A Christmas Carol

By charles dickens, a christmas carol summary and analysis of stave one.

Jacob Marley , the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge , died seven years ago. On a dingy Christmas Eve, Scrooge, a cold, unfriendly miser, works in his counting-house while keeping an eye on his clerk, a small man named Bob Cratchit . Scrooge's nephew wishes Scrooge a merry Christmas, but Scrooge answers him with a disdainful "Bah! Humbug!" He believes Christmas is the same as any day of the year, a day in which one must still pay bills. His nephew, Fred , thinks of Christmas as a "kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time." He invites Scrooge to dine with him tomorrow, but his uncle rejects the offer.

Two portly gentlemen enter and ask Scrooge for charity for the poor. Scrooge believes that prisons and workhouses are sufficient, and he dismisses them. Outside, it gets colder. A Christmas caroler tries to sing at Scrooge's door, but the old man scares him away. Scrooge closes up the counting-house and tells Cratchit he expects him to work on Christmas day. Cratchit goes home.

Scrooge goes through his dreary routine of dinner in a tavern, then goes to his gloomy home. Scrooge sees the dead Marley's face in the knocker of his door until it turns back into a knocker. It gives Scrooge pause, but he resolves not to be frightened. He thinks he sees a locomotive hearse going up the stairs before him. He walks through his rooms to make sure no one is there. After, he warms himself by a small fire. A bell in the room starts to ring, and soon all the other bells in the house do. After some time, the bells stop, and Scrooge hears the cellar-door open.

Marley's ghost‹transparent and bound in a long chain made of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses‹enters the room. Scrooge claims he does not believe the ghost exists, but soon he admits he does. Marley says his spirit has been wandering since he died as punishment for being consumed with business and not with people while alive. He has come to warn Scrooge and perhaps save him from the same fate. He tells him Three Spirits will come to him over the next three nights. Marley makes incoherent, sorrowful sounds, then leaves. Scrooge looks out the window and sees the sky filled with other chained spirits, some familiar to him, who cry about their inability to connect with others. He goes to sleep.

A Christmas Carol is foremost a Christian allegory of redemption about, as Fred says, the "kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time" of Christmas. Scrooge is a skinflint businessman who represents the greediest impulses of Victorian England's rich. He subscribes to the guidelines of the Poor Laws, which oppress the underclass, and has no warmth in his spirit for anything but money. Cratchit is the underclass's representative, a humble, powerless man who has no choice but to kowtow to his employer's demands.

Yet underneath the simple Christian allegory, Dickens investigates the complicated nature of time in a capitalist system. The references to signifiers of time are numerous in the chapter; the bells ring to herald Marley's arrival, and even the repetitive discussion of Marley's death at the beginning emphasizes the present tense in which Scrooge is stuck.

Why the present tense? Capitalism functions in the now. Always aware of the clock, of how much time has passed and how much is left, capitalism is foremost concerned with what can be done at the present to accumulate money. Scrooge believes Christmas time is simply "capitalist time," to coin a phrase, whereas Fred believes it constitutes a departure from capitalist time.

Scrooge's temporal problem, then, is his inability to hold a more humane version of the present tense. Moreover, he is unable to combine the three tenses‹past, present, and future‹into a singular redemptive vision of humanity. Scrooge foreshadows the concept of the epiphany when he asks for all three ghosts at once; perhaps the epiphany somehow depends on time in such a universal way.

Dickens also structures A Christmas Carol with the musical notation of five "staves." Dickens's choice to call his story a song emphasizes the communal theme‹carolers rarely sing alone, after all‹and perhaps to underscore the temporal theme at play, since songs are temporal forms that rely on repetition of the chorus.

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A Christmas Carol Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for A Christmas Carol is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

What is the author's likely purpose for the figurative language used in paragraph 6? Cite at least two pieces of evidence from the paragraph in your response.

I can't be sure if your paragraph 6 matches mine. There are literally hundreds of publications of this story. If you quote the first line of the paragraph, I can find it.

Why does Scrooge hate Christmas so much?

Scrooge is alone and his hate on for Christmas is, at least in part, a defence mechanism. Scrooge became isolated as he accumulated his wealth: his rejection of friends and family for the sake of wealth becomes a theme in the story. Scrooge sees...

What kind of character designation would Scrooge be?

Ebenezer Scrooge would be your classic dynamic character.

Study Guide for A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol study guide contains a biography of Charles Dickens, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About A Christmas Carol
  • A Christmas Carol Summary
  • A Christmas Carol Video
  • Character List

Essays for A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of A Christmas Carol.

  • Have a Capitalist Christmas: The Critique of Christmas Time in "A Christmas Carol"
  • Movement Within the Episodes
  • Ghost of an Idea
  • A Secular Christmas: Examining Religion in Dickens' A Christmas Carol
  • Perceiving the Need for Social Change in "A Christmas Carol"

Lesson Plan for A Christmas Carol

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to A Christmas Carol
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • A Christmas Carol Bibliography

E-Text of A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol E-Text contains the full text of A Christmas Carol

  • Stave I: Marley's Ghost
  • Stave II: The First Of The Three Spirits
  • Stave III: The Second Of The Three Spirits
  • Stave IV: The Last Of The Spirits

Wikipedia Entries for A Christmas Carol

  • Introduction

a christmas carol summary of stave 1


  1. Charles Dickens

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  2. Stave One, pages 3–10: Scrooge has visitors at the office Summary A

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  3. A Christmas Carol Stave 1 guided annotation

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  4. Key Events In Stave 1 Of A Christmas Carol

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  1. A Christmas Carol Stave One Summary and Analysis

    A Christmas Carol Summary and Analysis of Stave One. Jacob Marley, the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge, died seven years ago. On a dingy Christmas Eve, Scrooge, a cold, unfriendly miser, works in his counting-house while keeping an eye on his clerk, a small man named Bob Cratchit. Scrooge's nephew wishes Scrooge a merry Christmas, but ...

  2. A Christmas Carol by C. Dickens: Stave 1

    Learn about Stave 1 of ‘’A Christmas Carol’’ by Charles Dickens. Review a summary and analysis of Stave 1. Discover characters and quotes from Stave 1.

  3. Plot summary Stave One: Marley’s Ghost A Christmas Carol

    It is Christmas Eve and he won’t pay to heat the office properly. This means that his clerk, Bob Cratchit, is very cold. Scrooge has four Christmas visitors: his nephew, Fred; two charity collectors; and a carol singer. Scrooge is rude to all of them and sends them away. That night the Ghost of Jacob Marley, his dead business partner, appears.