the themes cohesive.

  16. Kristen, we love A Muppet Christmas Carol at our house too, although we’ve only gone through 1 VHS tape and we haven’t gotten a DVD of it yet. 😉

    I wrote a guest post on the “Heroes: Who They Are and Why We Need Them” blog about how the Grinch took a redemptive hero’s journey when he tried to steal Christmas. The Grinch’s tale is similar the Scrooge’s, though it is told with playful rhymes and humorous illustrations. What else would you expect from Dr. Seuss? Here’s a link if you’d like to read it:

  17. One of my favorite stories. I love your post for many reasons. God bless you, Kristen. I’m sharing.

    • Sarah Hernandez on December 7, 2015 at 1:09 pm
    • Reply

    Absolutely without a doubt the best interpretation of this timeless classic I have ever heard! Thank you for sharing this and God bless you and your family during this Christmas season!

  18. Wonderful article of a classic story. I’ve also included in a post about the symbolism of the doorknocker, an important point in almost all versions of the story – because when love comes knocking, you have to open the door to let it in…into your life and into your heart, which Ebenezer does not. you can check it out here:

  19. Great post. One of the best I have read here in Blogworld.

  20. Love A Christmas Carol! 😀

    • Tamara LeBlanc on December 7, 2015 at 2:22 pm
    • Reply

    The Muppet’s Christmas Carol is also one of my favorite versions. I also like the cg version with Jim Carey.
    Love, redemption, a little past, some present and future, ghosts, holiday season…what could be better?
    Thank you for your wisdom, Kristen 🙂

  21. Great post and analysis of a classic.

  22. Reblogged this on Rachael Ritchey and commented:
    A Christmas Carol is a timeless tale of redemption and has a lot to teach us as writers and humans in general. I sure enjoyed this post from Kristen Lamb.

    “It is no great feat to love the lovely. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much (Matthew 5:46). This story is so powerful namely because it shows that every human has value and is worth and an opportunity for redemption. God is in the business of changing hearts, and Dickens wanted to show that.”

  23. Reblogged this on authorkdrose and commented:
    I am a lover of symbol and metaphor. Here’s a great post on even more.

  24. Charles Dickens is a master at naming characters! That’s one of my favorite parts of his stories. 🙂 As you say, “It is no great feat to love the lovely.” If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much (Matthew 5:46). Love is a powerful force; it is beauty in action. 🙂 Merry Christmas, Kristen.

  25. My favourite version too! My wife’s is the UK version with Patrick Stewart.

  26. No doubt, a great story, and your analysis is wonderful.
    I have watched it many times; but what has stuck with me, is the concept of timing. Marley is screwed for eternity, but if Scrooge had died first, the opposite might be true. Such fickle cause to a most profound outcome.
    Merry Christmas!

    • Eugenie Black on December 7, 2015 at 3:31 pm
    • Reply

    Brilliant analysis – thank you. My daughter (who attends a Faith school – very different in the UK to the States, I believe) was studying A Christmas Carol last year. I really wish she could have read this then. But I shall certainly make sure her teachers see this blog. Thank you – I’m not normally a fan of Dickens, but I shall re-read ACC on the back on this.

  27. Thank you for showing me so many new layers to a story I’ve loved since childhood. I’m going to have to read it again with this new perspective!

    • Melissa Keaster on December 7, 2015 at 10:34 pm
    • Reply

    First of all, this may be my favorite post from you EVER. Props to you for your boldness, courage, and love in posting this. Hugs to you, sister.

    My Dad collected EVERY VERSION of The Christmas Carol, and I’ve seen ’em all. While the Muppet Christmas Carol is my #2, my favorite version of the story is Scrooge, the musical with Albert Finney. You just don’t get much better than “I Hate People.” Awesome stuff, right there. And I love the whole “Minister’s Cat” game and the ghost of Christmas present is my favorite in that one. It’s all kinds of YES, and it’s not Christmas until I’ve seen it.

  28. I lost all respect for political correctness when “Merry Christmas!” was banned. A great read at a time when religion is being beaten out of our society!

    • ARDEN CHAPMAN on December 7, 2015 at 11:29 pm
    • Reply

    I can’t get enough of the story either. For a matter of fact, I collect the different versions of it. My personal favorite is the 1970 musical version with Albert Finney playing the lead role. I love the songs and dance, and the casting. It offers seriousness and mystery along with humor. I had already ‘broken it down’ as to why I love the story, as do so many more. You did a much better and thorough job, with biblical explanations of things. It is a very good post/article. We all love stories of redemption, or changed hearts. That naturally blesses our hearts, or it should. God is a god of reconciliation who is in the business of redeeming hearts. The reformed churches I feel sure, see this as ‘irresistible grace in action,’ that ‘God always gets his man’ as he ‘shows mercy and grace to whom he chooses.’ Thanks for your post!

