In a Christmas Carol, what does Marley wear that represents his sins in life?  

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schulzie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are actually four ghosts in The Christmas Carol.  The first ghost is that of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner, a man as stingy and unforgiving as Scrooge himself.  The purpose of this ghost is to convince Scrooge to learn the lessons of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future for his own, (Scrooge’s) salvation. When Scrooge first meets Marley’s ghost, he hears bells ringing and then a sound,

“The bells ceased as they had begun, together.  They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in a wine-merchant’s cellar.”  (pg 16)

When Scrooge first sees the ghost, he notices that it is “fettered” or chained.  The chain was tied around the ghost’s waist.

                “It was long, and wound about him like a tail.  (pg 17)

Scrooge took a good look at it and noticed that it had cashboxes and other articles from his business attached to the chain.  Jacob had lived the same kind of life that Scrooge is living now.  When Scrooge asks the meaning of the chain, Marley replies,

“I wear the chain I forged in life….. 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 so strange to you?” (pg 19)

What he means by this is that every link in the chain has been made by some act of selfishness or inhumanity to mankind.  One act equals one link.  He admits that it is a heavy and long chain.  All of the selfish acts he did, he did of his own free will, and he knows that Scrooges chain, at this time, is even longer than his. 

“It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago.  You have labored on it , since.  It is a ponderous chain. “(pg 19)

That ponderous chain helps to convince Scrooge to listen to the next three ghosts: Christmas Past, Present, and Future.