What Is A Stave

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The word stave has many different definitions. If used as a noun. stave refers to a wooden plank used in the construction of a building or a musical staff (symbol). If used as a verb, stave refers to breaking something by force or averting something negative. None of the previous definitions define stave's use in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (although the musical staff is the closest). 

Dickens use of the word stave refers to chapters in the text. This is a common concept for him given that he uses similar musical terms for other texts ("quarters" in The Chimes and "chirps" in The Cricket on the Hearth). Here are the names of the five staves in the novella.

Stave I: Marley's Ghost

Stave II: The First of the three Spirits

Stave III: The Second of the Three Spirits

Stave IV: The Last of the Spirits

Stave V: The End of It

The use of the word stave here refers to songs (in order to make the reader more aware of the relevance of the title (Christmas Carol--in reference to songs sung at Christmas time). 

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michuraisin's profile pic

michuraisin | Student, College Junior | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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The common use of the word stave refers to a strip of wood, but the dictionary also defines it as "a set of verse; a stanza." For the purpose of A Christmas Carol, this latter definition is the one applied. Dickens' uses stave to refer to each one of his chapters. There are five staves in his book, meaning there are five chapters in the book.

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