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The spirits in a christmas carol

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2626 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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A Christmas Carol was written in 1843 by Charles Dickens, who today remains the most widely known novelist of the Victorian period. Dickens was born in Portsmouth and his farther had a constant struggle to keep order of his finance. His farther was put into prison whilst Dickens was put into a work house for the majority of his school years. These events contributed together to give Dickens a first class view of Poverty and how the general children of England lived during the 1800’s. These themes can be easily associated with A Christmas Carol. They had a great influence on his writing and made him into the novelist he was.

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The main character in the novel is Ebenezer Scrooge. The protagonist starts off as a wealthy but extremely grumpy and cantankerous business man. He is the sort of person that only thinks of himself and no ones else. The action of four spirits, change the way he acts and feels and turn him into a respectful member of the community. Jacob Marley, The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come all have a different effect on Scrooge. From seeing what Scrooge was like as a young boy, to what the future awaits for him. Dickens uses different techniques and methods for each of the spirits to accomplish this. Each of the spirits are also presented differently because they resemble and mean different things.

Dickens uses Scrooges old business partner, Jacob Marley, to warn Scrooge of what the future holds for him unless he changes his ways. Marley is the first spirit Scrooge encounters because he is the only person Scrooge would trust. Marley makes a dramatic entrance and astonishes Scrooge.

Marley has to look similar to what he looked like seven years ago, to convince Scrooge that he is real.

“The same face: the very same ……….. and the hair upon his head.”

Scrooge to begin with, refuses to believe that the phantom he is seeing in front of him is real, despite the fact Marley has hardly changed after death. As Marley’s appearance has not really changed, this idea slowly convinces Scrooge that the phantom is really Marley because of its likeness. Scrooge has to know what and who has entered his house to haunt him, so a detailed description of Marley is needed. Scrooge first sees Marley’s face in the door knocker, after he has come back from a evening meal. Only the rich used to be able to go out for meals, so this shows that Scrooge is wealthy and can afford expensive luxuries. In the 1800’s the modern door bell was not invented so the majority of doors had door knockers instead. The face on the knocker catches Scrooge’s attention, but when he goes back to look, the face has gone. Scrooge then comes to the conclusion that his eyes must have been playing tricks. It is not until Marley’s main entrance that Scrooge believes it is really Marley.

Dickens uses onomatopoeia to describe Marley’s dramatic entrance.

“The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound.”

The experience Scrooge has with Jacob Marley is full of suspense and tension. The use of the word “flew” indicates that the involvement of Marley is dramatic. This helps to evoke fear because of its suddenness. When the reader reads it, the suspense which has been built up is released in one sentence. The onomatopoeia helps the reader to understand what the situation was like for Scrooge. The cellar door could also represent the opening to the changing of Scrooges character. It opening could resemble another chance to go down it, in other words another chance to change the way he lives his life.

It is only when Marley takes off the bandage around his head that Scrooge believes that the figure in font of him really is real and is Jacob Marley.

“…when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear in-doors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast! Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.”

In the 1800’s when somebody passed away a bandage was wrapped and tied below the jaw. This was so when the body decomposes the jaw skeleton is still attached to the rest. When Scrooge sees the lowered jaw, he is shocked and in dismay. This was proof that it was Jacob Marley and that everything he had been saying was true. Scrooge could not bear to see what had happened to his best friend. The taking off the bandage evokes fear into Scrooge and makes the said much more real and chilling. This makes Scrooge emotional to the whole visit of Jacob Marley. This tells and shows the reader that Scrooge still has some sort of heart inside of him and it just needs more work and acknowledgement to begin to make Scrooge change.

From the text Dickens has given you the idea that the Jacob Marley has not made as big of effect as he wished. It tells us Marley wanted to make a bigger impact to Scrooge and maybe Marley had a little bit of good left in him when he died, so now he is trying to help his old business partner.

Jacob Marley’s spirit has now left Scrooge and it is the turn of The Ghost of Christmas Past to haunt and teach Scrooge how he must change. The Ghost of Christmas Past has heavy description and takes him back first to his old boarding school and several other important places.

Dickens has used similes to describe the strange look of Ghost of Christmas Past.

“It was a strange figure – like a child, yet not so like a child as like an old man.”

Scrooge can not make out the strange look of the ghost. There is a lot of description about this first of the three spirits. The description Dickens gives for the spirit is peculiar suggesting it is like that to help Scrooge understand the things he is going to see. A simile is a different technique for the reader to take in, other than a lot of description, so this gives the novel a better flow. The spirit could be described like a child, as this spirit is about how Scrooge used to be. The ghost takes Scrooge back to when he went to boarding school, so seeing a child like figure would give you an impression that you are going to re-visit your former self. The fact that it has the appearance of both a child and old man, also symbolises that the spirit is ageless. This indicated that Scrooge is in the presence of the supernatural.

After much waiting and confusion over the entrance of the spirit, it suddenly appears in front of Scrooge.

“Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.”

During the 1800’s central heating was an item people could have only wished for. So they would have a curtain which went round the bed to try and keep the warm in and the cold out. A hand of the ghost suddenly opens the bed curtains, this could represent the ghost opening a new opportunity for Scrooge to change into a better person. Again the ghost makes a dramatic entrance, filling the room of light. The light filling the room and the opening of the curtains could resemble getting up at the beginning of the day signifying Scrooge and the ghost are soon to be busy revisiting Scrooge’s former self. The spirit is described as wearing the “purest white” gown, this can be linked to several religious figures, the sudden explosion of light also supports this. In that time the majority of English people followed some sort of the Christian religion, so it’s more than likely Scrooge was a Christian. Although it is not mentioned in the text, Scrooges attitude suggests he is a little startled by the entrance of the strange figure. These points combined give the impression that Scrooge thought the first spirit was a religious figure as he had not encountered any of the other spirits at that point.

