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 did Scrooge notice about the church chimes when he woke up in A Christmas Carol?

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After the visit from Marley's ghost, strange things continue to happen to Scrooge on Christmas Eve. Time itself goes out of kilter for him. He notes that he went to bed after two a.m., yet when he wakes up the church chimes keep on chiming a new hour, one after...

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After the visit from Marley's ghost, strange things continue to happen to Scrooge on Christmas Eve. Time itself goes out of kilter for him. He notes that he went to bed after two a.m., yet when he wakes up the church chimes keep on chiming a new hour, one after another, until midnight—two hours ago! As Scrooge puts it:

To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up to twelve; then stopped. Twelve! It was past two when he went to bed. The clock was wrong. An icicle must have got into the works. Twelve!

While we might not all be up on our church bells, at six they will chime six times to tell people it is six o'clock, then an hour later will chime seven times to show it is seven o'clock, etc. They don't chime six, then seven, then eight times ... all in a row. Also, Scrooge knows a whole day couldn't have passed, but at the same time, how could time have gone back two hours?

Through Scrooge's confusion, Dickens's indicates that his miserly lead character has entered a supernatural space, outside of ordinary time and space: a place where he can be visited by ghosts and time travel so that he can learn an important lesson.

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Scrooge had gone to bed past 2 a.m. following his visit by the Ghost of Jacob Marley. When he awoke, he listened for the church bells to tell the time. Assuming that it was still in the early morning hours, to his surprise, the bells rang "from seven to eight, and regularly up to twelve..." The clock stopped at twelve. Scrooge believed the "preposterous" clock must be wrong: He checked his own "repeater;" it, too, read 12 o'clock. Believing that it might be 12 noon, Scrooge rushed to the window and discovered it was still dark outside. 

“Why, it isn't possible,” said Scrooge, “that I can have slept through a whole day and far into another night. It isn't possible that anything has happened to the sun, and this is twelve at noon!”  (Stave II)

Scrooge decided to go back to bed and await the next set of church bells. As he lay there, he remembered the Ghost's warning about a "visitation" at one o'clock. The bells rung three more times--forty-five minutes past twelve. He would remain awake for fifteen more minutes, until 

... that time was passed; and, considering that he could no more go to sleep than go to Heaven, this was perhaps the wisest resolution in his power.

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