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Archived Group Reads 2012 > Bleak House Chapters 5~7

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Published in April 1862
For discussion of these chapters


message 2: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 15, 2011 06:47PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Does it strike anyone how we have been presented with two cases of bad mothering? Then we have Esther who seems to be a perfect mother figure.

Finished chapter 6, in which we meet Skimpole. What a character he is. Do you think he is a con artist who makes his way through life using other's money? This character was based on a man named Leigh Hunt. "Leigh Hunt was the original of Harold Skimpole in Bleak House. "Dickens wrote in a letter of 25 September 1853, 'I suppose he is the most exact portrait that was ever painted in words! ... It is an absolute reproduction of a real man'; and a contemporary critic commented, 'I recognized Skimpole instantaneously; ... and so did every person whom I talked with about it who had ever had Leigh Hunt's acquaintance.'"


message 3: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments It's very interesting that the best parents in the novel are not blood relatives of their charges. Jarndyce carries his weight as a father figure as well.

Keep your eye on Skimpole and all questions will eventually be answered.


message 4: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 16, 2011 04:37PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I will keep him in my sights. I really do not like him very much. Nothing specific yet. I do feel he is a user though.

I enjoyed Chapter 7 and the Ghost Walk. I am happy to hear only wealthy, titled people have ghosts. ( that definitely leaves me out!) and so liked the descriptive nature of this chapter.

What is everyone's thoughts about the title Bleak House? To me, it has been everything but bleak so far.


message 5: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments It's the least bleak location in the novel so far!


message 6: by Katie (new)

Katie (katies_books) | 21 comments I agree, not very bleak at all! Perhaps it was only bleak before our young orphans came to stay.

We've only had one chapter of Skimpole so far and already he's gotten on my nerves. If he is a con artist, he's probably laughing all the way to the bank at the blind trust of Esther and Richard (and Mr. Jarndyce), especially when he's the one who's supposed to be child-like.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 628 comments Or "house" refers to the Jarndyce family as a whole?


message 8: by Martha (new)

Martha (marthas48) I think earlier in the book mention was made that the house was bleak before John Jarndyce moved in. He does seem a very nice man. Hope that doesn't change. I love the description of the house with all the steps up and down from one room to another. Reminded me of a Frank Lloyd Wright house although I'm sure this one wasn't supposed to look like that. :-)

I agree that Skimpole is a user and well aware of his actions.


message 9: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) Does anyone know what all the references to "east wind" mean in these chapters? When Mr. Jarndyce meets Richard, Ada, and Esther he talks about the wind coming from the north, but later decides it is from the east.

It felt like it was some kind of omen of bad tidings.


message 10: by Martha (new)

Martha (marthas48) Not a clue. I thought it was a bit odd that he was so focused on the wind. I think you are right that it must have some meaning other than just the wind.


message 11: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments The east wind did indeed bring bad luck according to Victorian lore. Esther says that Jarndyce blamed problems on the wind rather than the failings of others because he was too kind to criticize. Note how the wind changes when he cheers up.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 628 comments The East Wind was of ill repute to the Victorians.


message 13: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I was looking at the Norton Critical Edition of Bleak House and some of Dickens's correspondence about the novel. He asked the illustrator to change the image of Skimpole to make it look less like Leigh Hunt, changed his first name from Leonard to Harold, and asked someone to point out places where the resemblance was too close. He said he really didn't want to cause Hunt pain. I'm not saying he didn't also gloat about the resemblance. Hunt must really have been a piece of work!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Bea wrote: "I was looking at the Norton Critical Edition of Bleak House and some of Dickens's correspondence about the novel. He asked the illustrator to change the image of Skimpole to make it look less like..."

From what I read, Bea, He seemed to have lived off of at various times, Bryon, Keats and Shelly and apparently wrote a corrective about what was wrong with Byron's poems. Certainly, this though critics say it was well done, should not have come from a man who was supported by the person he is criticizing. I found the following on him.

http://www.nndb.com/people/452/000107...


message 15: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) I am curious as to why Esther is given the housekeeping keys to Bleak House. Does Mr. Jarndyce have plans to make her the housekeeper? I have a fear that good things are not in store for Esther.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I think quite a few of the characters are in for some rough times. I am not sure that Esther is though, Seeuunder. Is there anything you read so far that makes you think this, or is it just a feeling? I might have definitely missed something.

