December 23rd, 2009
11:58 AM ET

In Dickens' 'Carol,' a warning for hard times

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Michael Slater
Special to CNN

When people say the message of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is as relevant today as it was in 1843, they usually have in mind Ebenezer Scrooge's conversion.

Overnight, he's transformed from a mean old skinflint who believes that those unable to support themselves had better die "and decrease the surplus population" to an almost riotously generous giver to charitable causes.

They remember especially, perhaps, Scrooge's change of heart toward his poor, underpaid clerk Bob Cratchit and how he promises to ensure that Bob will be able to afford the medical treatment that his beloved little son, the crippled Tiny Tim, will need if he is to survive - a plot detail that resonates with particular strength in America today, where citizens struggle with health care costs.

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