  29. I love how you break down the Christmas Story. You did it last year and I appreciate you sharing it again this year. I plan to give a speech at my Toastmasters club regarding you as my favorite blogger and author (Rise of the Machines) and share how you explain the Christmas story in the Christian context. I know my audience will be intrigued. Thanks for sharing..

    1. I probably should analyze another story but this one is just still my favorite 😀 .

  30. Thanks Kristen for an enjoyable and educational read.
    My favorite versions are “Scrooge” with Albert Finney and the rather dark themed dramatic version with Alastair Simm in the lead role. I think the rather dark toned version makes the redemption at the end all the more powerful.
    I’m o.k. with the Muppet version. My first experience with it was the first Christmas together with my new bride. It was rather strange to cuddle up on the couch with an Air Force T.I. and watch Muppets.

  31. Dear Kristen, got your book yesterday and I’m already halfway through it, I’m super hooked. You know how people are now, give them something and they’ll want more – can you recommend a good marketing book for authors? i never took that seriously, but now I’m mega interested in the subject. Thanks so much!

    1. Not really. I recommend all the books I used in ROM for research. Seth Godin is GOLD. I recommend my classes (obviously) but my way of teaching marketing seems to remain rather unique. A lot of others have adopted parts of what I teach but I think there is still too much “sales” speak. If sales speak doesn’t bother you then get 10X by Grant Cardone. I loved that book, though if you do what he recommends on Twitter I will personally kick your @$$. But the rest of the book has great advice 😀 .

      1. Thanks so much, Kristen! Now you got me super curious what Gardone “recommends” for Twitter LOL. Not that I would apply it if it’s a marketing scam, I trust my products enough to stay fair. Love your book, and I’ll be coming back for more! P.S. I’m a very books person more than classes, especially because I have a baby in whose sleeping time I must inform myself, quietly LOL. So please recommend me YOUR books, I love ROM and I’ll sure love those too. I live in Germany, where one isn’t allowed to send advertising online unless requested, so this is me REQUESTING that you please advertise to me 🙂 I really appreciate what you’re doing

        1. He is big about mega mega promotion using Twitter even if it bothers people and I don’t agree. I think it is self-centered and it ruins why we like Twitter. If everyone does this then we just stop using Twitter because it is one big spam fest. He automates and has a lot of his people tweeting prepared tweets. I am COMPLETELY against that. And I am so happy you are enjoying the book. Keep me posted!

  32. Hi Kristen, what a brilliant post. you most powerful message is one of love. This is something the world sorely needs at this time and it was the massage Jesus tried to preach during his life. If you love you can’t go wrong. He told us that we should “love one another as I have loved you” and we all need to rememeber this.

    On a slightly lighter note, I noticed you bit on the re-writted PC story and the fact it fell flat. This is no surprise. In stories characters are exaggerated in order to bring out their characters and Roald Dahl did this a lot with his stories. To take away this exaggeratedness (you’ll pick me up on that one I bet lol) and replace it with PC – boring!

    Thanks for the great post Kristen. I really enjoyed reading it as I always enjoy reading your posts.

  33. Your posts usually make me think, and this one was no different. My partner loves A Christmas Carol almost as much as you do, and I’ve watched it at least a hundred times with her. (The original as well as the George C. Scott version) Never, ever did I see what you’ve pointed out. Now I’ll be looking at my own novel-in-progress to see how I can lace it with more meaning. So thank you for once again making me think and teaching me something.

  34. Thanks very much for that post; I’ve always thought that Dickens had distilled all that is laudable about Christianity in “Christmas Carol” (or at least, a large measure of it), but coming at it from the outside of the faith I hadn’t comprehended how thorough he was.

    Also, a much as I like the muppets AND Michael Caine, they still can’t beat the SIm version in my books. But it’s a subjective thing.

  35. A Christmas Carol has long been my favorite holiday movie and watching the many versions we own has become a holiday tradition. Beginning with Thanksgiving evening, we watch our first Christmas movie. Yes, the Muppets version is close to my heart, and I lost track of how many times I’ve watched it, but the version we watch on Thanksgiving was made in 1938 with Reginald Owen as Scrooge. The version with my favorite Marley is with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. And in keeping with animated takes on A Christmas Carol, I do enjoy Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. They took a unique approach to the story which I enjoy quite a lot.

