Why does Dickens use the term "stave" for his chapters?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The term "stave" ("staff" in American English) refers to the set of five lines separated by four spaces within musical notation. Every line represents a different pitch in the music.

Dickens likely used the term "stave" instead of "chapter" as a way of tying into the title of the novella, ...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The term "stave" ("staff" in American English) refers to the set of five lines separated by four spaces within musical notation. Every line represents a different pitch in the music.

Dickens likely used the term "stave" instead of "chapter" as a way of tying into the title of the novella, A Christmas Carol. Each stave shows a new progression in Ebenezer Scrooge's moral awakening, just as different bars on a stave record different musical progressions. For example, the stave featuring the Ghost of Christmas Past is bittersweet, with Scrooge fondly remembering deceased loved ones and regretfully recalling bad decisions which gradually isolated him from other people, while the stave of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is ominous and sinister, focusing on what will become of Scrooge should he continue to push others away and treat the less fortunate with ice-cold contempt.

Though every stave has a different emotional pitch, if you will, they all come to form one harmonious narrative, showing a man's movement from amoral miser willing to turn a blind eye to human suffering to a compassionate man who comes to embody the goodwill so often wished for during the Christmas season.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team