A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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In "A Christmas Carol," Marley's chains are an important symbol in the story. What are they made of? What is hanging from them? What might these things symbolize?

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Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Marley's chain is symbolic of his guilt as well.  He says that he forged it during his life, of his own free will.  He is guilty, indeed, of heavy sins against his fellows, sins that he chose to commit, and guilt that he chose to accrue.  In fact, we see this symbolism in the ghosts that Scrooge sees outside the window, too.  The narrator says that 

Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free.  Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives.  He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step.  The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

All of these individuals are guilty as well, guilty—apparently—of failing to...

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