"Christmas stories" by Charles Dickens

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d by Irving and Dickens, true, with sentimental philistine-religious elements, however, not composed integral element of his genre.

The book of Washington Irving was written, mainly, about England and became famous due to its London publication in 1820.

Five sketches were dedicated to Christmas theme in his book. Irving concerns to England, as many romanticist writers concerns to the past of their countries. That is why, we will not find the descriptions of cities and mode of life in the cities. That city romanticism, which brought up Dickens Charles and formed his character and manners as a writer, was not mentioned by Washington Irving. The city for Irving is a world of “business”, assemblage of businessmen, always busy, always hurrying to somewhere, completely indifferent to each other. We know that Charles Dickens in his urban landscape can find people from another mode of life, from different level of society. They are equally unusual, ekzotic, and more archaic than middle townsman. Irving acts in different way. He searches for archaism out of cities, for example, conservative romanticists in rural regions, in the villages.

Rural life appeals Washington Irving not only by its beautiful parks and gardens, by its ancient castles and picturesque churches and cottages, but also by that social advantage which villages could save despite to cities.

Here, in peaceful rural silence there is not that social contrast, yet, which is typical for big modern cities. From Irvings point of view, every inhabitant of the villages is satisfied with their place in society and treatment between various estates is built in harmony.

This conservative social-political tendency of Washington Irving we have to remember in analyzing of his Christmas stories.

Describing Christmas holiday in England, Irving shows happy rural life. Christmas, Irving considers, puts into peoples hearts peace and love. Christmas is a time when everybody restores old relationships with family and friends, which is weakened with the course of time. Sons and daughters who left their homes return to their family to remember nostalgic memories of childhood, by the fire. Everyone become younger and loves each other at Christmas. This period of year gives great enjoyment, because of warm and comfortable family atmosphere at the fireplace. Short cloudy days, and dark nights, empty landscape covered with snow make people to gather tighter at homes and evaluate simple joys of family members much more than usually. Bright red flames illuminating room, - this is like the artificial sun, lit up faces and making them to smile to everybody who newly came. Christmas is the time of hearty hospitality for everyone, it is time of secular games and entertainment. As if, all the doors and hearts are widely opened to the most sincere fun. At this universal holiday unity, says Irving, disappear all boundaries between different social levels, so peasant and peer approach to one another attacked by the similar joy.

The sweet noise of songs come from old nobiliary manors, tables are served, decorated with different meals, sweets, and so on. But peasants cabin is also decorated with evergreen branches, they invite the passer-by to in their homes to warm themselves, and to shorten long winter nights, listening old legends and Christmas stories.

Washington Irving describes the ideal influence of Christmas holiday to the society. Charles Dickens wholly accepts this ideology of Christmas, changing it into complete world outlook in his Pickwick Papers. But here, the differences between them appear over again: Washington Irving, with the strict accuracy of ethnographer, shows the Christmas holiday in villages, pedantically restoring ancient patriarchal traditions, but Dickens finds his Christmas idyll in any place and in any family, he is not interested in the form of holiday and its historical meaning. Describing his freak, Washington Irvings mood changes, because his freak and his customs now in modern England are occasional saved fragments of past, condemned to be forgotten, to die.

In the meaning of historical contradiction and in a concrete direction of his sympathies, Washington Irving is older than Dickens, Charles for one generation. Many things, here, have not lost its utopian elements of the XVIII century, and there is much influence of artificial archaic of conservative romanticism.

Typical that Irving describes old knights armour in old house or under the vault of Westminster Abbey, in more natural atmosphere for it, but in Charles Dickens creative activity we will find them already in the Old Curiosity Shop, where they are adapted to new form of life and turned from the objects of superior honor to the objects of the purchase and sale.

Both of these writers are connected by the moral-hedonistic aim of their creative activity. Washington Irving is not purposed to show the right way by the sermon, but just to entertain and cheer up. Moral value of his stories arises naturally. He ends his Christmas series with these words:

“Significantly more pleasant to be appreciated than to teach, to be in a role of the companion than to be a teacher… if I accidentally succeed to smooth just a wrinkle on somebodys anxious face and to make ones aggravated with sadness heart to forget all the evil and sufferings just for a time; if I can disseminate the hatred of people to each other, help them to look at the world and human nature with happy sight and to inspire people with more optimistic treatment to themselves and to their relatives and family, so, it means that I writings were not vain.”

Charles Dickens in his “Sketches by Boz”, he continues an idyll line of Christmas stories started by Washington Irving.

As like as Irving, in Charles Dickens stories the theme is not about the religious ideology, but only specifics which found for itself special symbolics of social philosophy.

However, Dickens had the same gentle feelings to Christmas, as Irving, and similarly considering this holiday as source of spiritual reconciliation, have strength fighting to each other, and possibility of their conciliation in other conditions, in a condition of modern bourgeois society: transferring the contradictions seen by him to the real class circumstances, he orientates to the truly existing struggle and sympathizes forces that really takes forward.

True, real, democratic Dickensian views to life creates realistic and progressive basis of his creative activity even in his Christmas stories.

This clear social orientation of Christmas theme was absent in Dickens early creative works.

It became possible in that stage of development of Dickens as a writer, when the realistic nuances of his creative activity began to prevail on the utopian ones.

Three Christmas stories in 1843, 1844 and 1845 (Christmas Carol in prose, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth) testifies of a mature mastership and quite determined views of an author to the bourgeois reality.

These sentimental stories about involving of all people to the world of fair and mutual support are the basic differentiating character of the poor man in a contrast with the rich man, as to the philosophy of Dickens.

Christmas evening is the time when the unexpected miracle, changes, and reconciliations are possible in the world of social inequality and “steady” injustice. In this evening, relentless rules of class struggle and economic inequality suddenly stop operating with complete strength and its result mutual hatred of people to each other yield its place to love and brotherly feelings. This is evening (it can be not only Christmas evening, but also the New Year Evening as in “The Chimes”), when cruelty of the modern world get eliminated, and humanity for a moment becomes the happy society in Telem Abbey.

“From the childhood till present day, - says idyll nephew of the non-idyll uncle Scrooge, - Christmas holiday appears to me as the day of joy, forgiving, goodwill, enjoyment, - only one day on the calendar when I deeply believe that all people, men and women, as if hide the closed hearts of themselves and accept the people from lower society, and even only for a day became friends with them, walking across to the “grave”, but not another type of men who move opposite ways”. (“Christmas Carol in prose”)

These happy transformations, sure, can not happen as ordinary reality, because Charles Dickens is not so great realist. Dickens needs whole arsenal of fantastic tales, and many spirits come down from the skies to make miracles. Christmas utopia of Dickens wholly consists of fantastic, and reveals its fragility and shortness. Despite this sounds like paradox, the degree of the fantastic of his Christmas stories is criterion of realness of Dickens outlook.

In the literature of XVIII century people changed, became better, sympathized and became noble as the result of mental influence of good example, confluence of circumstances.

As the example to such “happy” fortune, following hero in spite of his will and conscious, taking him to the condition of harmony, and despite to the apparent difficulty and obstacles, can be given as “Wilhelm Maister” by Goethe. But this moral regeneration of people in other novels of XVIII century is significantly simpler, not so high-principled and philosophical form.

Villains repent just for “happy” logics of the creative work, plot brings them eventually, to the optimistic climax, and for this purpose there is no need to other extraneous characters (“Tom Johns”).

The novel of the XVIII century aims to show that society is able to isolate, to neutralize the villain with the help of their own strength, d