A Christmas Carol Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Metaphors In A Christmas Carol

Give an example and analysis of metaphor in A Christmas Carol.

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mwestwood, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Is not the title itself a metaphor?  Carols at Christmas tell stories about the Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; or, they tell of someone's seeing the star in the heavens, or they relate some other facet of Christmas with lyrical lines that form a narrative.  Thus, A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, his heartlessness and his various experiences which effect a powerful change in the character.

At the end of Dickens's classic tale, Scrooge exudes warmth and kindness, much in contrast to his description in Stave One which is an extended metaphor:

A frosty rime [frost] was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and on his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and he didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Scrooge is so unfriendly, cold-hearted, and cruel that the very air seems to chill with his presence.

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Another metaphor that sets a ghostly mood for this ghostly tale is when Dickens states that because of the dense fog the "houses opposite [Scrooge's office] were mere phantoms." A "phantom" is an apparition or specter, so by comparing the houses to specters, Dickens not only sets a frightful mood, but he foreshadows the arrival of four other specters (phantoms) that will scare Scrooge into becoming a philanthropist and a believer in Christmas again.

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To find a metaphor in this book, you don't need to go any farther than the second page.  On this page, Dickens is describing Scrooge's physical and emotional characteristics.  He uses a variety of metaphors to do this.

First, he says Scrooge is a "tight-fisted hand at the grindstone."  The grindstone is figurative.

Next, he says that

A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him...

Unless we are to believe that Scrooge literally had a low body temperature and frost on his head and face, this is a metaphor, too.

The purpose of these two metaphors is to emphasize for us how hard-hearted and stingy Scrooge is.  He is a taskmaster with a cold soul.  The metaphors used to describe him help get this point across.

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