The Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Summary is based on Wikipedia content

Bleak House is the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, published in twenty monthly installments between March 1852 and September 1853.

It is one of Dickens's best and most complete novels, containing one of the most vast, complex and engaging array of characters and sub-plots in all his works.

In the Bleak House, Dickens writes both through the narrative of the novel's beautiful heroine, Esther Summerson, and as an omniscient narrator.

Memorable characters include the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn, the friendly but depressive John Jarndyce and the childish Harold Skimpole.

The plot involves a long-running legal dispute (Jarndyce and Jarndyce) which has deep consequences for all implicated and includes a long-winded will, monies and land neighboring the Manor of Marr in South Yorkshire.

Dickens's attack on the flaws of the British judiciary system is in part based on his own experiences as a law clerk. He portrays a harsh depiction of the slow, arcane Chancery law and process of frustration with the system.

There are many twists and turns and unearthing in the true past of Lady Dedlock, Esther and Nemo.

Much criticism about Bleak House centres around its unique narrative structure: it is told both by an unidentified, third-person narrator and a first-person narrator, Esther Summerson. The third-person narrator speaks in the present tense, ranging widely across geographic and social space (from the aristocratic Dedlock estate to the desperately poor Tom-All-Alone's in London), and gives full rein to Dickens's desire to satirize the English chancery system -- though this narrator's perceptiveness has limits, stopping at the outside to describe characters' appearances and behavior without any pretence of grasping or revealing their inner lives. Esther Summerson tells her own story in the past tense (like David in David Copperfield or Pip in Great Expectations), and her narrative voice is characterized by modesty, consciousness of her own limits, and willingness to disclose to us her own thoughts and feelings. These two narrative strands almost never intersect, but they do run in parallel. Many scholars regard this narrative structure as the most complex and brilliant that Dickens ever created.

Esther's portion of the narrative is an interesting case study of the Victorian ideal of feminine modesty. She introduces herself thus: "I have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion of these pages, for I know I am not clever" (Chap. 3).

This claim is almost immediately belied by the astute moral judgment and satiric observation that characterize her pages, and it remains unclear how much knowledge she withholds from her narration, or why someone who has chosen to relate the story of her life should be so coy about her own central place in it.

In the same introductory chapter, she writes: "It seems so curious to me to be obliged to write all this about myself! As if this narrative were the narrative of MY life! But my little body will soon fall into the background now".

Dickens claimed in the Preface to the volume edition of Bleak House (it was initially released in parts) that he had "purposely dwelt upon the romantic side of familiar things". And some remarkable things do happen.

The nineteenth century saw the increasing triumph of the scientific world-view and of technology rooted in scientific advances. Scientific and technological research and discovery were regarded as among the highest forms of human endeavor.

Being able to listen to one of Charles Dicken's greatest novels' in unabridged audio is a treat and enjoyable experience.

If you like Charles Dicken's, don't miss this one in an audio book. You can listen online, download or purchase the CD-ROM that can be collected and listened to again and again.


Synopsis -

Esther Summerson is raised by Miss Barbary (Lady Dedlock's (Esther's mother) spartan sister).

When Miss Barbary dies, John Jarndyce becomes Esther's guardian; and after she attends school in Reading for six years, she goes to live with him at Bleak House, along with his other two wards, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare.

Esther shares similar interests with Jarndyce in the affairs of the endlessly tangled law case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce.

Richard and Ada fall in love with each other; and though Mr. Jarndyce does not oppose their marrying, he does stipulate that Richard must choose a profession first.

Lady Dedlock is alerted quite innocently that her long lost lover, Capt. Hawdon (who is known as "Nemo") has just died.

The saga begins when Lady Dedlock takes the time to investigate Nemo's death disguised as her French maid. She pays Jo, a street sweeper who knew "Nemo" to take her to Nemo's grave.

Her solicitor, Tulkinghorn realizes the secret and begins to watch Lady Dedlock's every move - he even enlists the aid of her maid, who herself detests Lady Dedlock.

Hortense (the maid) and Tulkinghorn (the solicitor) discover the truth about Lady Dedlock's past. However, Tulkinghorn rejects Hortense's involvement; and, she feeling ill used by both Lady Dedlock and Tulkinghorn, Hortense shoots and kills Tulkinghorn; then attempts to frame Lady Dedlock for his murder.

Inspector Bucket is called in to investigate the murder. He suspects Lady Dedlock, even after an arrest of George Rouncewell  who is the only person known to be with Tulkinghorn on the night of the murder.

Sir Leicester suffers a stroke due to the stress of the investigation of his wife (Lady Dedlock), and the revelation of her affair with Hawdon.

