In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens uses Marley as a warning for Ebeneezer Scrooge. The description of Marley is Gothic, as well as a little scary. Without much description, ghosts in general are Gothic. They are supernatural beings that can cross physical boundaries. They are also crossing a boundary between being both dead and alive. They are physically dead, though their spirit lives on. In Marley’s case, this dead/alive binary is brought to full light because Dickens says that he looks the same as he did in life, although transparent. This is significant because Scrooge needs to believe that ghosts are real and that Marley’s message is true. If a bright light silhouette had come to him, claiming to be Marley, he would have been less likely to believe it. However, because he cannot deny the ghost’s appearance, he is forced to believe the message. Furthermore, he always believed Marley to be his friend. He would want to believe that Marley would come to help him.
Further description of Marley states that he was clothed in chains “made…of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel” (Marley’s Ghost). I think this further solidifies Scrooge’s belief that the ghost is Marley, and Marley is there to help. He knows that Marley led a life like he has – tightfisted and greedy. Marley acknowledges that he deserves the chains he wears, since he created them himself from his greed. He continuously clanks these chains as a constant reminder to Scrooge of what will happen to him if he does not take Marley’s offer and change his ways.
There is also this strange description where Marley removes the kerchief that is wrapped around his head, and his lower jaw drops. This is a scary moment. Jaws don’t usually just drop, even in the ghost world. I think Marley used it as a scare tactic for Scrooge, who was not wanting to be haunted by ghosts. By doing this, Scrooge was more willing to listen to Marley because he was scared not to.