Scrooge is reminded of the life he used to live through the use of the senses, in this case smell.

“A thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten.”

In this instance Dickens has used the senses to describe thoughts which were going through Scrooges mind. This is a different technique which has been used, which helps to engage and involve the reader. The senses are a great way to remember different things. People associate different smells and sounds to different memories through out their lives. The Ghost of Christmas Past is all about Scrooge remembering how he used to be and how jolly he was before his greed for money kicked in. So for Dickens to involve the sense of smell, it is a very effective technique.

After Scrooge has met The Ghost of Christmas Past, he encounters The Ghost of Christmas Present.

Scrooge recognises The Ghost of Christmas Present to be jolly and kind, but he is still a little nervous about meeting the spirit.

“He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.”

Scrooge timidly enters the room the ghost is in, this shows Scrooge is not yet settled with meeting the paranormal. On the other hand, perhaps he fears where the ghost is going to take him and what it is going to show him. One of the first mentions of this spirit is that his eyes are clear and kind, straight a way this give the reader an idea of what the spirit is going to be like.

Dickens uses developed and detailed description to explain to the reader what The Ghost of Christmas Present represents.

“Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.

Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch, all vanished instantly. So did the room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, and they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning,”

One second Scrooge is in his house with spirit, the next he is on a busy street. The suddenness of this event really grips the reader, as there is a dramatic change in plot in such a small part of text. All of the description gives the reader a detailed picture of what the scene is like and helps to understand how Scrooge could have been feeling. In the 1800’s the butcher would have animals hanging up in the shop, no pre cut, packaged meat. 1800’s shops would be a lot different to what they are today, so it also gives the reader an insight to what a Christmas used to be like. All of this food could represent the wealth which Scrooge has, as it is the Ghost of Christmas Present.

The spirit points out to Scrooge a boy and a girl who’s family do not have much money, but still manage to stay happy.

“They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish but prostrate too, in their humility.”

The ragged description of the children shows the family do not have much money. Despite this the children still manage to remain humble and humane. Dickens has shown the children are happy with what they have through a lot of description, mainly adjectives, at the time when it was written children had to live through poverty, so the description is extremely relevant. The spirit points out how they have no money but are happy, and that he is rich and remains full of grumpiness, signalling to Scrooge money is not everything.


The last of the three spirits, is the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. This spirit is the most noticeable from the rest. The spirit has no speech at all but communicates to Scrooge through simple action such as pointing. No speech confuses Scrooge and he starts to fear the ghost.

Dickens has personified death for the spirit, this is represented in the way he looks and his general movements.

“The phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached.”

Death comes with no warning. It is inevitable and can happen in a flash with no warning what so ever, so death could be described as silent. The word “slowly” could be used to give the significance of from the time your born, to the time you die, it is a long time. At the present day we maybe wouldn’t say gravely but it contains context to what was happening at that point during the novel. The phantom does not speak, wears a black garment from head to toe, if you saw this kind of being gravely walking towards you, you would not believe it is alive but the supernatural. This really evokes fear into Scrooge and makes him think really what he has become. To the reader this also builds up suspense and tension to what the spirit is going to do to Scrooge.

Dickens has presented the final spirit so it has a clear representation to the grim reaper.

“It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand.”

The grip reaper wears a black garment, with its face not visible, and so does The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. A clear comparison can be made. The term the Grim Reaper came around after the 15th century, so Dickens may have taken ideas from that. Scrooge had more than likely heard of the Grim Reaper, so he might of thought that’s what had visited him.

What the spirit didn’t say, Scrooge got the messages through the spirits actions.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had a clear effect on Scrooge as he is terrified of the spirit.

“Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him.”

The spirit has a very frightening appearance and is used to help Scrooge think about what he has done. Scrooge is completely terrified by the ghost, it strikes fear into him and almost forces him to think differently. The final spirit rounds of the work of the first two, and cements in the ideas he has come across because of the spirits.

The work of the three spirits changes Scrooges attitude to Christmas and to those who are less fortunate as he is. He becomes a very generous person, giving his clerk a pay rise, giving a lot of money to charity, sends Christmas meals to unsuspecting recipients and most of all and most important he revitalises his true Christmas spirit.

By writing A Christmas Carol, I feel Dickens was trying to send a clear message out to society. In 1843 there were two levels of social status, the poor and the rich. Dickens had experienced both, so he knew what a small difference could make. He was trying to join the poor and the rich, so everybody could live a joyful and happy Christmas.

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When the book was published it re-birthed the low Christmas spirit, it also started Christmas conditions such as general good will to all. I think The Ghost of Christmas Past affected Scrooge the most, as sees how he used to live and compares it to how he lives now. Dickens uses a different technique for this spirit, he uses a big method of using the senses to represent Scrooges past memories. Along with the senses, Dickens long and intense descriptions help the reader picture the situation Dickens was trying to create. I feel overall the best technique was the description of the spirits. Dickens varies techniques make the novel much more exciting and give the book a much better flow. Different methods are needed because the different spirits have different ways of explaining to Scrooge that he must change his ways. For example, The Ghost of Christmas Past has a few similes whilst The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has no speech.


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