Jacob Marley

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"Marley's Ghost" redirects here. For other uses, see Marley's Ghost (disambiguation).
Jacob Marley
Marley's Ghost-John Leech, 1843.jpg
Jacob Marley's ghost visits Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
First appearance A Christmas Carol 1843
Created by Charles Dickens
Nickname(s) J.M.
Species Ghost (Formerly Human)
Gender Male
Occupation Business Partner/ Accountant
Family unspecified (no stated family)
Relatives The Ghost of Christmas Past
The Ghost of Christmas Present
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Jacob Marley is a fictional character who appears in Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. He is Scrooge's deceased business partner, now a chained and tormented ghost, damned to wander the earth forevermore as punishment for his greedy, selfish and uncaring attitude towards mankind. Marley roams restlessly, witnessing the hardships others suffer and lamenting that he has lost his chance to help them forever. Through unknown means, it is Marley who arranges for the three spirits to visit Scrooge and gives him his opportunity for redemption, which Marley tells him was "...a chance and hope of my procuring."

Relationship with Scrooge and Marley[edit]

In A Christmas Carol, Marley is the first character mentioned in the first line of the story. Jacob 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).

In life, Jacob Marley was the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. They co-owned the firm of Scrooge and Marley, and he refers to their offices as 'our money-changing hole'. They became successful yet hard-hearted bankers, with seats on the London Stock Exchange. Scrooge is described as Marley's "sole friend" and "sole mourner", and praises Marley as being a good friend to him.

It would be Marley's 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, notably his face manifesting on the knocker on Ebenezer Scrooge's front door and causing the bells in his house to ring. 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 greed and selfishness. As he spent his life on this earth obsessing over money and mistreating the poor and wretched to fill his pocket, Marley is condemned to walk the earth for eternity never to find rest or peace, experiencing an "incessant torture of remorse", lamenting that Christmas is the time he suffers most of all.

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 gravy than grave about you, whatever you are!" Marley's only reply is a spine-chilling howl that brings Scrooge to his knees, begging for mercy.

Marley tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits, and admonishes his former partner to listen to what they have to say, or Scrooge will suffer Marley's fate; he says that Scrooge's chain was as heavy as his seven years earlier, and remarks that "you have laboured on it since — it is a ponderous chain!". Even though it is unknown why it took seven years for Marley to haunt Scrooge, it could be implied that Scrooge could have died that very night if he was not haunted. This is evident in the fact that Marley seems to be aware that Scrooge was very close to suffering the same fate as him. Thus, Marley was given a chance to save his only friend's life before it was too late.

Marley then departs into the night sky, surrounded by a countless horde of other tormented spirits, some of whom were known to Scrooge when they were alive, all of them chained in a similar manner to Marley and suffering the same unbearable torment, as they struggle in vain to make up for their wasted lives by attempting to help a homeless mother and baby.

Appearances in various film adaptations[edit]

Frank Finlay as Marley


  1. ^ "Scrooge U: Part XV - Great Scott!". Jimhillmedia.com. Retrieved 2013-08-01.