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A miser learns the true meaning of Christmas when three ghostly visitors review his past and foretell his future.
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MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.
The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot-say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance-literally to astonish his son's weak mind.
Scrooge never painted out Old Marley's name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names: it was all the same to him.
Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.
External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, nor wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often 'came down' handsomely, and Scrooge never did.
Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, 'My dear Scrooge, how are you? when will you come to see me?' No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was 'oclock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blindmen's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, 'no eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!'
But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call 'nuts' to Scrooge.
Once upon a time-of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve-old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement-stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already: it had not been light all day: and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.
The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.
Excerpted from Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Copyright © 1997 by Charles Dickens. Excerpted by permission.
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Charles Dickens: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
A Christmas Carol
Appendix A: Reflections on Christmas
1. Washington Irving, from The Sketch Book (1822)
2. Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Dinner" (1836)
3. Charles Dickens, from The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1836-37)
4. Thomas K. Hervey, from The Book of Christmas (1837)
5. John Calcott Horsley / Sir Henry Cole, The First Christmas Card (1843)
6. Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Tree" (1850)
7. Charles Dickens, "What Christmas Is, As We Grow Older" (1851)
Appendix B: Child Labor, Education, and the Workhouse
1. From Report of the Children's Employment Commission (1842)
2. From Charles Dickens's Speech at the First Annual Soiree of the Athenaeum: Manchester (Oct. 5, 1843)
3. Charles Dickens, "A Walk in a Workhouse" (1850)
Appendix C: From Letters of Charles Dickens
Appendix D: Contemporary Reviews of A Christmas Carol
1. Charles Mackay, Morning Chronicle (December 19, 1843)
2. Anon., Athenaeum (December 23, 1843)
3. Thomas Hood, Hood's Magazine, (January 4, 1844)
4. Laman Blanchard, Ainsworth's Magazine (January 1844)
5. Anon., The Times (January 7, 1844)
6. William Makepeace Thackeray, Fraser's Magazine, (February 1844)
Appendix E: Notable Film, Television, and Radio Adaptations of A Christmas Carol
Posted December 17, 2002
A Christmas Carol is a story about a man named Ebneezer Scrooge who cares about only money and himself. He owns a counting house named Jacob and Marley. Marley has passed away several years ago. His clerk, Bob Crachet, works in the cold office with Scrooge. He is generous, kind, humble and has a large family. As Scrooge closes up for the evening and walks home he begins to hear ghostly sounds at his door. It frightens him but he just says Bah! Humbug! Marley's ghost tied in chains with a cashbox tied around him tells Scrooge he is going to be visited by three ghost named Christmas Past, Present and Future. He tells Scrooge to listen to them so he will not have to face the same conquences. The ghosts appear and leave but Scrooge listens to the ghosts and changes into a generous, caring, kind man that he used to be. Everyone is shocked by the new attitude Scrooge has on Christmas Day.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 6, 2001
This book is amazing! I love the cafeful description,and the way Dickens foreshadows. My teacher can recite almost the entire book! It's just that good. If you love old,magical tales,you'll definatly have to read this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 20, 2001
This book is a wonderful story of Christmas long ago, with its interesting characters such as Scrooge, Bob Cratghit and of course the three ghost of Christmas past, present and future. One thing that is unique is how the streets, houses and characters are described. Like for Scrooge who in the beginning was a old insensitive miser changed to a warm hearted generous man. In a section of the story that is a favorite is when Scrooge goes to the house of Bob Cratghit and his family with the Ghost of Christmas Present. This is when Scrooge starts to change his attitude of Christmas and of life in general. I would highly recommend this book to all who seeks a part of the past. Mr. Dickens would be proud to know that even over a hundred and fifty years the story is still brings us back to a time long ago and the magic that is Christmas.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 1999
This book makes you feel lucky to have such a great life and inspires you to go do a nice thing for someone who is less fortunate than you. This plausible story is a wonderfl classic.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.