  36. Kristin–Thank you, thank you. I’ve read (and archived and printed) so many of your columns during the three or four years I’ve read them, and they’ve helped immeasurably, but this…this is the best. I thought I was going to learn something about the symbolism of names, but got an inspiration as well. I knew there was more…I just knew it.

  37. Man, this is great! I love your columns, and this one was even better than most! It gave me so much inspiration for all of my books, and I’m really glad I read this one! The dissection of a great book was an awesome idea, it lets us see what we missed, making you a sort of Jacob, but one from a better place than we are at. Now, let’s go find my copy of A Christmas Carol…

  38. Hey Kristen,
    Have you even seen the musical, “Scrooge” from 1970? It stars a young Albert Finney as the miser. Lots of great songs in that movie as well. It should be available on DVD.

  39. This is a great article, but I would like to point out that “Jacob” does not mean “liar and thief.” It is derived from Ya’aqov’el which means “Protected by God” or “may God protect.” Even if you used the traditional “Ya’aqov,” it does not mean liar or thief, it actually means “successor.”

    1. Depends what source. Jacob of Genesis was a twin born second grabbing his brother’s heel, so some references translate as “usurper” or “heel-grabber.” He was the usurper who stole his brother Esau’s inheritance by tricking his father. God had quite a journey with him. When he feared for his life after tricking Esau he then ended up working for Laban. Laban outwitted him and got him for seven years of service and then pawned of Leah, then another seven years of service to give Jacob the daughter he wanted (Rachel). Anyway, it was an illustration of how God uses broken people and remakes them. Uses what is “weak” and it can be their “strength” which we as authors do all the time. That God would use a trickster and a swindler to eventually father and lead His most beloved people? Pretty amazing symbol.

      1. Actually, Esau gave up his inheritance willingly with no trickery. Jacob offered a trade and Esau accepted it. He tricked his father at the urging of his mother because Isaac was going to disobey God, but it was not Jacob’s idea.
        As for Laban, he was the liar and crook in the story. He did outwit Jacob, but because he was a cruel man who God blessed Jacob as recompense though Laban continually tried to cheat Jacob.
        It is a story of how God can take a person and fulfill his promises, like the ones He made to Abraham and Isaac.
        Jacob was not a trickster or a swindler, he was a man who almost got cheated out of what God promised him. I do agreed he should have trusted God instead of listening to the poor advice of his mother.
        It is a story of how God rescues us even when we try to take matters into our own hands. His promises will always come true.

        1. But you and I are talking the same issue (other than some sources DO translate the name to “usurper”—I didn’t make that up 😀 ). Notice I said God uses what is “weak” and it really is that person’s “strength”. Yes, God blessed Jacob to “outmaneuver” the crook Laban, but he didn’t just rain down a miracle on him. He made Jacob do the work and used his crazy intelligence and capacity for strategy (though this time positively).

          Also, Jacob had a capacity for trust. He had a capacity to BELIEVE he merited a great inheritance. God simply had to get Jacob’s eyes off of his mom (off people of the world) and through trial, on to God ;). God had an inheritance for him, it was just bigger than what Jacob could envision. Jacob couldn’t have the God’s eye perspective. None of us can and that in part is the great lesson of that story.

          And a lot of name translations have a version we go? ERR?? *brakes screech*. One version of mine is something akin to “great leader” and another is “one rubbed in oil.” O_O Especially distressing if your last name is LAMB.

  40. Great post, insights I hadn’t thought of. My personal favorite version is the one with George C. Scott as Scrooge. It was filmed in the ‘eighties, and I watch it every year. I love finding the deeper meaning in stories and hope I can do so in my own work effectively. Entertainment is fun, but I want to learn and really feel something. Thanks Kristen!

  41. I love the context you put this in!

    • Rachel Thompson on December 9, 2015 at 9:30 am
    • Reply

    I disagree that this timeless tale relies on christianity for it’s message and archetypal attraction. The concepts it puts forth are universal and can be seen in many cultures and stories from the deep past to mondern times–see Joseph Campbell. Your biases are showing. I love the tale too as an ex-christian atheists, and comparative religions geek. Like Star Wars it hits archetypal bull’s eyes that relate directly to the human condition and psychology. Religion is the window dressing and cultural setting– the archetypes are universal. Next you’ll tell us America was founded as a Christian nation–it wasn’t.

