The Power of Silence

As the phantom appears in Stave Four, Dickens description of him is most haunting of all of the spirits. The previous two seemed somewhat comical, especially the giant in the last stave. However, this phantom’s silence is what makes him the most terrifying of them all. Dickens uses the spirit’s silence to force Scrooge dig into his own conscience and realize the life changes that are necessary for him to live a better, more fulfilled life so he can avoid his current future. He instills fear in Scrooge, forcing him to develop the life changing realizations. Scrooge is so fearful when the spirit first appears and even though he was “used to the ghostly company by this time, [he] feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled” (62). The phantom and his “unseen eyes” approach Scrooge he is described as moving “slowly, gravely, silently” (62).  His choice to make him silent “The phantom …its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved” (62).

The spirit has an omniscient presence, seen by the use of its pointing hand. This hand points Scrooge into making the observations that will allow him to change. He wants to ask the Spirit questions and he wants answers, but the Spirit never answers, forcing Scrooge to figure out the answers to his own questions. When wondering about their activities of the night, Scrooge asks the phantom, “Will you give me no reply?”, but the Spirit “gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them” (63). This hand appears throughout Stave 4, pointing at a conversation or a headstone. The hand is always firmly and confidently pointed in a direction. It is leading Scrooge to discovering that in order to live a happy, fulfilled and loving life he must shed his greed and self-isolation. As the spirit takes Scrooge to their first scene from the future, “his finger point[s] to two persons meeting. Scrooge listened again, thinking that the explanation might lie here” (65). Unlike the other spirits that have appeared, this phantom is not telling Scrooge what he should focus on, but allowing Scrooge to make observations and draw from them the lessons that are vital to living a good life. Scrooge has to figure out why the finger is pointing in a particular direction. Because nothing is directly told to Scrooge, this ghost becomes a way for Scrooge to discover his moral conscience. The silence forces him to evaluate himself without any external direction. The only thing directing him is a pointing finger. The silence allows his own conscience to become clear to himself as well as the reader, which results in Scrooge adopting the will to change.

After Scrooge visits all the scenes of the future, he becomes anxious as he discovers his own death will soon take place.  He begins to yell at the phantom, “Spirit!…hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not me the man I must have been but for this intercourse…Assure me that I may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life! (78). The hand begins to shake as Scrooge is agonized and in this distress Scrooge grabs the hand. Scrooge is grabbing the source of what has allowed him to make the discovery that he will not shut out the lessons the spirits have taught him.  He becomes so ready to accept these ideas because it was through his own discovery, and was not told to him. The silence allowed him to figure out what he needed to do on his own, and therefore, he was more willing to make the change. Being told to change is much harder to accept than if you discover you need to change on your own. Silence was a truly powerful tool that instilled fear within him and it was the power of silence in the final visit of the Spirit that allowed Scrooge to discover his conscience and drop his cold, greedy demeanor and really appreciate the true meaning of Christmas and life itself.

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