Skip to content

March 25, 2017


Bleak House

by N@ncy

  • Author: Charles Dickens
  • Title: Bleak House
  • Genre: novel, satire of manners
  • Published:  monthly parts, March 1852– September 1853
  • #Classic

What does the title mean: Bleak House ?

  1. Irony:  Bleak means, cold and unsheltered, somber and damp.
  2. Bleak house is exact the opposite!
  3. Ch 6: Esther describes the house as a delightful irregular home.
  4. “…in every one (room) of which a bright miniature of the fire was blazing.
  5. …charming little sitting-room, looking down upon a flower-garden,”
  6. Practically every other location in the book is bleak!
  7. Chensey Wold, the Chancery courthouse, Tom-All-Alone’s,
  8. Krook’s Rag and Bone shop, Mrs. Jellyby’s neglected and bare rooms
  9. …and the slum home of Jenny and her family.

What is the point-of-view?

  1. Anonymous 3rd person : narrator (Dickens ?)
  2. who dares address ‘the Lords of  gentlemen’ of England
  3. Modest, humble  1st person: Esther
  4. the least powerful voice in the novel.

What is the tone?

  1. Dickens uses a very satirical narrative to set the tone.
  2. His choice of words and the viewpoint  on a corrupt judicary
  3. are central to the book.

What is the BEST quote in the book?

  • This quote sums up the main theme Dickens wanted to expose:
  • “It won’t do to have TRUTH and JUSTICE on his side;
  • he must have LAW and LAWYERS…”  (Ch 55)

What is the mood?

  1. I read and listened to the first few paragraphs of chapter 1 at least 5 x.
  2. I think it is one of the BEST examples of  creating a mood through setting.
  3. Dickens makes you feel the emotional situation that surrounds his characters.
  4. He wants to FOG and MUD  set the mood.
  5. The  images of fog and mud that surround the Court of Chancery
  6. reveal no one can escape the terrible weather conditions or the courts!


  1. The legal case Jarndyce vs Jarndyce is central in the book.
  2. This suit symbolizes material property.
  3. It is about a will and testament.
  4. Inheritance of property (Bleak House)
  5. Inheritance of affection (mother/daughter)
  6. Judiciary: the presentation of lawyers and legal processes
  7. is corrupt and deliberately obscure.
  8. NO oral evidence is given in  the Chancery.
  9. Everything is on paper…
  10. bills, cross-bills, rejoinders, affidavits, issues (Ch 1)
  11. Suits just melt away in their own costs:  Jarndyce vs Jarndyce

What is the structure?

  1. Bleak House  has a ‘circular narrative’.
  2. It ends where the story begins on Chancery lane.
  3. Chancery lane resembles the entire society.
  4. Krook’s Rag and Bone Shop is on Chancery lane.
  5. Miss Flite  and  Nemo/Captain Hawdon  have rooms there.
  6. The Jellybys and the Snagsbys  live near  Chancery Lane

What social commentary does Dickens highlight in the book?

  1. Poverty.
  2. Tom-All-Alone’s is an example of a slum area, fallen into disrepair.
  3. People who live in slums do so because they have nowhere else to go.
  4. Mr Dickens names Tom-All-Alone’s after a boyhood memory
  5. of a house built by a local eccentric.
  6. Its name sums up the individual and collective
  7. …misery and loneliness of the place.

Who are some quirky characters?

  1. Lady and Lord Dedlock: – deadlock …couple that produce no heirs
  2. Rev. Mr. Chadband: loves his own voice,  bravuras and flourishes
  3. Mrs. Jellyby: people who help noble causes (Africa) but neglect own children
  4. Mr. Skimpole:  people who ‘do absolutely nothing’ in society
  5. Capt. Hawdon:  living secretly as his nickname indicates ‘Nemo’ = nobody
  6. Mr. Jarndyce: Dickens uses a the clever symbol of ‘east winds’
  7. …something  evil or depressing is bothering this man.

Why is Bleak House considered the best Dickens novel?

  1. It has everything!
  2. Curse of the Ghost’s path  is explained and Lady Dedlock’s foot steps will break the evil.
  3. Lady Dedock believes her child is dead – Esther believes her mother is dead.
  4. Rosa is  surrogate daughter for Lady Dedlock; Esther surrogate daughter for Jarndyce.
  5. Detectives: there are unskilled, skilled, Tulkinghorn who
  6. threatens suspects and Mr. Bucket who conjoles them!
  7. Letters: contains secrets, are lost, hidden, falsified…‘smoking gun’ evidence!
  8. Names: Honoria Dedlock is ironically not at all honorable …child out of wedlock
  9. Nicknames: Esther has several…Why?
  10. Ch 8: “…my being called Old Woman, and Little Old Woman, and Cobweb, and Mrs. Shipton, and Mother Hubbard, and Dame Durden…”.
  11. Esther’s guardian Mr Jarndyce is assigning her an important role as
  12. the woman who will manage Bleak House.
  13. The house keys symbolize responsibility.


  1. I’ve mentioned just a few items about the book….
  2. but there is so much more to discover when you read it.
  3. I avoided the book merely because of its size.
  4. This was my big mistake.
  5. Never judge a book by its cover or size!
  6. Dickens is the greatest victorian novelist.
  7. Strong points: realism, humor, characters with quirks and dialects
  8. If you put the names of all the characters in an
  9. excel spreadsheet then you will see that
  10. they all connect to the law suit in one way or the other.
  11. That is an amazing writing achievement by Dickens!
  12. Of  all of Dickens’s novels Bleak House is not a best seller.
  13. It is outsold by millions of copies  by  A Tale of Two Cities.
  14. Yet it is often chosen as the ‘best’ Dickens novel.
  15. I totally agree!
Read more from fiction
8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 26 2017

    Obviously better than Life and Fate then!!!! I agree with you – while not read every Dickens I think this is best one so far.


    • Mar 26 2017

      It really is a good book, but you have to be committed to get through it. I read some reviews on GoodReads…many people just give it stars with any comments. And those who do comment…all I read is ‘slogging through’. Dickens would turn over in his grave if he read that. But remember….this was serialized so it was the 1855’s version on Netflix! Binge reading Dickens can be a chore! 🙂 ps NL lost match 0-2 Bulgaria. National team is in trouble and coach Danny Blind…I think his days are numbered. We failed to reack EChamp…if NL fails ot reach World Champ…then heads are really going to roll!


  2. Mar 27 2017

    My favourite Dickens is a Tale of Two Cities (although I was only about 20 when I read it). But Bleak House comes in a close 2nd. I felt that London was really captured in this story. Esther was a bit wet at times, but I do remember it very fondly.


    • Mar 28 2017

      Dickens is always a personal choice…I can only read one or two of his books per year…too dense. Tip: swept away by Hilary Mantel’s early book Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. It is based on her time she lived in Saudi Arabia with her husband (1988). Fascinating! Thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mar 28 2017

        Oh great tip. Love Mantel’s writing style.


  3. Apr 4 2017

    This book is on my list of classics to read, but it is going to be a real effort for me because of the length. My husband keeps encouraging me to read it. He liked it a lot.


    • Apr 4 2017

      Your husband….has chosen the best Dickens for you to read. Length is always a problem….but some subplots you can skim if necessary. 🙂
      ps: there is alot of detective work in this story, you should feel very at home!



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Goodbye….2017 | NancyElin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: