What appears in the door knocker to Scrooge from A Christmas Carol?

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Instead of the door knocker, Scrooge sees Marley's face. Marley's face is not shadowed, like the rest of the objects in the yard, but is strangely illuminated. The expression on this disembodied face is neither angry nor violent; it looks just as Marley was apt to look when he was alive. Scrooge notes that the horrible specter of Marley's face rested on its otherworldly nature, not on its expression.

Marley's face unsettles Scrooge for a moment, but the knocker soon appears. Before he shuts the door behind him, Scrooge looks cautiously beyond the doorway. He half expects to see Marley appear, but of course, his old business partner is nowhere to be seen. Grumbling, Scrooge enters the house and thinks no more of the strange apparition.

A little while later, every bell in the house begins to ring of its own accord. This unceasing ringing is soon replaced by the terrible sound of clanging chains from the cellar. Scrooge becomes palpably nervous when the dragging chains are heard climbing up the stairs towards his door.

Of course, Scrooge's worst fears are realized when Marley's ghost appears before him, with a chain made of "cashboxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel" wound round about his middle. Marley's ghost tells Scrooge that he has come to give him a warning: Scrooge must change his life or his fate will be similar to Marley's. Marley reveals that he has had no rest since his death seven years ago. He must make restitution for his selfishness during his years on earth.

Marley also tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts. This warning sets the stage for the story of how Scrooge transforms from a self-absorbed, miserly old man into a happy, generous one.

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In Stave I of Charles DickensA 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.

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