    1. You are reading into that. I never said that. I said there are additional layers when we look at the ontological perspective of the author and it is no great secret Dickens WAS a Christian (Ie. Archetypes don’t give us the name reference of Ebenezer and the Book of Samuel). Same with Herbert’s Dune. Yes, Dune is timeless with simple Joseph Campbell treatment but if you’ve studied Islam and understand some Arabic and the unique perspective of the Middle Eastern people in regards to colonization by the Western imperial powers, it actually makes a much richer story.

      I don’t feel threatened by another writer’s belief system. Not even yours 😉 .

  42. I love the Muppets!

    If anyone wants to know more about A Christmas Carol’s major impact on our Christmas traditions, I wrote a free report on it called 7 Ways A Christmas Carol Changed Christmas Forever. You can get it now at

  43. I think, in trying to keep everyone happy and staying politically correct, many people have become afraid to attach meaning to anything. I love this post; it definitely makes me think of the Dickens classic in a whole new way. More than that, however, I love your straight forward, unapologetic tone. It definitely encourages me to strive for the same. Thank you, Kristen!

    1. Hey, I am not a priest and I respect all belief systems. My favorite series is Herbert’s Dune primarily because I studied Islam for my degree. Without the context of Islam, you lose SO many layers to the story.

      There are a lot of works that when viewed through the lens of faith (used by the author) give us a richness. We don’t have to convert to appreciate it. Even simple things.

      For instance, in the movie “Point Break” the antagonist’s name is Bodhi. That is short for Bodhisattva which (in Buddhism) is an enlightened being who has made a choice to help others attain enlightenment A Bodhisattva (if I recall correctly) is there to act as a mentor and a guide to aide in the evolution and working out karma so that the others may attain enlightenment as well.

      Without THAT knowledge, then Bodhi just sounds like a surfer name and the entire point of WHY he is robbing banks and leading a band of young men to do the same to fund this adrenalin-high life is utterly lost.

      Now, I do not feel threatened by Buddhism to know this extra layer.

      But I am happy most of you enjoyed this and no, I won’t apologize for who I am and what I believe and PC can pound sand. It has no place on my blog.

      1. That’s exactly why I loved this post and all of your writing. You’re awesome!!!

  44. Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    This piece speaks for itself.

  45. Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for not being shy about sharing the truth about Christmas. Also, thank you for not being shy about sharing the best version of Dickens’ story – the Muppet version! 🙂

  46. Brava, Ms. Lamb! I am a huge devotee of Christmas Carol, and had no greater pleasure onstage than playing him a decade ago. I needed some make-up back then! Now, not so much… I applaud this critique, it’s spot-on and yet filled with things I never thought of. Truly, what a wondrous tale. I agree wholeheartedly about misers and their condition- really, all of us are in some way and that’s what the hope of Christmas is about. Never too late. But I never thought of how the Ghost of Christmas Future doesn’t speak- that’s brilliant!
    Dickens accomplished so much, especially to us authors it’s a testament to how your writing can do more than thrill the reader, it can even change their lives. And yet short as it is, so many of us have never actually READ it! The videos are just so good. Muppet CC is one of the very best, but I’d have to give the winning nod to Albert Finney.
    This Thursday I’ll republish my take!

    • Vanessa Fowler on December 30, 2015 at 1:57 pm
    • Reply

    I just read the Christmas Carol for the first time this Christmas, and my grandfather used to take me to see the play. Thank you for writing about it: it was so special before, but now it means even more. I hope you had a merry Christmas!
    Oh, and my favorite part is when buys the massive turkey…

  47. Excellent exegesis of a classic story (which, shamefully, I have never read).

    If it has become offensive to reference Christianity in classic literature, then I suppose no one is ever going to read a single piece of literature again? There are around 2.5 billion Christians in the world, LOL! That’s a LOT of books we’ll need to ignore.

    In studying languages of antiquity, I have spent a great deal of time studying the religion of Islam and Judaism, both of which are tremendously important when reading works that are inspired by said religions. The same goes for Christianity.

    Anyway, the works of Dickens are timeless, and I was particularly pleased to see mention of the brilliant way in which Dickens uses names to create a complexity to the character. I’m currently writing my own novel and am using a lot of what I have learnt from his example into the naming of my characters and places. My favourite names by Dickens are “Uriah Heep”, “Mr. Pumblechook”, “Thomas Gradgrind” (a brilliant one, set in the aptly-named “Hard Times”), “Mr. Micawber” and “Sir Leceister Dedlock”, who thinks that “the world might get on without hills, but would be done up without Dedlocks.” What a master of characterization and imagery!

  1. […] wanted to see what Kristen had done on this, and found these: Charles Dickens—Using Symbol, Theme & Allegory to Create Enduring Stories (2269 words, December […]

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