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Wednesday
Dec142016

blossom v. scrooge

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens has a plot and structure well-known around the world:  after a ghostly reckoning over a single evening, an insufferable and rather nasty human being--Ebeneezer Scrooge--experiences a change of heart in his daily affairs, with positive implications for all. 

At the outset of the story, Scrooge cares little for the fate of other human beings; at the end, suffused with gratitude that he still has time to change his life, Scrooge's behavior shifts dramatically, from stinginess to generosity and from indifference to care.  Dickens ends A Christmas Carol by informing us that Scrooge's behavioral change in the present will lead to a future in which he will not die alone (as predicted by the Ghost of Christmas Future) but instead, will be remembered with warmth by those who knew him best. 

Charles Dickens was an astute observer of human behavior and a skillful storyteller: taken as a period piece that reflects both the culture of that time and the thinking of its author, A Christmas Carol informs us of the mores and folkways of 19th-century Victorian London, while also highlighting our enduring tendency toward small-minded self-interest and our equally enduring capacity for change. However, from an early 21st-century perspective, Dickens' A Christmas Carol is psychologically naive:  thanks to a more developed understanding of human psychology, it's generally accepted these days that people don't change deeply embedded behaviors easily or quickly--no matter how motivated they are, and behavioral change--even when strongly motivated--can be extraordinarily difficult to sustain. Consider, for example, the multitude of New Years' resolutions abandoned within weeks, or the phenomenon by which the ability to stop a harmful behavior (e.g. smoking, overeating) waxes and wanes over decades, as someone slowly figures out all the complex ways in which their environment and personality are working against their deep desire to behave differently. 

In my play, Solstice Song: A Christmas Carol for the 21st Century, it is largely my treatment of these psychological aspects of human behavior which make Solstice Song a 21st-century story.  Like the Charles Dickens' original, Solstice Song features a sequence of ghosts who time travel with the main character in an effort to help him solve a deeply personal problem.  But the story is set in Washington, D.C., the context is global and ecological, and the main character--Andrew Blossom--is no Scrooge.  In his past, Andrew has loved deeply, and strongly: for his wife, Lydia (lost to breast cancer) and for his adult son, Benjamin (killed in the collapse of WTC2).  Historically, Andrew has also felt an attachment to his twin sister Andrea, as well as a close affinity to her daughter, Leah--who, like Andrew, adored Benjamin.  Unlike Scrooge (for whom deep feeling was anomolous), Andrew Blossom is a man trapped by a sinkhole of grief. Racked with guilt and longing, in the wake of the loss of his wife and son, he no longer feels much of anything--least of all, love. 

There are other similarities and diffierences between these two characters: like Ebeneezer Scrooge, Andrew Blossom does have money--he has done very well finanically in the wake of 9/11--but unlike Scrooge, Andrew is indifferent to his monetary wealth: he has lost something much more valuable, and at a deep (albeit unconscious) level, he knows it.  The visitations themselves reflect this core difference as well: while Scrooge is first visited by his business partner, Jacob Marley, in Solstice Song it is Andrew's deceased wife, Lydia, who makes the first appearance and heralds the sequence of soon-to-appear spirits.  Finally, while the visitations in Dickens all occur on Christmas Eve, in Solstice Song, the visitations occur the night before September 11, 2015, and Winter Solstice, which figures strongly in Andrew's change of heart--takes place only in the future.

There are other differences between my play, Solstice Song and Dickens' A Christmas Carol--from the identity of the ghosts to where they take Andrew--but revealing those details will have to wait for another post. Unless of course, you'd like to buy a copy and read it for yourself. Solstice Song is available online as an ebook or in print, or you can order it from your local bookstore. 

More soon...

Deirdre

 

 

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