I am a Harry Potter fan. Like many adult enthusiasts, I was introduced to the novels by my children, who began reading them in pre-adolescence and continued into their teens. My appreciation was reinforced by my students. When I led a group of undergraduates to London as part of a course on Charles Dickens, the class visited the Inns of Court that figure in Bleak House but also Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross Station where Harry and his friends embarked for Hogwarts. This makes sense; there is a definite kinship between Dickens’s novels and Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Rowling, like Dickens, is wonderfully inventive with a clearly defined moral sense; her characters’ whimsical, allegorically-inflected names are Dickensian, as is her ability to mesh adventure with the bildungsroman plot. I have maintained, in the face of snobbish opposition, that she is Dickens’s heir — and a genius. 

The first sentence of A Christmas Carol is “Marley was dead: to begin with.” It’s a terrible way to start a story about Christmas. But A Christmas Carol isn’t great because it’s a great story. In fact, A Christmas Carol is a flimsy story. The characters are mostly clichés. Scrooge is a parody of miserly behavior. He is not only against Christmas, he is against love. He is also against charity, kindness, and even heat, preferring to keep his coal locked up rather than warm the office with it. Scrooge lives in darkness and gloom. “The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the threshold.”

In contrast, Tiny Tim — the blessed little cripple and son of Scrooge’s employee — seems to bear no resentment to the world at all. His love for everyone knows no… More…