A Retrospective – Sol Eytinge Jr.

I am sure that you all know the story of the Christmas Carol in one form or another, whether it be that you have read the book, seen one of the numerous movies inclusive of the muppets or Mickey Mouse, or you performed it as a play in school, we are all very aware of the miserly man who was visited by ghosts just before Christmas, which make him change is point of view and reform to be a better person.  With this in mind I am not going to bore you with the ins and outs of the story, rather I am going to talk about the ghosts which visit him and the allegories behind them.

The lithograph above created by Eytinge Jr. was one of several created to illustrate a Christmas Carol, and had been approved by Dickens himself.  It shows a scene of the ghost of christmas past, enlightening Scrooge as to the conversation with his past fiancee and ultimately their break up.  The ghost shown as a shining light as Scrooge looks on, clutching is hands as he watches his past replay in the left side.  The light cast from the ghost, giving the figures of the past a dream like quality as ripples appear over them.   The picture adds a beautiful quality to this part of the book, and picks out the defining moment of Scrooge turning his back on emotions and relationships of his past, only to be haunted by them later.

I am sure that we all know that there is a tendency to look at the past with rose tinted glasses, and Dickens really brought this home with this visit.  The ball that Scrooge witnesses before this scene defines an abundance of frivolity and merriment.  Only with the influence of the ghost is Scrooge forced to take off the glasses and see how his decisions and actions has affected his life so dramatically.

This drums home how it can not be expected to have moments of pleasure in life without experiencing the pain and suffering that goes along with it, and no one is exempt from it.  It doesn’t matter that Scrooge is now rich through his miserly and closed off ways, he is not above the actions of his past.  It is made clear that Scrooge’s relationship broke down due to his love of money taking over from his love for his fiancee.  As he begs the ghost to show him no more he is met with the retort – “These are the shadows of things that have been. That they are what they are, do not blame me!”

This part of the book ends abruptly with Scrooge snuffing out the ghost with his hat, trying to put out the painful memories.  It’s an image that works so well with the fact that the ghost is usually depicted as a young girl (although in the book is it is androgynous figure of an indeterminate age) who is beaming light.  A reference to how we remember the past, pushing out the painful memories and harping back to the moments of joy.

It’s a clear message for us all, that actions in our past cannot be undone, but they can be faced and resolved.  Scrooge is being haunted by his as he has shut out the past, and only when he accepts his actions does he find the peace that he needs to change his ways.

What do you see in the picture?  Why not tell me in the comments?  Like what you have read?  Why not share it?

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