A Christmas Carol Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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In A Christmas Carol, what has Marley's ghost been doing since his death?

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In this, the first of the series of visitations that Scrooge "suffers" during his Christmas season, the appearance of the ghost of Old Marley comes as something of a shock to Scrooge, especially because his fate since his death hints very strongly at the kind of fate that Scrooge can expect to see when he dies. When asked why spirits walk the earth, note how the ghost of Marley replies:

"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world--oh, woe is me!--and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"

The ghost is also chained by a chain consisting of "cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses in steel," which, the ghost tells Scrooge, was "forged" during his lifetime, symbolizing the dominant place money had in his life and the way that he put its pursuit in front of other more altruistic causes. Of course, this is another aspect that he uses to frighten Scrooge, as he says:

"Or you would know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!"

Thus, since his death, the Ghost of Marley has been forced to wander the earth, bound by the chain he himself created during his life, to witness what he willingly forsook during his life and the situations that he could have improved and made happier. It also foreshadows the fate of Scrooge if he chooses not to change.

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brendawm eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Marley explains to Scrooge that for the past seven years since his death he has been “sentenced” to wandering the Earth carrying heavy chains in punishment for his sins. He is forced to walk “among humanity in death as he never did in life” witnessing the harsh realities of life.  Marley’s chains are “the chains I (he) forged in life,” made up of cashboxes, padlocks, ledgers, and steel purses, and he informs Scrooge that he has come back to help save him from the same dreaded fate.

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Reuben Lindsey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Marley spent his life removed from his fellow humans, seeking not to help humanity but only to help himself.  Therefore, he has been forced to walk the earth in his death.  For eternity, he will have to witness human life, seeing what he ignored in his life.

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supercoolcop | Student

He also wants to warn Scrooge of the 3 Spirits that might change his life forever.

diqa | Student

Marley has been wandering through the world,and seen the hurting and suffering in the world wanting to do good but unable to do anything but to observe.He is going through such punishment bacause he had not lived among or helped his fellowmen when he was alive.so now he is condemned to do so in death.He also wears a chain that he created in his life. The chain is made of cashboxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.in other words the tools of his buisness.

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