Monday, December 03, 2018

“I Was a Boy Here!” | Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)



Classics Illustrated is trying to be faithful to Dickens and has Scrooge and the Spirit walk through the wall of Scrooge's room to appear immediately in the countryside.

This version of Scrooge has been especially mean and businesslike, so it's surprising that he actually does cry in this scene. He doesn't enjoy the Merry Christmasing like in Dickens' version though and his tears are mostly in pity for himself as a child. He's feeling sorry for himself, in other words. Connected to the way Scrooge has behaved so far in this version, I read it as a selfish reaction. At least initially.

To Dickens' description of Scrooge's being "neglected" by his friends, Scrooge adds the word "shunned." That kind of treatment makes them more schoolmates than "friends," but children use the word "friends" to refer to schoolmates, even when they're not acting particularly friendly. I think that's how this Scrooge uses it. Or perhaps he's saying that he felt shunned. Either way, it's safe to say that none of these kids have reached out to him in any sympathy for his having to stay at school over Christmas. Earlier, when Scrooge sees the kids leaving school, he just says that he knows them; not that he has any real relationship with them. He seems to be excited, but that's probably just the thrill of being plopped into so vivid a recreation of his memories.

A note on how Classics Illustrated depicts the "shadows of things that have been": All the people in these scenes of the past are colorless, ghostly outlines. It's not my preferred way of imagining it, because it doesn't make as much sense that Scrooge would forget they're not real and try to interact with them. But it's a decent visual representation of what Dickens describes is going on.

There's not enough detail in Scrooge's school to see if it's run down or not. We go straight from the countryside to inside the schoolroom, so we never see the exterior. Some furniture inside has color to it, so I don't think that the building is supposed to have the same ghostly form as the people in it, but the lines representing the Spirit's brightness overpower the rest of the drawing, so we can just tell that it's a schoolroom, but not its exact condition.

All of Young Scrooge's literary companions show up - even Valentine and Orson - but there's no context for them. The Spirit just says, "Remember those characters?" and Scrooge says that he does and excitedly names them, but there's no solid suggestion that they're replacing real, human friends for Scrooge. You have to imply it.

Helping the implication is that Scrooge gets sad again after these visions. A caption explains that he's "seized with pity for his former self" and he's crying, "Poor boy! Poor, poor boy!" It sounds like Young Scrooge is the poor boy, but in the same word balloon he adds, "I wish, but it's too late now..."

The Spirit asks him what the matter is and he explains about wishing he could have tipped the boy singing the Christmas carol. Incidentally, Classics Illustrated left out that earlier encounter, but it's easy to imagine that it happened, and probably has many different times with different singers. It would be effective though to contrast the image of that lone caroler with the lonely Scrooge in his schoolroom. I don't remember any adaptations that do that, but it could be powerful.

Some adaptations changed the caroler to a group of carolers, some including women or girls, so the comparison wouldn't work with those. But that's possibly another reason why a lot of adaptations leave out this particular regret of Scrooge's.

At any rate, this moment is the first sign of real change in Classics Illustrated's Scrooge. It's the first time that Scrooge has thought about anyone but himself, so it's important. And the catalyst for it is all from within him. Bringing Scrooge back to the past hasn't reminded him of friends and a time when Christmas was still special to him. It's been nothing but a reminder of his own loneliness as a child. And somehow he's connected that with the kid outside his office. There's not an in-story explanation for it, so it has to be the result of the Spirit's touching Scrooge's heart earlier. That's not as cool as Scrooge's coming to it through more natural means, but this wicked, resentful Scrooge needs extra, supernatural help to get to where he needs to be.

When Fan shows up, she looks younger than Scrooge, but not exactly childlike. I'd put her in her early teens with Scrooge maybe a few years older. She says nothing about Scrooge's father, just that she's there to bring Scrooge home. Her joy at coming to get him implies that he's been on some kind of exile from home for a while, but there's no explanation of why Scrooge has been cast out (if that's even what happened). All we know is that he's been lonely at school, but now he's headed home.

Since Scrooge's father isn't part of the story, there's no need to wonder what happened to Scrooge's mother and no reason to connect that with what happened to Fan. The Spirt mentions that Fan died an adult and Scrooge concedes that she had one child, his nephew.

There's no mention of the schoolmaster either. They go straight from the schoolroom to a particular warehouse...

1 comment:

Caffeinated Joe said...

I get that things had to go by the wayside for the sake of fitting in the biggest parts of scenes and the story. Sadly, it seems like you need the context of the original text to get all the nuance left out of this version.

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