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The Dickens Project - Archives > Bleak House, Chapters L - LIV

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message 1: by Zulfiya (last edited Jul 28, 2014 03:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments I hope you will forgive your totally confused moderator - last week we were supposed to discuss chapter 49 as well, but somehow, following my executive imperative, I decided to exclude it from the title of the thread. I am grateful that some of you mentioned the subject matter in the previous discussion, but some of you were deterred by my incompetence, and now you can post your comments concerning chapter 49 here in this thread.

Now back to this week's business.

It is my third crack at the novel, and the more I read it, the more I find it dramatic, engaging, and definitely well-planned. Many of you mentioned the feeling of foreboding in the novel, and it is definitely true, but re-reading this week's chapters, I also paid attention to how many times Dickens foreshadows many events. Some of the foreshadowing are minor, and are easily resolved and explained in the subsequent chapters (like Ada hiding her left hand under the pillow) and some of them are quite significant, and they will become obvious only later. Dickens definitely improved his novel plotting, and this extensive usage of foreshadows clearly sends this signal.


Another thing I liked about these chapters is the character of Bucket. He can be easily misunderstood by readers, judged by the description, provided by dying Jo, but he is quite an interesting and complex character who can treat virtually equally many people he comes across. I liked how he casually mentioned the lodger, and then this lodger turned out to be this infamous French lady, who was indeed a murderess. Dickens never hinted that she would be one, but he definitely emotionally emphasized the character for us to remember her to keep her on our radar.

I also seem to have found a spot in my heart for Sir Dedlock because despite his arrogance, he really loves Honoria, or so it seems, and he possibly has to witness the biggest humiliation of his life when it is revealed to him that his wife had an affair prior to their marriage and even gave birth to a child.

Esther's life seems to be shattered by Ada's secret marriage to Richard, and the only words everyone has for Ada is poor, poor Ada. Esther also seems to hint that Richard is not feeling well, and mostly because he is so obsessed with the documents, and the quality of his lodgings and his life seem to affect his health significantly.

So Esther finds herself without her soul-mate, Ada who seems to have been slightly detached for a while, is twenty one and has a legal right to do what she pleases; so Esther is alone and even lonely, and for a good reason - Ada is a married woman now.


Please share your thoughts below. I do remember that this is one of the moments of the novel, where the compulsion to finish it becomes quite strong. After this week, we will have only two more weeks to go. The discussion has been wonderful and very stimulating so far.


Sarah | 269 comments Detective Bucket is indeed a complex character. I have not been able to easily assimilate him into a category yet. At times he seems very likeable, but then there is his brusque, almost pugnacious side. I found his encounter with Sir Dedlock in chapter 54 to be somewhat cruel, although perhaps his mannerisms can be written away due to his profession. On the other hand, I developed a great respect for the formerly arrogant and seemingly statuesque Sir Dedlock. That his reaction to the revelation of his wife's former life is to cry for her and feel sympathy rather than immediately become enraged speaks volumes about his true character. Perhaps there is hope for the couple yet. I wish that I could say the same for Richard and Ada, but already they are wilting, and maybe this explains part of Esther's grief.


message 3: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2069 comments Mod
The subtext of an amorous link between Ada and Esther seems to come up again with the depth of Esther's grief on losing her to Richard, and the way she comes back just to look at Ada's window. Although a mother might also do that for her lost child.


message 4: by Emma (last edited Jul 29, 2014 05:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Robin wrote: "The subtext of an amorous link between Ada and Esther seems to come up again with the depth of Esther's grief on losing her to Richard, and the way she comes back just to look at Ada's window..."

Yes, I found myself thinking the same. Esther's reaction to Ada's marriage to Richard seems excessively grief-stricken, when she thinks, "I had lost my Ada for ever. I was so lonely and so blank without her." And when she kissed Ada's door at night, this did make me wonder... but she feels huge pity for Ada too, and I think this is because Richard's condition and prospects look increasingly ominous.

As for Bucket, I love the way he insists on addressing Sir Leicester as "Sir Leicester Dedlock, baronet". I think Sarah's right about the complex nature of his character, which can be both sympathetic and ruthless.