I thought Mr J wanted to give her a position of worth, trying to make her feel that she was contributing to the household. She does not (at least I think) portray to others much self esteem (although in her narration I often see some!). So I thought this was Mr J's way to make her feel good about herself.


message 17: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) It did seem strange to me also that Esther was given the housekeeping keys, and then there are all these references to her being the "little woman, old mother hubbard, etc."

It seemed like Ada and Richard got to have fun, but Esther was relegated to taking care of everybody.


message 18: by Martha (new)

Martha (marthas48) I found it insulting to her. Getting to know Mr. J better, I don't think he meant it that way.


message 19: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Johnson (jrjohnson1408) Housekeeping was a very important job with a lot of responsibilities in the Victorian era. It wasn't like being a maid or a servant. The housekeeper was rather like a manager in charge of all the servants and an accountant in charge of the household spending. The fact that Mr. Jarndyce would give so much responsibility to such a young woman showed that he had a great deal of confidence in her abilities.


message 20: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I stand to be corrected, but I seem to remember that generally the only person who had all the keys to a Victorian home was the mistress of the house. A housekeeper probably would have most of the keys but probably not the keys to the wine cellar, boxes or drawers that held valuables, etc.


message 21: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Johnson (jrjohnson1408) I think that either the master of the house or the butler held the keys to the wine cellar, and the master and/or mistress would have had the keys to valuables. The housekeeper usually had keys to all the storage cellars, pantries, cupboards, etc.

I have read some novels from the time where the mistress insisted on having those keys and some where they were only too willing to give the responsibility to the housekeeper: I suppose it depended on the temperament of the lady.

Since there is no mistress of Bleak House and Mr. Jarndyce doesn't seem like the kind of person who would want to be involved in the day to day running of a large house, I would say that Esther has quite a lot of responsibility within the house.


message 22: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) Now that I understand the significance of the keys/role, it makes more sense. Thanks for the additional info Jackie and Bea.

It does seem like Esther got a lot more responsiblity than Ada and Richard.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 628 comments I took it as a sign of his trust in her.


message 24: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) You guys are so smart!! I had no idea that Esther was being given a role of honor by possessing the keys.


message 25: by Greg (new)

Greg | 16 comments Marialyce wrote: "Bea wrote: "I was looking at the Norton Critical Edition of Bleak House and some of Dickens's correspondence about the novel. He asked the illustrator to change the image of Skimpole to make it lo..."

This struck me a strange as well. I'm thinking it is an acknowledgement of her fine character, and the access that such a position would give the holder demanded a trustworthy individual? I can't help but suspect that something will be pinned on her later on account of her privileges.


message 26: by Deedee (last edited Dec 20, 2011 07:53AM) (new)

Deedee | 34 comments The comments here have been so helpful! Especially about the housekeeping keys -- my first reaction was that he was indicating Esther's role to be that of servent not pseudo-daughter. Good to know that it wasn't that at all.

Re: Mr. Skimpole: here in the South (USA) we would call him "entitled" (which is not a compliment). That is, he genuinely feels that the world owes him special favors, just because he exists, and that he has no obligation in return. It's a different concept than "con man". "Con man" know they have to work and consciously deceive to get their stuff; the "entitled" merely expect that everyone around them will give them their stuff, because they are "special".

Later chapters may switch Mr. Skimpole's diagnosis from "entitled" to "con man". We shall see.

On to the next section!


message 27: by Martha (new)

Martha (marthas48) I felt the same way when I first read about the keys, Deedee.

Love your description of Mr. Skimpole. I'm originally from the south, but hadn't thought of that. :-)


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 628 comments I am from the South, and that is exactly the word I thought of with Mr. Skimpole - entitled.


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