illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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Marley's warning to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol

Summary:

In A Christmas Carol, Marley's warning to Scrooge is that he must change his miserly ways or suffer a fate similar to Marley's own. Marley tells Scrooge that his greed and selfishness will lead to eternal torment, and he hopes to help Scrooge avoid this by urging him to embrace compassion and generosity.

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In Stave 1 of A Christmas Carol, what message does Marley give Scrooge?

In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley, Scrooge's dead partner (gone for seven years) appears to him on Christmas Eve.

Practical about everything in life, Scrooge tries to argue with "the shade" as to whether it really exists. After a time, however, Marley's ghost becomes terribly agitated, wailing and ratting his chains—to Scrooge's horror and abject fear!

Scrooge asks the ghost why he has appeared to him. Marley explains that if one does not do what is expected of him in life, he will be forced to return after life to fulfill the task set before him while alive, yet left unfinished:

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, 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!”

Marley tells Scrooge that the chains that bind him in death are those he forged in life. He never left seeing after business, and never showed kindness to anyone. Now he is to be punished by wandering endlessly. Marley also warns Scrooge that his chains are just as long as Marley's although he cannot see them. 

Marley warns Scrooge...

...no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused!

Scrooge points out to Jacob that he was a fine businessman, but Marley wants none of it:

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Marley goes on to explain that his present existence is especially terrible at Christmas. He alludes to the birth of Christ as he mentions "the Wise Men" who traveled, following the "blessed Star...to a poor abode." He wonders could there not have been a way that in life he could have found some way to ease one person's suffering, to show compassion or kindness...for what a difference it would have made to the ghost that stands before Scrooge, now running out of time to speak.

Marley is not certain what power has made it possible for him to visit Scrooge, though he tells his old friend that part of his penance has been to sit at Scrooge's side for the last seven years, something Marley reveals has been extremely difficult for him. He then notes that he has come to warn Scrooge:

I am here tonight to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.

Scrooge is grateful until Marley announces the imminent visitation by Three Spirits. Scrooge wants nothing to do with such experiences, but Marley warns him that there is no other way for Scrooge to possibly avoid Marley's fate. 

Marley tells Scrooge not to look for him again, for he must go. However, he cautions Scrooge to remember what has "passed between us" so that Scrooge's fate can be different than that which Marley must endure.

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In A Christmas Carol, what warning does Marley give Scrooge?

Although Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge's now-deceased former partner in the firm of Scrooge & Marley, gives Scrooge one specific warning in stave 1 of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol—“I am here tonight to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate"—Marley gives other warnings to Scrooge during his late-night visit.

Marley says that Scrooge's "chance and hope of escaping" Marley's fate is of Marley's own "procuring." In other words, Marley himself arranged for the visits of the "Three Spirits," which at first Scrooge politely declines. “I—I think I’d rather not,” says Scrooge.

This is followed by another warning from Marley that Scrooge "cannot hope to shun the path" that Marley trod if the Spirits don't appear to him.

Earlier in his visit, Marley offers his own life as a warning to Scrooge and as the reason for his haunting Scrooge at this moment, seven years after his own death, "seven years ago, this very night.”

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost [Marley] returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, 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!”

Marley also warns Scrooge that he's learned "that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused!"

When Scrooge remarks that Marley was always "a good man of business," Marley cries out, "Mankind was my business." Marley says that the common welfare, charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were also his business, another warning to Scrooge not to follow in Marley's path to unavailing grief and eternal regret, which troubles Marley most "at this time," meaning at Christmastime, the time of year when Scrooge is most uncharitable.

The final warning to Scrooge comes not from Marley himself, but from the many restless, lamenting, wailing phantoms whom Marley joins outside Scrooge's window when he leaves Scrooge's rooms.

The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

When the phantoms fade into the mist and Scrooge is left alone, Scrooge starts to say "Humbug!" but he stops at the first syllable. Whether Scrooge realizes it or not, Marley's warnings are starting to have an effect on him. It's left to the Three Sprits to finish teaching Scrooge the lessons that Marley wants him to learn.

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In A Christmas Carol, what warning does Marley give Scrooge?

In the first stave, Marley warns Scrooge,

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

In other words, if Scrooge does not change his ways while he is alive, then he is bound to share the same sorry fate that Marley endures. Marley did not move around in the world among his fellow people while he was living; instead, he holed himself up in the counting house with Scrooge and all their money. Therefore, now Marley’s disembodied spirit is condemned to wander through the world without stopping, and he suffers because he cannot share in humans’ lived experiences anymore or help out when he sees someone who needs assistance. Marley is tortured by this reality, by his inability to assist anyone who is suffering, something he had plenty of opportunity to do while he was alive. He squandered all of those chances, just as Scrooge is squandering all of his own chances to help others.

Marley also warns Scrooge that Scrooge’s own chains were just as bad as Marley’s were seven years ago when he died, and Scrooge has only been adding to their weight during the last seven years that he has lived without Marley. Essentially, Marley has come on a good-will mission to Scrooge, to warn his one-time “friend” (or the closest either ever had to one) that if he does not change his ways soon, he is going to suffer eternally for his terrible behavior and willful ignorance of his fellows’ suffering during life.

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In A Christmas Carol, what warning does Marley give Scrooge?

To answer this question, take a look at the conversation between the ghost of Jacob Marley and Scrooge in Stave One. According to Jacob, his visit to Scrooge has a key purpose:

"I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate."

In other words, Marley hopes that he can prevent Scrooge from having to endure the same fate in the afterlife. For Marley, life after death has been very hard. Because of his endless pursuit of money, for example, Marley must wear a chain around his body for the rest of eternity. This chain is "forged" from the symbols of his greed: padlocks, purses, and keys. If Scrooge continues to be a greedy miser, only interested in the success of his business, Marley is certain that he will also have to wear a chain.

Marley's warning, therefore, is that Scrooge must focus less on materialistic matters and instead begin to care about those around him. If he does not, he will spend the rest of eternity paying for it.

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In A Christmas Carol, what warning does Marley give Scrooge?

Marley comes to warn Scrooge of the future that is waiting for him if he does not change his ways. He says that it is the job of men to live among and help their fellow man when they are alive. If they do not do so, they are condemned to do so in death. They will wander through the world and see the hurting and suffering in the world, wanting to interfere and do good, but being unable to do anything but observe. As he speaks, Scrooge sees that Marley wears a chain and he asks about it. Marley says that he wears the chain that he created in his life. “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. Is its pattern strange to you?” Scrooge sees that it is made of “cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.” In other words, the tools of his business. The chain is created by caring more about money than people. To further make his point, Marley allows Scrooge a glimpse of the ghosts who are wandering and wailing in emotional pain just outside his own window.

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