My review is of ‘A Christmas Story’
Written in 1897 and released under the publishing company ‘Fun’, this short story starts with a caption from who I presume to be the author; it reads, ‘This tale should not be read by persons of weak intellect’. As this is a story of satirical humour, I expect this is a joke from the author however the authenticity is up for question. The story starts by setting the Christmas scene, yule logs burning and the whistling breeze, it introduces Count Orfal, with little background given we can only assume he is a man of aristocracy in the local area, wherever that may be. He speaks of his 30 year grievance over his missing son. Three of the count’s servants and acquaintances enter his quarters one by one to pass on information.
He kills the first servant because he begins to apologise, expecting the servant to be the kidnapper to his son, he readies himself. Upon the servant admitting all he did was break a bowl, the Count kills him anyway. His neighbour then enters to tell him of the mine close by that holds coal, after stating he ‘has something to tell him that he has been waiting to for a long time’. Upon realising he is not talking about the kidnapping of his son, the Count murders the neighbour also. The third person enters, a servant who speaks of a ‘surprise’ for the Count. The Count begins to suspect her of the kidnapping of his son once again, and when she simply tells the Count that the servants have put up a Christmas tree for him, he murders her. After hiding all three bodies, his son finally returns to him. The Count’s joy is quickly bittered and he blames the deaths of the three on him and states ‘Your dare turn up like this … when I have just sent three innocent people to their account for murdering you! Beezoks! but you had better join them’ – he then begins a deadly struggle with his son which leaves the two of them dead in the final paragraph. The story ends with a sort of sentiment; ‘the count and his son had also fallen victims to parental affection and a too hasty temper’.
An interest point with these murders is that each time a person died, the Count recalls that he would have forgiven them, had they admitted their doing in kidnapping his son. With the last woman, he even offers her gold post-death had she given the confession that he ‘was looking for’. There was no way out alive once these servants had started speaking.
All of these murders can be put down to the fact that they all lead him on initially with ambiguous introductions, his parental affection takes over and all he can think about is his son. Even when their final words are of nothing but mundane subjects, his temper takes over and critical thinking is replaced by rash decisions which leads to their deaths. The satire is put on strong, and it’s very ironically comedic in the finale. The feelings that have caused him to kill his own people were the same feelings being acted upon while killing his own son. The parental affection and hasty temper over the kidnapping of his son lead to the death of his actual son by the Count’s hand.
This 100 year old story is a dark and funny read, though it is only short. It’s a quick burst of satire and a play on the affection given by parents and the lengths they would go to for their children.
“A Christmas Story.” 1897.Fun 66 (1702): 198. http://ezproxy.tees.ac.uk/docview/5870107?accountid=14650.