Metaphors in A Christmas Carol

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  • 0:03 Metaphors
  • 0:26 Character & Setting
  • 1:16 Mistakes
  • 1:48 Allegory
  • 2:25 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.

In 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens, the author uses metaphors to describe the people, places and events Ebenezer Scrooge experiences on the night he made the decision to change his life.


Metaphors are a form of figurative language used to describe dissimilar individuals, locations, objects, or other references by comparing them to things with which they share a common trait. In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, metaphors are used to describe people, places, and mistakes. Let's look at some examples of metaphors in the novel.

Character & Setting

At the beginning of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge was a miserable, miserly, and malicious man. Mere words could not describe his terribleness, so Dickens uses metaphors. Scrooge's callousness is compared to the cold when the narrator makes the metaphorical statement, ''He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.''

In comparing the houses to phantoms, Dickens uses metaphor to set the tone and help the reader visualize the setting. ''The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms.'' The use of the word phantoms in the metaphor foreshadows the visit from the ghosts of Jacob Marley and Christmas later in the story.


The ghost of Scrooge's former business partner, Jacob Marley, is the first to visit him with a warning to set his priorities straight. Scrooge tries to compliment Marley on his business sense to which Marley lets Scrooge know, in no uncertain terms, that business matters less than people. ''The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'' By comparing his business career to a drop in an ocean of what he should have cared about, Marley effectively describes the meaninglessness behind his life's work.

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