Background.

A Christmas Carol.
  • The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there‘ is a quotation from A Christmas Carol (Stave 1).
  • A Christmas Carol is a novella, or short story, written by Charles Dickens and first published in the Christmas of 1843. The allegorical tale tells the story of the transformation of the mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge through the visits of the spirit of his former business partner and three ghosts over the course of a Christmas Eve night. It remains a much-loved traditional Christmas tale.

Context.

This quotation is a description of a church tower in A Christmas Carol, close to Scrooge’s workplace. On a bitter cold and foggy Christmas Eve and we have already been introduced to the mean-spirited character of Ebenezer Scrooge in his counting-house, who has just turned away two charity collectors attempting to collect donations for the needy at this important time for giving.

The fog draws in more, adding to the sense of mystery and foreboding in this supernatural story, enveloping a nearby church tower. The bell of the church tower is described as always peeping slily down at Scrooge giving a sense of watching over his actions. The bell continues to sound its regular chimes although it is so cold that this is described as having tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head.

Charles Dickens was noted in his work for bringing alive non-human forms such as animals and inanimate objects, often in a humourous way, as seen in this example of a church bell appearing to watch over someone and chattering its teeth at the cold.

Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.
Illustration from the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing Ebenezer Scrooge (left), here being visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, bound by the chains he forged in life.

Literary Technique.

This is an example of the figurative language Charles Dickens uses in his works, here using the literary technique of personification. Personification is used in English Language as a device to give human-like characteristics to something that is not human, such as inanimate objects, animals or a phenomena. In this extract Dickens manages to bring alive the bell of a church tower, which spends its day looking down slily at Scrooge as if watching his actions and passing judgement. Dickens emphasizes how cold the evening is by comparing the vibrations after the bell has rung to teeth chattering in its frozen head.

Ebenezer Scrooge.

Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most famous characters created by Charles Dickens and arguably one of the most famous in English literature. The protagonist of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is the cold-hearted and mean-spirited accountant. His business partner, the equally mean Jacob Marley, died seven years previous and he lives alone, having never married. Through a visit one Christmas Eve by the ghost of Marley and three subsequent spirits, Scrooge is awakened to his meaness and the impact it has on others.

Source.

Taken from the following passage of Stave 1 (Marley’s Ghost) of A Christmas Carol:

Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way. The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became intense. In the main street, at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture. The water-plug being left in solitude, its overflowings sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice. The brightness of the shops where holly sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the windows, made pale faces ruddy as they passed. Poulterers’ and grocers’ trades became a splendid joke: a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do. The Lord Mayor, in the stronghold of the mighty Mansion House, gave orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor’s household should; and even the little tailor, whom he had fined five shillings on the previous Monday for being drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up to-morrow’s pudding in his garret, while his lean wife and the baby sallied out to buy the beef.

Foggier yet, and colder. Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of

“God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!”

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.

Have Your Say.

Give your view on ‘The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there‘ with a rating and help us compile the very best Charles Dickens quotations.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 8.00 out of 10)
Loading...

The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there.
  • If you like this, we think you might also be interested in these related quotations:

Resources.

We have made our A Christmas Carol quotation slides (seen at the top of each quotation page) available to download for academic or other non-commercial purposes. Available as GIF images, the files can be used for presentation slides, flashcards, handouts etc. Dimensions are 1500 by 850 pixels. We make them free to download and use on the undertanding they are not then sold or used for commercial purposes (and a credit to our site would be nice!).

Discover more.

Read A Christmas Carol.

Discover more quotations from A Christmas Carol.

Learn more about Charles Dickens, his works,