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Personification in A Christmas Carol

To better convey certain aspects of the story, Dickens uses personification, a literary device in which writers assign human characteristics and qualities to non-human or non-living things. From the weather to the bells of a church, Dickens portrays the world around Scrooge as active agents to foreshadow ghostly events as well as emphasize his potential doom and salvation.

Personification Examples in A Christmas Carol:

Stave One

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"Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, “I know him! Marley's Ghost!” and fell again...."   (Stave One)

Instead of having Scrooge shout this statement, Dickens personifies the dying flame doing so instead. The words combined with descriptive action ("leap up") creates a mental image of a dying fire suddenly jumping to life and announcing the arrival of the spirit.

"it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses..."   (Stave One)

To better describe how odd the narrator finds the location of Scrooge's house, Dickens personifies the house as a young child who hid from others during a game of hide-and-seek, only to be forgotten in an obscure place.

"Genius of the Weather..."   (Stave One)

Although the term “genius” is currently used in the United States to mean something like “extremely intelligent or creative,” in Roman mythology a “genius” refers to a divine guardian of powerful entities. “Weather” would have been one of these guarded entities, along with other powerful natural phenomenon such as earthquakes and volcanoes. Dickens personifies the weather as an entity casting “fog and frost” at London.

"misanthropic ice..."   (Stave One)

In another excellent example of how Dickens personifies the weather, he uses this adjective "misanthropic," meaning strong dislike for people and society, to suggest that the ice itself is working against the people. Such details point to a heavy storm on the way that might even bring about supernatural events.

"whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall..."   (Stave One)

Since bells are nonliving things, this is an example of personification. Dickens has the bell "peep," or look, down at Scrooge while it rings out when the clock strikes each new hour. The bell's watching Scrooge, and its connection to the passing of time, suggests that Scrooge's time may be running out, foreshadowing future events.

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