I finished year 8 of The Plan yesterday by reading one of Dickens’s less successful Christmas novellas, The Chimes. Even CD himself admitted that, since he wrote the book in Italy, he missed the inspiration of the London streets. It seems that the author of A Christmas Carol attempted to repeat his success without exactly copying the formula. But maybe he should have plagiarized himself even more vigorously. As with Scrooge, in the later tale, a quirky character has a sinful flaw, and spirits show him scenes of the future in order to get him to change. But Trotty Veck shows his despair neither consistently nor spectacularly. Here are no carolers chased away with a ruler. No poor clerk with only a candle to warm himself by. No “Bah, Humbug!” Still, very few characters stand up to Ebeneezer Scrooge, and Trotty’s comparative blandness wouldn’t offend if the plot worked. But I, for one, am not convinced that his daughter’s actual life will improve upon the one the spirits of the Chimes show him just because he gains hope at the end of the story.
In any case, Dickens partly reinvents yet another winter holiday here and offers a good moral in the end. New Year’s is a time to look back and close the books on twelve months of problems and a chance to look forward with hope to twelve months of solutions. Not to see the promise and the potential in the lives of our neighbors and in our own lives is to despise the goodness of the Creator. Trotty finally learns his lesson by seeing that suicide can have selfless reasoning behind it. Dickens’s chimes teach him – and us – that we can help prevent this tragedy only by showing compassion, mercy, sympathy, and hope to the miserable soul headed that way. As the narrator says, with multiple levels of meaning, “Heaven preserve us, sitting snugly around the fire!”