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Bleak House Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 47 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Bleak House.
This section contains 1,123 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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Bleak House Summary & Study Guide Description

Bleak House Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

Bleak House begins with the description of a gloomy atmosphere where everything begins and ends. The atmosphere of fog and smoke pervades everything, seemingly infinite.

In the midst of this dreary weather, Lord Chancellor delivers law. Even though the pursuit of law is serious, as no one can be spared, some cases such as Jarndyce and Jarndyce induce laughter and jokes because of its length. The court is merciless and has no regard for innocence or happiness that can be dragged into a never-ending pursuit.

Lady Dedlock is part of that world and part of the suit, trying to escape the boredom of bad weather of one place and find rescue in another.

Esther, raised by her godmother, never learns from her who are her parents or how she was born. When her godmother dies, Esther, according to her godmother's arrangements, is sent to a boarding house and then lives with her guardian Mr. Jarndyce along with Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. On the day of their arrival they meet Mr. Skimpole who devises various schemes to extract money from people. He manages to get Esther and Rick to pay for his alleged debt.

The house that belongs to Lady Dedlock and Sir Leicester Dedlock is haunted by the ghosts of the past. Esther meets Mr. Jarndyce's friends, such as Mrs. Jellyby who is so devoted to her charity work that she is unable to care for her family. Mrs. Pardiggle deals with poor people and introduces Esther to Jenny, whose child dies. Esther covers the baby with her handkerchief.

Esther becomes acquainted with other friends of Mr. Jarndyce, such as Mr. Boythorn, who is embattled in a court case with Sir Leicester over the property access and trespass, and Mr. Guppy who proposes her marriage.

Lady Dedlock recognizes the handwriting on the legal documents and asks Mr. Tulkinghorn, their family lawyer, to find out who wrote it. When Mr. Tulkinghorn learns from Mr. Snagsby, the law-stationer, that the man employed by him responsible for writing is Nemo, he arrives too late to the shop where he lives, for Nemo is dead. Mr. Krook who owns the shop steels his portmanteau while Nemo's death is attributed to an accidental opium overdose. Nemo's friend, Jo is questioned by Mr. Tulkinghorn only, admitting that Nemo was good to him.

Richard is mostly interested in the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, although tries to find a suitable career. He is unable to make a choice switching from one profession to another, starting from medicine, then turning to law, and in the end being also unsuccessful with the army.

Esther meets Charley who takes care of her siblings following her father's death. Her neighbor, Mr. Gridley is also engaged in a suit that has devoured most of his life. He takes care of the children while, bitter about his court case, threatening lawyers and judges, including Mr. Tulkinghorn.

Lady Dedlock, dressed in her maid Hortense's clothes, finds Jo and asks him to show her the burial ground where Nemo is buried.

Esther finds out some details about her past. They receive a visit from Mr, Woodcourt who leaves for China and India. He leaves Esther flowers before his departure.

When visiting Mr. Boythorn. Esther meets Lady Dedlock and finds she has a certain connection with her. Mr. Guppy pursues Esther and wants to investigate everything that is connected with her, including her resemblance to Lady Dedlock. He pays his friend Mr. Jobling to spy on Mr. Krook while renting Nemo's room. He wants to get hold of the letters Mr. Krook stole from Nemo (Captain Hawdon). They make appointment to meet Mr. Krook but find him dead. His sister is married to Joshua Smallweed, a money lender who is paralyzed. He lent money to George, a long-lost son of Mrs. Rouncewell, the housekeeper at Sir Leicester's house. George knew Captain Hawdon but believes that he had drowned. When Mr. Krook dies Mr. Smallweed takes hold off his all possessions, including letters written by Captain Hawdon.

Mr. Tulkinghorn, Sir Leicester's lawyer, engages in the investigation of Nemo's death as well. He questions Jo and finds that there was a lady asking about the place where he was buried. He finds that she was dressed in Hortense's clothes.

Richard's blind pursuit in the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce makes him turn against his friends. Mr. Jarndyce wants Ada to break off her engagement with him.

Smallweed and Tulkinghorn want George to hand them the paper with Captain Hawdon's writing. When he refuses, Smallweed insists on immediate loan repayment and George is forced to compromise, agreeing on handing in the paper. He delivers the letter to Mr. Tulkinghorn and upon leaving, Mr. Guppy, who has just arrived, hears accusations from Mr. Tulkinghorn concerning Mr Gridley. Mr. Guppy thinks they are addressed to Mr. George.

Mr. Guppy reveals to Lady Dedlock that Nemo was Captain Hawdon and he is Esther's father. He knows of letters written by him and suggests that he will bring them. Lady Dedlock is shocked at the revelation that her daughter is alive.

Esther brings sick Jo to Bleak House, and although he runs away, she and her new maid Charley fall sick. When she recovers, her face is disfigured. Esther finds out that Lady Dedlock is her mother and Captain Hawdon her father. Mr. Jarndyce proposes to her and she accepts, although she is really in love with Mr. Woodcourt.

Mr. Tulkinghorn finds out about Lady Dedlock's secret love affair and her daughter Esther. He agrees to keep it a secret at first if she keeps everything unchanged. He then decides to reveal everything when Lady Dedlock wants to let her maid Rosa leave. She wants to know from Mr. Tulkinghorn when her secret is going to be revealed . The next day he is found dead.

Lady Dedlock receives a letter accusing her of murder. Mr. Bucket, a detective who investigates the murder, also finds out about her secret affair as well as that Hortense killed Mr. Tulkinghorn.

Lady Dedlock leaves, meets Jenny, dresses in her clothes and upon reaching the burial ground dies. Mr. Jarndyce discovers that Esther and Allan Woodcourt are in love and, thinking that they will be more happy together, abandons his intention to marry Esther.

Richard is so consumed with the case that he gets into a debt. When the case comes on trial, even despite the new evidence in form of the new will, the case is dismissed due to the legal costs of the value of the property. Richard dies soon after, while his wife Ada raises their son. Esther marries Mr. Woodcourt, has two daughters with him while also caring for Ada's son Richard.

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