Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Scary ghost stories and tales of the glory...

Perhaps it's ambitious of us, but for our read-aloud book the next couple of weeks, I've selected A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It's a little advanced for the children. Though they are familiar with the storyline from watching various movie versions of the story in Christmases past, Dickensian English still seems like a foreign language at times and I have to stop and explain things to them regularly.

Today as we read we were looking for similes and other metaphors, which Dickens sprinkles through his manuscript as if his readers are sitting in a restaurant booth while he, a liberal-handed waiter, grates parmesan cheese onto their pasta—more, more, and still more! Sometimes it feels like he leaves us with the entire block of cheese to gnaw on! Needless to say, we found a long list of examples.

Then, just at the peak of Marley's haunting, as he's floating out the window and Scrooge notices the world is filled with tortured souls doomed to wander on this eternal treadmill, watching mortals suffer, the electricity snapped off and we were plunged into an eerie, grey silence. It scared, you could say, the Dickens out of us.

Daylight filtered through our sheer curtains and when we opened them to let more light in, we found the world outside equally grey, shrouded in a similar translucent film. Whether clouds and mists or spectres and spirits, it is hard to say...


Our assignment was to write about our reading and power outage (my writing is above), incorporating the literary devices we'd discussed earlier in the morning. I feel like my metaphors are a little ridiculous but I feel like Dickens would appreciate them. I mean, have you read A Christmas Carol? His metaphors get a little ridiculous as well. I mean, he opens his story debating the power of the idiom "dead as a doornail" (which I find an enjoyable, compelling argument, but still a little funny to find opening a story).


Here's Miriam's:

As the fog descended on our house, there was a crackle, and we were plunged into total darkness. I had to go into the basement, but it was like those cold, cloudy winter nights where the only light comes from the moon. I knew what I had to do. I had to get a flashlight, but when I got it, mom's generator scared the heck out of me. When I went into the basement the flashlight offered a consolation from the darkness surrounding it. When we went upstairs the power went back on, but then off, but then on, and it stayed off. It was almost taunting us. The generator was beeping like a haywire smoke alarm getting louder every minute, too. The sun was shrinking into her feathery bed, then getting out again, just as the moon waxes and waned.

The generator, I should note is a little box we have our computers plugged into to protect it from power surges. It is a very short-term battery that allows constant power to the computer for about a half hour, should the power fail.


And here's Benjamin's:

The power went out just as we were reading the part in A Christmas Carol when Marley warns Scrooge about the Christmas ghosts that will come in shifts: one on Christmas Eve, one on Christmas, one on the day after Christmas, as if they were dominoes lined up to fall. And then me and Miriam had to go downstairs to get her phone and open the curtains. When I was going to open a curtain I looked at a picture of a comet that looked like a ghost!

Originally, Benjamin had wanted to say that the ghosts were set up to visit Scrooge "like if you chose three toys to play with and then only played with one of them every day for three days," but I told him that he should consider thinking of a specific kind of toy to compare the ghosts to instead and I think that made for a stronger metaphor. 

Also, the picture of the comet really is kind of creepy. For the longest time I thought it was Uncle Rod's take on The Scream by Edvard Munch, but apparently it's Uncle Rod's take on Halley's comet. 


I don't even want to tell you how long it took me to get Benjamin to scribble down those words. He doesn't really enjoy writing, sadly. To be fair, I also made him copy down a passage from the book:

Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so...the ancient tower of a church...became invisible and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there.

But that's not a laboriously long passage. He just doesn't like writing anything ever. 

Lucky for him, I think we'll start typing lessons after winter break.

1 comment:

  1. But I have an argument for that!

    Studies 100% show that we remember better when we write by hand. I guess for creative writing it would not be the same, though. In fact, I remember being frustrated with creative writing as a child because my hand could not keep up with my mind...