Is Bucket the first police detective in English fiction? I know Poe wrote detective stories featuring Dupin in the USA in the 1840's, but I can't think of another English book with such a strong detective element predating this.


Hedi | 954 comments Zulfiya, this time I had not paid attention and actually already made some comments on chapter 49 in the previous thread. I hope that does not matter.

The plot is really getting slowly together now. I could hardly stop reading and have already continued.

As you were talking about foreshadowing:
- in ch. 50 Jarndyce brings Woodcourt into Esther's thoughts by suggesting him as a doctor for Caddy. I wondered whether he has a feeling that they could have feelings for each other. Esther reacts confusedly. Is Jarndyce testing Esther's feelings? Just speculation at this point. However, despite their engagement she keeps calling him her Guardian, nothing more. After Ada leaving Esther says timidly and somehow very sad that the mistress of Bleak House will stay.
- Richard seems to be in a really bad place, gambling and living in unhealthy conditions. However, he seems to realize his problem for the first time. Though I hope his mentioning that either the suit or the suitor has to come to an end is not a bad omen for him.
- Jarndyce is very calm about the secret wedding, but he also seems to feel badly for them. Will this marriage end sadly?
- the last 2 sentences of ch. 51 seemed also a sign for Esther not really happy with her situation.


Hedi | 954 comments Robin, I was thinking the same thing when reading Esther's reaction of losing Ada.


Sarah | 269 comments I noticed that Esther continues to refer to Jarndyce as Guardian, too. It seems to me that, in some sense at least, she feels obligated to marry him. He is a good man, and they could be happy together, but I keep wondering if Woodcourt will come back into the equation, and how that would affect Jarndyce's feelings.


Hedi | 954 comments What did you think of Mr George?
He seemed a little naive to me assuming that it would be enough to mention his innocence. I do understand in some way his not wanting a lawyer due to his and his friend's experiences with them.
And then a mother in Lincolnshire is mentioned. I was wondering whether this might be Mrs Rouncewell. Wasn't it mentioned in previous chapters that she had a son who was a soldier and disappeared? But I cannot remember the exact chapter any more.


Linda | 228 comments Mr. George said something to the effect of "what goes around comes around", like for things he had done in the past, if he is found guilty then it would be what he deserved? It made me wonder what he had done to think he deserved anything so drastic as being found guilty of a murder he did not commit? Or maybe I read that wrong and he is being too naive as Hedi said.

I also noticed Esther's continued reference to Jarndyce as "Guardian". As Sarah said, perhaps there is some room for Woodcourt to reclaim her heart? It seems she and Jarndyce do not act any differently as they did before their engagement besides which chair Esther sits in.

I took Esther's dramatic feelings upon losing Ada due to a combination of tender motherly feelings for her and also losing a close female companion she could confide in. Now at Bleak House it is just her and Jarndyce, who she respects, but they don't seem to have the same tender confiding relationship that Esther and Ada did.

And now that I have caught up in the reading schedule, I have followed Hedi's footsteps and have continued reading ahead. It is definitely at the point where I want to see how everything wraps up.

Oh, and as for Bucket, I liked him in his presentation of his case. Yes, he did seem blunt in some instances, but I think he was just really focused on presenting the facts of the case as he pleased. It was his moment in the spotlight, and I could totally visualize this scene as a dramatic scene in a movie. I also liked how he dealt with and dispensed of the Smallweeds, Mrs. Snagsby, and Chadbands. He was very proud of his method of finding out the murderer, and of his wife's abilities in helping out - they made a very good detective team!


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "Zulfiya, this time I had not paid attention and actually already made some comments on chapter 49 in the previous thread. I hope that does not matter.

The plot is really getting slowly together n..."


What matters is my absent-mindedness ... Grrr. Thank you for your patience, everyone. Hedi, PM me if I do something silly like that.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: And then a mother in Lincolnshire is mentioned. I was wondering whether this might be Mrs Rouncewell. Wasn't it mentioned in previous chapters that she had a son who was a soldier and disappeared? But I cannot remember the exact chapter any more."

Spot on, Hedi. Another case of foreshadowing. Dickens really plotted this novel well, and all those seemingly unrelated characters all are coming together now.

P.S. Esther's voice is very authentic. Dickens really did a good job. He hardly ever uses first person singular in his novels. DC is the only other precedent if I am not mistaken, but it does sound strong, powerful, and very likable and so comforting in this book.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Emma wrote: "Is Bucket the first police detective in English fiction? I know Poe wrote detective stories featuring Dupin in the USA in the 1840's, but I can't think of another English book with such a strong detective element predating this. '..."

I think so. If I remember correctly, I read something about Bucket as the first police detective in English fiction, but it was long time ago, so I am not sure I can give you links or other references.


message 13: by Anne (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anne | 93 comments Yay, I have finally caught up with the group. I didn't even start the book until about 3 weeks ago, so I wasn't sure I would catch up before everyone else was done.

I really love this book. There was a lot of foreshadowing, so I often could guess future events (for instance, Lady Dedlock being the mother and Hortense being the killer), but it was interesting to see how Dickens would tie the pieces together. Now that I've caught up, I don't think I will able to stop myself from reading ahead. I can't wait to find out if Esther will marry Jarndyce or Woodcourt, and if Ada and Richard will have a happy or sad future (although I suspect sad). I also am curious to see how the Dedlocks will come to terms with the past.


message 14: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2069 comments Mod
I agree that Esther seems like a real person, at least most of the time. She lets slip things that she doesn't mean to, and gives away some of her feelings without being too obvious. That takes talent to write. And thank goodness she's not perfect and self-sacrificing like Dickens' earlier heroines. Although there is the pattern developing with her and Jarndyce of young woman taking care of older man that we saw in Old Curiosity Shop & Martin Chuzzlewit. That fits with Dickens' obsession with his young sisters-in-law. (makes me think of Woody Allen movies that so often feature older men/younger women with uncomfortable parallels to his real life.)


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Anne wrote: "YYay, I have finally caught up with the group. I didn't even start the book until about 3 weeks ago, so I wasn't sure I would catch up before everyone else was done. "

An amazing catch-up, Anne. I am so happy that you are enjoying this novel - it is my favorite among his novels.


Lynnm | 3027 comments I'm batting .500. I almost never figure out the whodunnit mysteries, but I said it was Mademoiselle Hortense, and there it is. But I thought it was going to be Hortense who "outs" Lady Dedlock's secret, and from what Bucket said, it seems like Mrs. Snagsby unintentionally is Lady Dedlock's undoing.

I thought that Esther's reaction to Ada's marriage was over-the-top as well. If they were younger, I could see it. But as we discussed earlier, Esther seems to have more feelings for Ada than one would expect.

But I would agree with her: poor Ada. Ada has linked herself to a weak man with no future if he continues along the same way. Love truly is blind.

I'm not sure what to make of Bucket. He certainly is a competent detective, but I don't like his methods, particularly with George. And the way he brought everything before Sir Leicester (although as someone pointed out, it was amusing the way he called him Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, over and over again).

Now, what will come of Lady Dedlock? Will Sir Leicester keep her? Or kick her out? He takes such great pride in his position in life and wants all the power to remain with the aristocracy. He doesn't think that the lower classes should move into positions of power. It doesn't bode well for Lady Dedlock's future.

And how will this affect Esther?


message 17: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1805 comments Mod
I agree with Sarah-I initially rather liked Bucket until his very painful and distressing manner of revealing the truth to Sir Leicester-drawing out the revelation of his wife's previous affair and in fact initially suggesting that she was the one who murdered Tulkinghorn before in fact accusing Hortense-causes Sir Leicester to have a stroke. It was as if he was so wrapped up in the case that he couldn't see how devastating the truth was to some and didn't really care.

While to some extent I agree that Esther's reaction to Ada's leaving her was melodramatic, it is also true that she had a tiny circle of acquaintance and so the loss of Ada (and it would mean Ada in town and Esther far away in the country for a great part of the year) would have left her without a companion of her own age.


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