More than 160 years after Charles Dickens first published "A Christmas Carol" in 1843, yet another production of the classic tale opened earlier this month.

More than 160 years after Charles Dickens first published "A Christmas Carol" in 1843, yet another production of the classic tale opened earlier this month.

While the Disney 3-D film may have received a lukewarm reception from many critics, Dickens experienced no such letdown, according to Amanpal Garcha, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University.

"'A Christmas Carol' was enormously popular in his own time," Garcha said. "Dickens wrote it early in his career when he needed a hit."

The story was written with its contemporary audience in mind, according to Patricia Frick, professor of English at Otterbein College.

"The story speaks to several pressing social concerns in Victorian England for which Dickens was an advocate: The plight of the working poor, especially children, consumed by the Industrial Revolution and their need for education, food, fair wages and human decency from their middle-class overseers or 'captains of industry,'" Frick said.

Dickens focused on urban poverty "from his earliest sketches to his last novels," Garcha said, but "A Christmas Carol" does represent one departure from his body of work.

"The supernatural element is important because Dickens, in all his works, often includes outrageous coincidences, but almost never ghosts or magic," Garcha said. "I think his use of supernatural elements in 'Carol' has to do with an issue Dickens wrestled with throughout his career - namely, he was very good at showing the problems of poverty and greed, but he often seems to be at a loss in showing how those problems might be solved.

"In 'A Christmas Carol,' Dickens does arrive at a solution, as he shows that a greedy businessman can indeed transform into a generous benefactor to society. But it seems that the only way Dickens can imagine such a thing happening is through supernatural, very nonrealistic means. As a kind of spiritual holiday, Christmas gives Dickens an occasion to imagine a spiritual solution to class inequality."

Dickens' "solution" may be one reason "A Christmas Carol" has remained popular.

"I think that today in America, we are still wrestling with the question of how to deal with inequalities in wealth and we are still mystified at how economic inequalities and their problems can be resolved," Garcha said. "Dickens' answer seems to be as good as anything else: Individuals might magically change from grasping, money-obsessed figures to generous, happy ones."

Said Frick: "'A Christmas Carol,' I suppose, typifies for most of us the desire to see the best in humanity - compassion, charity, love, forgiveness. Especially in tough economic times, it is a reminder that humanistic and spiritual values, not material ones, are what matter most. It also centers on the possibility of redemption and positive change."

Perhaps that is why the tale has been told time and again through film, television, radio, theater and opera adaptations.

"I really cannot think of another work from the Victorian era that has been remade and constantly performed and reread," Garcha said. "It's kind of astounding."