The following extract is taken from stave one of A Christmas Carol. The ghost of Jacob Marley has just come to visit Scrooge at his home.
‘The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for the spectre’s voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones. 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 could not feel it himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the Ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour from an oven.’
Starting with the extract, explore how Dickens uses language to present Jacob Marley as an important character.
- How Jacob Marley has been presented in the extract
- How Jacob Marley can be seen as an important character in the novel as a whole
In stave one, Marley visits Scrooge in his home to warn him about his fate. Dickens writes that Scrooge ‘felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes”, showing that he’s clearly afraid of Marley’s visit. Dickens deliberately makes Marley’s ghost appear frightening to Scrooge because the message he comes to deliver is also frightening, emphasising the ghost’s importance. The use of the verb ‘influence’ clarifies that Marley has an effect on Scrooge and coupled with ‘chilling’ again exaggerates the idea that Marley hasn’t come to be nice to him. This creates an uncomfortable atmosphere, which for Scrooge is unbearable. It invites the reader to consider a different side to Scrooge, rather than the one they’ve been shown earlier in the stave.