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Jacob Marley

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The Ghost of Jacob Marley
Marley

Real Name

Jacob Marley

First Appearance

A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. (19 December 1843)

Created by

Charles Dickens

Origin

In life, Marley was the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. As teenagers, both men had been apprenticed in business and met as clerks in another business. The firm of Scrooge and Marley was a nineteenth-century financial institution, probably a counting house, as Marley refers to their offices as 'our money-changing hole.' They have become successful bankers, with seats on the London Stock Exchange. He was named after Marley Tunnel in Devon, just outside Totnes because of fond holiday memories of the town.

In A Christmas Carol, Marley is said to have died seven years earlier on Christmas Eve (as the setting is Christmas Eve 1843, this would have made the date of his passing December 24, 1836). It would be his ghost who would be Scrooge's first visitor (before the three other spirits to come).

Marley preys upon Scrooge's mind in many different ways. The ghost maintains the same voice, hairstyle and sense of dress that he had in life, but is translucent. He wears a handkerchief tied about his jaws, and "captive, bound and double-ironed" with chains which are described as "long, and wound about him like a tail; it was made... of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel." He often, in moments of great despair or impatience at Scrooge's scepticism, flings these upon the ground before him and almost induces his former partner "into a swoon." He explains that it is the chain he unknowingly forged himself in life, as a result of his extortionate behaviour. The ghost is also described as having "an infernal atmosphere of its own... its hair and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour from an oven." He despairs at his inability ever to find happiness in the mortal world or the next. As he spent his life on this Earth obsessing over money and mistreating the poor and wretched to fill his pocket, Marley is condemned as part of his "penance" to walk the earth for eternity never to find rest or peace, experiencing an "incessant torture of remorse."

When the spectre asks, "Why do you doubt your senses?" Scrooge scoffs that "...a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheat. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!" Later, more pointedly he says, "Humbug, I tell you! Humbug!" Marley's only reply is a spine-chilling howl that brings Scrooge to his knees, begging for mercy.

Public Domain Appearances

Literature:

  • A Christmas Carol

Film:

  • Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1908)
  • A Christmas Carol (1908)
  • A Christmas Carol (1910)
  • A Christmas Carol aka Old Scrooge (1913)
  • A Christmas Carol (1914)
  • The Right to Be Happy (1916)
  • Scrooge (1935)

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