A Christmas Carol Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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What do Marley's chains represent?

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I believe that this question is asking about the symbolism that is present in Jacob Marley's chains. Marley is Scrooge's dead business partner. When his ghost appears before Scrooge in stave 1, Marley is wrapped up with chains and dragging them along with him. They are made of steel, and they are additionally weighted down with various financial objects, such as cash boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses.

Jacob Marley himself tells Scrooge and readers that he is forced to wear the chains in the afterlife.

"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it."

Based on this quote, it appears that ghosts are forced to wear chains that are symbolic of that person's life path and life choices. When Marley was alive, he was quite similar to the Scrooge whom we have already gotten to know by this point in the story: Marley focused on his own wealth. His greed superseded any care that he might have for anybody other than himself. His chains are symbolic of those choices. He put money and finances before people, and now he is forced to walk all of eternity carrying around those choices.

The chains also serve as a way for Marley to try and redeem Scrooge. Marley does not want Scrooge to end up like he does and wander the afterlife similarly weighed down. While Scrooge is hardly transformed at this point in the story, Marley and his chains start Scrooge's transformation.

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