In Stave I of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, titled “Marley’s Ghost,” Ebenezer Scrooge is returning to his home, a nondescript old building formerly occupied by his now-deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, that barely registered in its bland neighborhood and inside of which was a “gloomy suite of rooms,” as described by Dickens’ narrator. As he inserts his house key into the front door lock, however, he gazes at the door knocker, a particularly large knocker, and sees, as the narrator states, “not a knocker, but Marley’s face.” Describing this apparition, Dickens writes as follows:
“It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. . .[T]he eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part of its own expression.”
The appearance of the ghost of Jacob Marley, of course, triggers the chain of events that will presage a fundamental transformation in Scrooge – a transformation from perpetually angry miser to generous, benevolent gentleman. Between that appearance at his door of the ghost of Jacob Marley and that transformation are the visits by the three spirits that follow and about which the ghost of Marley had come to warn his old partner.