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The Chimes

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(1844)


Another of Dickens's "carol philosophy" series which includes A Christmas Carol.


"It’s a Wonderful Life" is classic Christmas viewing, but short New Year’s novel "The Chimes", to which it bears a striking resemblance, is barely known. This is unfortunate, because it is a charming tale that rings as true in its portrait of people struggling with economic distress and feelings of worthlessness as the Capra movie. Beyond that, it is a excoriation of prejudices that assign entire classes of people to unsavory endings based on their position in life. For our day, this might be racism, elitism, classism. Trotty Veck, the main character, is a porter (what we would call a courier) who feels that the chimes of the church, where he stands waiting for jobs, speak to him as would friends. When he listens to the clanging of other voices, the bells begin to toll a different tale. Through a night of terror and revelation, Trotty comes to the same conclusion that George Bailey did—the lives of those he loves is better with him than without him. Dickens does not make it clear exactly what happened that night. Was he dreaming? Did he have a vision? Was this an alternate reality, a parallel timeline? But as with "A Christmas Carol", there is plenty to talk about afterwards, and there are many layers of reality and truth.--Submitted by Laura Monteros




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Recent Forum Posts on The Chimes

The Chimes - Dickens' forgotten Christmas Book

And forgotten for very good reasons. Dickens made a great success with A Christmas Carol - rightly so. He then wrote a Christmas Book/long short story for each Christmas for the following four years. Only The Haunted Man is specifically set at Christmas. I greatly admire A Christmas Carol so I thought I'd try the others and I've recently re-read The Chimes. The work it reminded me most of was The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, oddly enough, with virtuous working class being endlessly put down by stupid and complacent bourgeoisie. Dickens was clearly trying to follow but not reproduce A Christmas Carol, so The Chimes is set at New Year, not Christmas. There is a supernatural visitation to a character who learns from it, but the character - Trotty Veck - is good hearted unlike Scrooge, so it seems he doesn't need to learn anything significant. (He read in a newspaper how a young desititute mother killed herself and thinks it very wrong. The chimes in the nearby church tower show how in time his own daughter could do the same.) The happy ending - so it was all a dream - is unconvincing. Not Dickens at his best.

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Charles Dickens

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