Category Archives: preserve and replace

“Solitary as an oyster” and other animal comparisons or expressions

In the process of veganizing Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, numerous expressions that refer to animals presented themselves as items to consider.  For instance, in Stave 1,  the author compares Ebenezer Scrooge to an oyster, saying that Scrooge was “solitary as an oyster.”  Later in that chapter, Dickens uses the expression “dog-days” for the hot time of late summer. Another example comes from Fred’s Christmas party, in which Scrooge is implicitly compared to a “bear.”

Veganizing principle:  retaining animal comparisons and idioms that have no exploitative or speciesist meaning

Expressions that merely include a reference to an animal are not necessarily exploitative or non-vegan.  Indeed, an entire story could be written about an animal, of course, without having any negative intent toward or associations with that animal. Such benign expressions can be left intact.  And under the minimally invasive principle for veganizing a classic work of literature, such expressions should be left intact, since they represent the original author’s words and embody that author’s creative approach.  In short, when no clear and convincing need for editing a passage appears, the original text controls.

Thus, expressions such as “solitary as an oyster” (which expression, for example, implies nothing negative about oysters) and “dog-days” (an expression that apparently originated as a reference to the star Sirius, which was the chief star in a constellation said to look like a dog) have been left untouched in A Vegan Christmas Carol.  Even the comparison of Scrooge to a bear—presumably because of Scrooge’s grumpiness or ferocity—is not necessarily negative: bears can indeed be fierce, smart, and defensive fighters, and there’s nothing inherently non-vegan, demeaning, or otherwise speciesist about acknowledging these possible traits of a bear.  Accordingly, that comparison was also left intact as well.

Part 1: Veganizing Process for “A Vegan Christmas Carol”

A Vegan Christmas Carol:  Veganization Note #1

Some editorial and re-authoring choices to be made in the veganizing process are pretty straightforward.  In this series pertaining to A Vegan Christmas Carol, beginning with an example of this straightforward editing / re-authoring type makes sense, as it can later serve as a touchstone when facing more difficult choices.

“… panting like race-horses….”

The original text of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol includes the following passage, which refers to Scrooge and his workmate, Dick Wilkins, who are busily preparing their workplace for Fezziwig’s big Christmas party:

You wouldn’t believe how those two fellows [Ebenezer Scrooge and Dick Wilkins] went at it!  They charged into the street with the shutters—one, two, three—had ’em up in their places—four, five, six—barred ’em and pinned ’em—seven, eight, nine—and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

Clearly, the reference to racehorses will not survive the veganizing process:  the so-called “sport” of horse-racing is violent, cruel, and often fatal for the horses involved.

Chosen method for editing / re-authoring the passage

At this point, the editor can either (i) delete the reference to horses and horse-racing altogether, thus “abridging” the underlying work to a small degree, or (ii) replace it with a suitable substitute of similar meaning, content, style, length, and so on.  In either case, we would want to avoid excising any more material than necessary.  In A Vegan Christmas Carol, the latter choice was made, such that the last phrase of the passage now reads:

… panting like two boys after a race…..

This approach allows us to keep the intended meaning of the last phrase, retain the strong visual image of “panting,” and even retain the reference to racing—all while excluding the animal exploitation imagery.

This type of “minimally invasive” approach provides an excellent example of what we’ll strive to achieve when veganizing other passages.