Tone in A Christmas Carol

Tone Examples in A Christmas Carol:

Stave One 3

"mournful dirge..."   (Stave One)

A “dirge” is a lament for the dead that is usually performed at funerals. This music that Scrooge hears contrasts heavily with the idea of a “carol.” The fact that “the air was filled with phantoms” singing this song of regret contributes to the dark tone, but it also reminds the reader that Scrooge is one of many people who ignore those in need.

"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.

"Once upon a time..."   (Stave One)

This phrase is commonly employed at the very beginning of fairy tales. However, Dickens has instead chosen to establish two facts to prepare readers prior to the actual tale he wants to tell: that Marley is dead and Scrooge is a cold, greedy man. Additionally, Dickens, as the narrator, has told us how important it is that we know Marley to be dead, which adds a sense of suspense or anticipation as we wonder what will happen to Scrooge.

"They are all indescribable alike..."   (Stave Two)

While Dickens has just successfully described much of the activity surrounding the entrance of the father and the porter with presents, he still resorts to this statement that the feelings were indescribable. We can feel the energy in the passage with the use of exclamation marks, strong, active verbs, and even the fear that the baby might have gotten into trouble. This is meant less as a way of saying that he can't capture the moment and more as a way of finishing his string of action and excitement in the household before transitioning back to Scrooge.

"“Sir Roger de Coverley.”..."   (Stave Two)

“Sir Roger de Coverly,” later called the “Virginia Reel,” is a lively, energetic country dance. While not solely associated with the Christmas season, the inclusion of this dance contributes to the tone of spirit and joy due to its fast-paced and animated nature. By creating this jolly tone of happiness and warmth, Dickens prompts the reader to associate the Fezziwigs with the spirit of Christmastime.

"The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand...."   (Stave Two)

Dickens cleverly finishes this sentence with the phrase “I tell you, by a hand.” This helps indicate surprise and incredulity. The narrator seems to be aware that readers might have difficulty believing that the ghost has actually appeared and thus tries to convince us of its reality. By doing so, Dickens creates a tone of tension similar to the kind one would aim for in telling a ghost story.

"Perhaps Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could have asked him, but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap, and begged him to be covered...."   (Stave Two)

The narrator suggests that even Scrooge is perplexed that his first instinct, after hearing the purpose of the ghost’s visit, is to ask it to put its cap on so as to extinguish the light. For reasons which are unknown at this point in the novel, Scrooge resists reliving his past and we are led to wonder why, creating a sense of mystery and tension.

"At last, however, he began to think—as you or I would have thought at first; for it is always the person not in the predicament who knows what ought to have been done in it, and would unquestionably have done it too..."   (Stave Three)

While Scrooge may have resolved to participate more actively in his reclamation, he is terrified that he may fail, and what the consequence of such failure might be. Dickens creates a tone of apprehension and suspense by delaying the appearance of the second ghost. We are led to wonder, just as Scrooge himself does, whether Scrooge may have failed his task already.

"how green a place it is..."   (Stave Four)

The “place” that Bob Cratchit refers to here is the graveyard in which Tiny Tim was buried. Compare the image of a lush, “green” graveyard that friends and family promise to visit to the image of the “dark empty house” that the other dead man lies alone in. The difference in the tone of these descriptions emphasizes how much Tiny Tim positively influenced those around him, and that he will be missed and loved after his death unlike the old miser.