Inspector Bucket discovers the real murderer being Hortense, yet finds Lady Dedlock dead outside the cemetery where Hawdon, (Nemo), (Esther's father) is buried.

John Jarndyce falls in love with Esther and they plan to  marry even though she loves someone else (Dr. Woodcourt).

Richard and Ada become secretly married. Richard spends and loses all his resources on trying to push Jarndyce and Jarndyce to a conclusion in his and Ada's favor; however, he loses all of his money and his health in the process.

Esther becomes ill and disfigured while her mother, Lady Dedlock is alive and not knowing she is her mother runs into her. Esther learns later the truth about Lady Dedlock and her father (Nemo).

Lady Dedlock discovers Esther's identity as her daughter and has to fend off the manipulations of Mr. Tulkinghorn. At the end, when she dies, she is disgraced in her own mind, convinced that her aristocratic husband can never forgive her moral failings.

The case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is at last concluded, when the disputed estate has been completely absorbed by the legal fees accrued in the case.

Allan Woodcourt, a freind of Richard's and a physician, traveling on different missions is a kind, caring man who falls in love with Esther. She in turn loves him but feels unable to respond to his advances because of her commitment to John Jarndyce. All is resolved happily at the end and they marry.


Comments -

The above brief Summary and Synopsis do no justice to avail you of the intrigue and unfolding of events in Charles Dickens', "The Bleak House".

I have never read the book; yet when listening to the different audio books created from this novel, I stand on my judgment that this is one of Dicken's best works.

Esther Summerson is the right type and style of heroine to keep you interested in the outcome of her life, emotions and friends.

The murder investigation adds to the intrigue and mystery for the extra flavor of spice in entertainment.

I did not agree with the negative illness that Esther lives through, but there I go again; wanting life to be perfect and expecting to enjoy a perfect story.

I accepted her illness as a bit tragic; however, I overcame my immediate melancholy as the positive progression in her recovery and happiness extended.

If you enjoyed Charles Dickens', A Christmas Carol, you will further enjoy, The Bleak House.

This definitely is another of Dickens' writings that should be experienced for he provides excitement, interest, history and a tale that is beyond humdrum.

Dickens can write with imagery; and you are able to visualize the scene and surroundings including his characters ornaments as well as personalities.

The Bleak House is especially stimulating when enjoyed by audio.

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The Bleak House Chapters

1 In Chancery 26:22
2 In Fashion 23:49
3 A Progress 59:23
4 Telescopic Philanthropy 34:41
5 A Morning Adventure 43:27
6 Quite at Home 01:07
7 The Ghost’s Walk 31:31
8 Covering a Multitude of Sins 59:04
9 Signs and Tokens 45:46
10 The Law-Writer 34:22
11 Our Dear Brother 45:21
12 On the Watch 41:44
13 Esther’s Narrative 42:29
14 Deportment 01:04
15 Bell Yard 45:14
16 Tom-all-Alone's 25:29
17 Esther’s Narrative 40:20
18 Lady Dedlock 52:33
19 Moving on 40:44
20 A New Lodger 42:58
21 The Smallweed Family 54:13
22 Mr. Bucket 39:13
23 Esther’s Narrative 52:27
24 An Appeal Case 50:17
25 Mrs. Snagsby Sees it All 28:51
26 Sharpshooters 38:22
27 More Old Soldiers than One 38:06
28 The Ironmaster 36:12
29 The Young Man 30:13
30 Esther’s Narrative 47:03
31 Nurse and Patient 48:19
32 The Appointed Time 41:37
33 Interlopers 45:39
34 A Turn of the Screw 43:17
35 Esther’s Narrative 45:48
36 Chesney Wold 50:30
37 Jarndyce and Jarndyce 58:11
38 A Struggle 31:43
39 Attorney and Client 50:20
40 National and Domestic 38:29
41 In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Room 27:36
42 In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Chambers 23:18
43 Esther’s Narrative 43:51
44 The Letter and the Answer 21:40
45 In Trust 37:05
46 Stop him! 25:33
47 Jo’s Will 39:55
48 Closing In 46:51
49 Dutiful Friendship 40:22
50 Esther’s Narrative 27:53
51 Enlightened 30:54
52 Obstinacy 30:28
53 The Track 31:56
54 Springing a Mine 58:48
55 Flight 45:01
56 Pursuit 23:15
57 Esther’s Narrative 49:38
58 A Wintry Day and Night 40:34
59 Esther’s Narrative 35:01
60 Perspective 36:07
61 A Discovery 30:00
62 Another Discovery 25:36
63 Steel and Iron 22:55
64 Esther’s Narrative 32:55
65 Beginning the World 19:42
66 Down in Lincolnshire 13:48
67 The Close of Esther’s Narrative 12:58



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