illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens
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What are scenes which present the theme of the "supernatural" in A Christmas Carol. What is Dickens's purpose or message in doing so?

In A Christmas Carol, the supernatural largely figures during Scrooge's interactions with the three spirits who visit him on Christmas Eve. The supernatural elements of the story are intended to suggest the miraculousness of a heartless miser's transformation into a generous, kind man as well as the metaphorical nature of the psychological "ghosts" of Scrooge's past, present, and future.

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A Christmas Carol has intimations of the supernatural from its very first line, where Dickens informs the reader that Jacob Marley is dead and that knowledge of this makes the events to come more fantastic. This hints to the reader that this will likely be a ghost story. The majority of the novel features the supernatural in the form of the phantom of Jacob Marley and the three spirits who visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve. All of these figures have fantastic qualities: Jacob is fettered with massive chains and has his slack jaw tied with a napkin, and the Ghost of Christmas Past can fly and is described as resembling a flame.

Dickens chooses to use the supernatural largely because A Christmas Carol is a ghost story. Traditionally, ghost stories were associated with Christmas. However, he uses the supernatural for greater effect; he is not merely interested in spooking the audience. Instead, the ghosts are a catalyst for Scrooge's ultimate redemption. By having the intercession of spirits prompt Scrooge's arc, Dickens is suggesting that only outside powers ould inspire Scrooge to re-examine his life. His inner transformation thus becomes miraculous.

Ghosts and the supernatural also take on metaphorical meaning: ghosts are associated with the past and many ghost stories feature figures who cannot rest due to unresolved problems in the world of the living. Scrooge is metaphorically haunted by his past: his cold father, the death of his sister, and his own bad choices. Only by coming to terms with his past and facing the possible horror of his future should he not change does Scrooge become a better man, freed of bitterness.

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