Describe Marley's Ghost in A Christmas Carol. Explain how he got his chain and why he must always travel.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though Ebenezer Scrooge's old partner, Jacob Marley, has been dead for seven years, he does not rest soundly in his grave. Instead, he has been doomed to wander the world in a ghostly state because of his miserly ways and his unconcern for the people around him. Scrooge first saw Marley's face in his door knocker, a "horrible" appearance with its wild hair, wide-open eyes and "livid colour." Scrooge next heard Marley before he saw him, as his old partner ascended the stairs with his clanking chains. When Scrooge first witnessed the ghost of his old friend, he saw the same face as he had seen in his door-knocker:

... the very same. Marley in his pig-tail, usual waistcoat, tights, and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pig-tail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent: so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.

Marley had no bowels, and Scrooge could see right through him, and he could feel "the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes." When Scrooge asks Marley's ghost why he must carry the chain, the "Shade" responds that

     “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?

The ghost is allowed no rest nor peace, only torture and remorse. When Scrooge asks for comfort, Marley's ghost tells him that

“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied. “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers to other kinds of men... I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere... and weary journeys lie before me!”

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first ghost that Scrooge meets in A Christmas Carol is Jacob Marley.  Marley was the business partner of Scrooge before his death.  He comes to warn Scrooge of his fate if he doesn't change his ways. Marley's ghost also tells Scrooge that he will be visited by other spirits. Dickens writes and describes Marley as "a restless old ghost.' Initially, Marley's face appears in the knocker of Scrooge's front door, but then the ghost appears in full. His appearance is shocking: his jaw is tied together with a rag, which drops when he takes the rag off; he is bound around the waist with a chain, "the chain I forged in life," made of "cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel." He informs Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts.

taylorswizle | Student


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A Christmas Carol

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