Figurative Language in A Christmas Carol

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  • 0:04 Overview of 'A…
  • 0:38 Allusion
  • 1:18 Hyperbole
  • 1:54 Metaphor & Simile
  • 2:28 Personification
  • 2:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Charles Dickens, the author of 'A Christmas Carol', uses figurative language to provide readers with an intense visual experience. In this lesson, we will learn more about the figurative language that is used in this story.

Overview of A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is the classic tale about an old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of a former business partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Through these visits, Scrooge sees the error of his selfish ways and becomes a better person. Throughout the story, Dickens uses figurative language to embellish the novel and create a descriptive, vivid story that moves beyond the literal translation of the words. Let's look at some of the figurative language in this story.


Charles Dickens brings in some religious undertones through the use of allusion. Allusion is a reference to something from history or literature that is not explained to the reader, but adds context to the story. For example, Jacob Marley uses allusion to the Bible when he says, 'Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!' The allusion is to the birth of Jesus in the New Testament of the Bible. The Wise Men used the North Star to find Jesus. Marley wishes he had looked for Jesus as well, but now he spends eternity in chains.


Why would a grouchy, miserly fellow like Scrooge use hyperbole? Scrooge's creative use of language serves to express the magnitude of his hatefulness. Hyperbole is an amplification of meaning that is used to emphasize a point. It is used in A Christmas Carol when Scrooge says, 'If I could work my will. . . every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!' Scrooge clearly indicates his annoyance with people displaying Christmas cheer by exaggerating his wishes for their torturous death.

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