Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A Christmas for Shacktown
The story begins with Donald's nephews passing through Shacktown, the most impoverished area of Duckburg. They progressively get more depressed as they see the living conditions there, children of their age dressed in rags and having tired expressions, hunger and sickness evident in many of them. They feel responsible for it and want to help those poor children find some happiness. The Ducks have the idea of organizing a Christmas celebration.
They ask for the help of their Aunt Daisy Duck, president of a local ladies' society, and their friends in the Junior Woodchucks. But as it soon becomes evident that raising enough money is harder than it sounds. With all their efforts, they are still a hundred dollars short. Donald has the idea to ask his Uncle Scrooge for the money. Scrooge refuses his nephew's request for a donation, but nevertheless offers to match Donald's own fifty dollars, if he can manage to raise that much. Donald soon learns that asking for charity during the holidays, when every family struggles with its own increased expenses, is not a successful way to raise money. He tries to trick his Uncle into making the donation, but that fails too. Only when he swallows his pride and asks for his cousin Gladstone Gander's help does he finally succeed in raising his fifty dollars. When he arrives at his uncle's money bin, an apparently shocked Scrooge tells him it is too late. Enraged, Donald opens the vault door and discovers that inside, the overloaded floor had collapsed, and the money has been lost in the caverns below Duckburg. Now Donald still is fifty dollars short and has to take care of a shocked and depressed uncle.
Finally his nephews find a way to reach Scrooge's money and Scrooge promises them the first money to reach the surface. Which happens to be thousands of dollars. The story ends with a great Christmas celebration for the children of Shacktown.
This is often considered the most memorable of Barks' Christmas stories, as the scenes in Shacktown are often described as depressing and even haunting in contrast with the other areas of Duckburg.
Another theme of the story is the difference between a will for charity and the effort needed to raise money for it. Though focused on his own problems in this story, Scrooge makes a valid point in proving to his nephew how hard the money he's so quick to ask for, actually is to earn. Scrooge's belief in hard work, often evident in his stories, is here seen from a negative light as he seems to disbelieve in charity and feels no obligation toward Shacktown's inhabitants.
Though the story has a happy ending, Barks has left the fate of the Shacktowners deliberately vague. They get to celebrate Christmas, but the question of what happens once the celebration ends and the rest of the citizens of Duckburg choose to forget them again is left unanswered. Fans of Barks' work have read this as a deliberate attempt by Barks to undermine the happy ending and pose some questions. It is considered the Barks story that comes closest to focusing on social commentary.
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