What are some examples of literary devices in A Christmas Carol?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A perennial favorite of audiences of all ages, A Christmas Carol is a classical tale of a miserly old man who finds himself confronted with his present, past, and future. In this confrontation, Scrooge is uncomfortable with much of what is shown to him; consequently, he resolves to reform.

In order to describe his characters, especially Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens employs certain literary devices. Here are some: 

Stave One

Metaphor (unstated comparisons):

  • "But he [Scrooge] was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone"
  • "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!"
  • "A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin."

Simile: (stated comparisons using "like" or "as")

  • [Scrooge is] "Sharp as flint"
  • "Solitary as an oyster"
  • "Candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air."

Alliteration: (repetition of initial consonant sounds)

  • "No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him." /w/

Parallelism: (repetition of words, or phrases that are similar in structure)

  • No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. 

Stave Two


  • "It was a strange figure -- like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man...." 


  • "...now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body"

Imagery: (Visual)

  • "It wore a tunic of the purest white and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers."

Repetition: (the words now and leg are repeated)

"now with one leg,now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body"

Personification: (the attribution of the qualities of a human being to inanimate objects)

  • "melancholy room" and "feeble fire"

Stave Three  

Antithesis: (an opposition of ideas expressed by parallelism of phrases or words that are the opposite of each other)

  • "Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing..."


  • "The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there..." (comparing the reflection of the holly, mistletoe, and ivy to mirrors)


  •  "bright gleaming berries glistened"

Throughout his narrative, Dickens makes use of this type of figurative language, and it is clear that this use of literary devices enhances the descriptions of both characters and places, explicating and developing them in imaginative ways. Certainly, Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most memorable characters of all literature and his story is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

fezziwig eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like all great poetry and stories, A Christmas Carol is fraught with literary devices:

I will list some of them for you:


  • Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail
  • solitary as an oyster
  • like a bad lobster in a dark cellar
  • home' like heaven
  • Fezziwig's calves are described as looking "like moons"


  • the houses opposite were mere phantoms


  • a church, whose gruff old bell was peeping slily dwon at Scrooge
  • congenial frost
  • misanthropic ice
  • the crisp air laughed
  • like Spanish Friars
  • Tiny Tims is described as "as good as gold"


  • Cains and Abels
  • Pharaoh's daughter
  • Queens of Sheba
  • Ali Baba
  • Robin Crusoe


  • All three ghosts
  • Marley's chain
  • fire

The list is great; now see if you can find some on your own.

fezziwig eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A Christmas Carol is full of figurative language. Here are some examples to get you going:


"Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail."

Scrooge was ". . . solitary as an oyster."


"The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge."

The bell is also described as having "teeth" that chatter in its frozen head when it announces the hours.


". . . the houses opposite were mere phantoms."


fezziwig eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Correction to my pervious list:

"Like Spanish Friars" and Tiny Tim is described "as good as gold" should be listed under similes.

Read the study guide:
A Christmas Carol

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