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Dickens: A Christmas Carol

7. Stave 1 – Marley’s Ghost

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In this module, we continue to read Stave One as Scrooge finally comes face to face with the ghost of his old friend, Jacob Marley. In particular, we focus on: (i) the nature of the ghost – is it all a figment of Scrooge’s imagination?; (ii) the sense that Marley has been “haunting” the text from its very first word; (iii) the cacophony of sounds that anticipate the appearance of Marley’s ghost – the “disused bell”, which “rang out loudly”, the “clanking noise, deep down below”, the “booming sound” of the cellar-door, etc.; (iv) the appearance of Marley’s ghost and Scrooge’s disbelief – then belief (“Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.”); (v) the description of Marley’s appearance; (vi) his declaration that Scrooge “will be haunted … by Three Spirits”; and (vii) the first observed change in Scrooge (“He tried to say ‘Humbug!’ but stopped at the first syllable.”)


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In the first module, we introduce the novel by looking at the first two paragraphs of the story, including its famous opening line (“Marley was dead; to begin with”) and the reader’s first impression of the character of Scrooge (“Scrooge's name was good on ‘Change”). In the second and third modules, we go through some of the literary, cultural and historical context for the novel, including Dickens’ life and career up to 1843, the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British society and culture, the ‘invention’ of the ‘traditional, family Christmas’ in this period, and Dickens’ preoccupation with capitalism, poverty and children. In the following twelve modules, we read through the novel stave by stave: the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh modules cover Stave One; the eighth and ninth cover Stave Two; the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth cover Stave Three; the thirteen and fourteenth cover Stave Four; and the fifteenth covers Stave Five.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

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Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2020, March 24). Dickens: A Christmas Carol - Stave 1 – Marley’s Ghost [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Dickens: A Christmas Carol – Stave 1 – Marley’s Ghost." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Mar 2020,