The Next Chapter

How Shawn Hitchins finds hope in Dickens's A Christmas Carol

After suffering two tragic losses, writer and comedian Shawn Hitchins re-read Charles Dickins's Christmas classic to help with his grief.
Writer and comedian Shawn Hitchins reflects on how Dickens' A Christmas Carol helped him to reflect on a year of personal loss. (Jen Squires, Bantam Classics)

After a year of bereavement, writer and comedian Shawn Hitchins thought he should do what he does best — try and find a way to write about it.

English novelist Charles Dickens wrote the holiday classic A Christmas Carol. (Getty Images)

The writer behind A Brief History of Oversharing chose to delve into Charles Dickens's holiday classic A Christmas Carol as part of his research toward a new book. 

In re-reading the classic novel, he was able to reflect on his year of personal loss, as well as find a way of recapturing his humorous streak. 

Finding time in hardship

"Scrooge wakes up with this overwhelming emotional sense that he still has time. When you lose someone that is often a weight — the fact that you have time — and he goes right for it immediately. He screams out the window to a boy in the street and says, 'Do they still have that turkey'? That embodies this new sense of being, where he spreads joy and kindness for the first time in his life."

Contemporary relevance

"I think it taps into the social conscience. It's a reminder of our values — focus on joy, kindness, gratitude, ecstasy. Those are all of Dickens words right in the book. It's a reminder that we all need these days where we're socially isolated — where your value is in your work and in your status and how many Instagram followers you have.

It's a reminder of our values — focus on joy, kindness, gratitude, ecstasy.- Shawn Hitchins

"What I find amazing about this book is that it was written 10 years before Freud was Born and 30 years before Jung. Scrooge undergoes this process of transformation but also a process of psychoanalysis, where he has to go back to his past. He looks at the present, he looks toward the future and that's what is asked of us — to be in the present and hold both the past, the future and the present."

Comedy of interaction

"I wouldn't say that it's comedy. The humour of it is the awareness and Dickens's ability to cut to the bone of humans interacting with each other. That's where the comedy is — that's where the contrast is for me, which is great to have. A lot of people ask, 'how do you be funny after a really terrible year of loss?' That, to me, is where it starts." 

Shawn Hitchins's comments have been edited for clarity and length.