Ringgold – A Christmas Carol

            In Stave Four, Scrooge is led by the Phantom through the scenes surrounding his own death (though Dickens’ dramatic irony allows us to infer this before Scrooge himself realizes it). The narration of Scrooge’s death draws parallels to his partner Marley’s death, which is described briefly in the first pages of the novella. 

The first information Scrooge hears in Stave Four is from a man on the street who says “…I only know he’s dead” (64).  This quote has the same effect as the opening sentence of the book: “Marley was dead: to begin with” (1).  Both are blunt statements with no emotional attachment; they are presented as facts that are to be known and nothing more.  As the story continues, the Phantom leads Scrooge to several unattractive characters all talking about the death, characters described as “a great fat man with a monstrous chin” (64) or “a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose” (65).  They are all non-desirable people who are speaking maliciously about the dead man, and a few of them meet to go through items stolen from either his house or his person.  These events mirror Scrooge’s acquiring Marley’s identity after his death; these people represent the continuation of Scrooge’s ugly nature and greediness even after he is dead.  This is a commentary on the reciprocal nature of the formation of identity: the fact that Scrooge was a cold, heartless individual did not only affect him, it also impacted everyone around him.  Alternately, Scrooge had to see, with the help of the ghosts, the emotions and situations of others in order to get a whole understanding of himself.     

The final connection between Marley’s death and Scrooge’s hypothetical demise is the emphasis on material wealth and the loss of such in death.  Marley was, as we are told, similar to Scrooge in his tight-fisted business deals and impersonal personality.  When he visits Scrooge as a ghost, he is shackled in heavy chains and “cashboxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel” (13).  These are all items that have to do with the keeping of wealth and riches, yet Marley (and indeed, any soul) could not take his earthly plenty with him to the grave.  When the three thieves take Scrooge’s worldly possessions, we see the true state of his existence (or lack thereof): his body “plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept, uncared for” (71).  This goes to show that the miserly, stingy, and by default unfriendly people in the world will more or less go to waste, and that the poor or less fortunate, like the Cratchits, could have a more fulfilled existence.  As the saying goes, ‘you can’t take it with you when you go.’

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