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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How would you write an essay on the importance of silences in A Christmas Carol?

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One approach to writing about Dickens's employment of silence is to determine the purpose of silence in the narrative of A Christmas Carol. In order to do this, the writer may wish to peruse the text and note the incidences in the plot in which moments of silence occur. Here are a few instances of silence that should help:

Stave I

Bob Crachit applauds when Scrooge's nephew cheers the season of Christmas.  "Let me hear another sound from you," said Scrooge, "and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your situation." [Here Bob is intimidated into silence]

After Marley's ghost appears to Scrooge in his lonely room, "the spectre's voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones." As he reflects, Scrooge decides,

To sit, staring at those fixed glazed eyes, in silence for a moment would play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him. [Here silence would be disturbing]

Watching Marley's spectre disappear, Scrooge observes many ghosts. Shortly they and "their spirit voices faded together...." [this silence is eerie]

Stave II

As Dickens journeys with the first ghost to Christmas Past, he witnesses himself as a boy, alone and forgotten. Scrooge weeps as he remembers his forlornness:

Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle from the mice behind the panelling, not a drip from the half-thawed waterspout in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among the leafless boughs of one despondent poplar, not the idle swinging of an empty store-house door....[Here the silence connotes the young Scrooge's loneliness and isolation]

Once the student has found more instances in which silence carries import, he can find a common denominator, so to speak, of the meaning of silence and form a thesis. Perhaps, the student could form his general statement about silence as being the lack of personal expression, the warmth of companionship, or the like.


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Silence is something that is used in this text to symbolise reflection and self-searching, and as a result, Scrooge as a character does everything he can to try and avoid silence, keeping himself busy, and even when he is by himself, avoiding silence even if the only way he has of breaking that silence is to issue his trademark comment of "Humbug!" Silence, it is suggested, is what Scrooge tries to avoid in order to not have to think about his life and what he needs to change. Note for example how silence is mentioned in the following quote:

To sit, staring at those fixed glazed eyes, in silence for a moment, would play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him. There was something very awful, too, in the spectre's being provided with an infernal atmosphere of its own.

Scrooge, when the ghost of Old Marley pays him a visit, is unable to look at him in the face in silence. This is just one example of how Scrooge deliberately tries to avoid silence in order to avoid the reflection that comes after the silence. It is only after the various visitors have paid their nighttime visits to Scrooge that he is able to reflect on his life and make necessary changes, which means that he is then able to both live life with silence and with noise, responding joyfully to both.

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