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Dickens: A Christmas Carol

4. Stave 1 – “Marley was Dead”

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In this module, we read through the first part of the Stave One, focusing in particular on: (i) Scrooge’s close relationship with Marley (“Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign”); (ii) Scrooge’s interest in securing an “undoubted bargain”, even at Marley’s funeral; (iii) the presence of ghosts in both A Christmas Carol and Shakespeare’s Hamlet; (iv) the strange interchangeability of Scrooge and Marley (“Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley”); (v) Dickens’ use of language and punctuation when describing Scrooge; (vi) the theme of warmth and coldness in the novel, both physical and emotional; and (vii) the presentation of the weather as an animate, sentient force (“Foul weather didn't know where to have him”).


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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APA style

McRae, J. (2020, March 24). Dickens: A Christmas Carol - Stave 1 – “Marley was Dead” [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Dickens: A Christmas Carol – Stave 1 – “Marley was Dead”." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Mar 2020,