Written almost 100 years apart, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843) and Philip Van Doren Stern’s and Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) are cherished stories of the holidays. Both stories are about greed and selfishness, sadness and despair, but most importantly, they are stories of redemption and renewal. Below is a juxtaposition of each stories beginning and ending.
A Christmas Carol
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
….. He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!
It’s a Wonderful Life
Voices praying: I owe everything to George Bailey. Help him, dear Father. Joseph, Jesus and Mary. Help my friend Mr. Bailey. Help my son George tonight. He never thinks about himself, God; that’s why he’s in trouble. George is a good guy. Give him a break, God. I love him, dear Lord. Watch over him tonight. Please, God. Something’s the matter with Daddy. Please bring Daddy back.
…..Camera focuses on stars in the heavens: Hello, Joseph, trouble? Looks like we’ll have to send someone down — a lot of people are asking for help for a man named George Bailey. George Bailey. Yes, tonight’s his crucial night. You’re right, we’ll have to send someone down immediately. Whose turn is it? That’s why I came to see you, sir. It’s that clock-maker’s turn again. Oh — Clarence. Hasn’t got his wings yet, has he? We’ve passed him up right along.
George, still holding Zuzu in his arms, glances down at the pile of money on the table. His eye catches something on top of the pile, and he reaches down for it. It is Clarence’s copy of Tom Sawyer. George opens it and finds an inscription written in it “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.” Mary asks, “What’s that?” George replies: “That’s a Christmas present from a very dear friend of mine.” At this moment, a little silver bell on the Christmas tree swings to and fro with a silvery tinkle. Zuzu closes the cover of the book, and points to the bell. Zuzu says, “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” George responds, “That’s right, that’s right… Attaboy, Clarence.”