ACC Jacob Marley: Key Quotes & Characterisation

Marley only appears in stave one, but he’s quite an important driving force behind the plot. If you get a question based on Marley, you need to make sure you have a range of quotes to use. Below are five to get you started along with possible interpretations.


‘Marley was dead: to begin with’ (stave one)

Possible Interpretation: Dickens uses a simple statement to let the reader know the facts straight away. However, he has cleverly used the colon to act as a pause, before finishing with ‘to begin with’, which creates an eerie tone for the reader. Dickens does this deliberately to indicate the novel has an element of the supernatural in it. The Victorians were scared of the supernatural and Dickens wanted to scare his readers in redemption.

‘I wear the chains I forged in life’ (stave one)

Possible Interpretation: The imagery of chains implies Marley is imprisoned, as if he didn’t pass on to heaven (remember, the Victorians were very religious!) It also hints that in death, Marley is carrying the weight of his poor decisions and he doesn’t want Scrooge to do the same. The verb ‘forged’ suggests it was a long, arduous process for Marley to create his fate. The fact that Scrooge has continued this seven years after his death shows that his chains will be longer and heavier.

‘chilling influence of his death cold eyes’ (stave one)

Possible Interpretation: The verb ‘influence’ suggests Marley had an effect on Scrooge whilst alive, therefore the fact that he’s back in supernatural form was have added to his impact. The adjectives in this quote are all negative, suggesting Marley had a bad influence on Scrooge, therefore he expects it again. The adjective ‘chilling’ in particular shows how uncomfortable Scrooge is around Marley. Dickens also talks of Marley’s eyes, which can represent omniscience and being a gateway to the soul. This suggests Marley is trying to help Scrooge’s soul, as he visits him to try and warn him of his fate.

‘The spectres voice disturbed the very marrow of his bones’ (stave one)

Possible Interpretation: Dickens deliberately makes Marley’s ghost appear frightening, to emphasise his warning to Scrooge about his behaviour. This emphasises Marley’s importance in the novel: he is the only one who can help Scrooge can his ways. It is Marley who sends the three spirits to visit him, so without his appearance at the beginning of the novel, there would be no plot development from this part of the novel onward.

‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence, were, all, my business.’ (stave one)

Possible Interpretation: Here, Dickens has used incremental repetition to warn his readers about the necessity of kindness and charity. Marley appears in the novel at a time that is pivotal to Scrooge. He had just refused to give to the charity workers, told his nephew what he thought of Christmas and punished his clerk for wanting the day off. Dickens uses Marley as a mirror for Scrooge: his actions whilst alive have had severe consequences in death, a fate he hopes his only friend and business partner will avoid.