Bleak House - Chapter 9-12 Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 9-12 Summary

Esther thinks Richard is too restless. She concludes her discussion with Ada of his profession that he may continue his childhood interests in sea. The idea appeals to Richard and Mr. Jarndyce asks his distant relation, great Sir Leicester Dedlock, about assistance. No indication of such help is given in reply. Richard is ready to advance his career on his own, expressing his anticipation of obtaining a positive result in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit.

Their impetuous, loud, yet gentle and sturdy neighbor, who is also Mr. Jarndyce's schoolmate, Mr. Lawrence Boythorn visits them. Sir Leicester and Mr. Boythorn are suing each other for trespass. Once engaged to Lady Dedlock's sister, he was turned down and remained a bachelor. Mr. Guppy arrives in connection with Boythorn's suit and asks Esther to marry him after stating the details of his financial position. Esther refuses.

Chapter 10 introduces Mr. Snagsby, a law stationer. He is married to Sarah, a jealous and possessive woman. They employ two apprentices and an epileptic maid, Guster. Mr. Tulkinghorn comes to see Mr. Snagsby to inquire about the writer who copied the affidavit mentioned by Lady Dedlock. He is told that the writer is Nemo, meaning "no one" in Latin. Late evening, Mr. Tulkinghorn secretly visits Nemo in his dreadful lodging at Mr. Krook's shop. He finds him lying in bed, with his eyes wide opened, and not responding.

In Chapter 11 Mr. Tulkinghorn and Mr. Krook come back to Nemo's room. They discover he is dead. As Mr. Tulkinghorn sends for Mr. Snagsby, his employer, Mr. Krook steals some of the contents of the man's portmanteau. The inquiry in relation to Nemo's death finds that it was an accidental opium overdose. According to Mrs. Piper, who lives in the court, only a boy called Jo, who sweeps the lane nearby, spoke with Nemo. Jo cannot write, spell, does not know his parents or his second name, while being uncertain about everything he says. His evidence is deemed inadmissible. Mr. Tulkinghorn questions Jo and learns that Nemo was a good man. Nemo is buried in a churchyard. Only Jo visits his grave later that day.

Chapter 12 shows Lady Dedlock returning with her husband from Paris. Mr. Tulkinghorn informs her that he met the writer of the affidavit she inquired about and will inform her of everything when they meet. Upon her return Lady Dedlock meets Rosa, who learns housekeeping from Mrs. Rouncewell. She is impressed with her and her praises arouse jealousy in her current French maid, Hortense. She finds out from Mr. Tulkinghorn that the writer of the affidavit is dead.

Chapter 9-12 Analysis

Richard is shown as lacking patience, irrational, and not being able to make up his mind. His carelessness and lightheartedness are indication of his shortcomings that lead to his eventual failure. His qualities control him while his enthusiasm is only short lived. Mr. Boythorn is full of passion, humor, and energy. His intense involvement in the legal suit against Sir Leicester is grotesque. Being preoccupied can be dangerous, as Boythorn loses perspective in his desperation to defeat his neighbor. The differences between Sir Leicester and Boythorn are impossible to reconcile due to their own stubborn grievances.

Mr. Boythorn seems sympathetic towards Lady Dedlock and his passionate outbursts contradict his warmth towards those closest to him.

Those who are involved in law, such as Mr. Snagsby, are represented as somewhat faulty. His compliance towards his wife may be viewed in a positive way but Dickens states that Mr. Snagsby is perceived in a negative way by other wives. He is afraid to stand up for himself, preferring his wife to take control. Guster, his servant, is accepted because of her shortcomings. His wife has spasmodic attacks while being overly suspicious and jealous.

Mr. Tulkinghorn is as conservative as his surroundings. He is unchanging, cold, and self-controlled. His knowledge makes him powerful. He seeks safety through finding faults and shortcomings in others.

Nemo, whose name "no one" in Latin implies also the way he lived, is a mystery. No one knew him and few were aware of his life or his past. People like him represent little concern in courts. No one knew him and no one could testify about him in court. The cause of his death remains unclear and the court fails to establish what prompted his death. Jo, the only witness in the matter is also dismissed. This incident ultimately changes the lives of many people, leading to the death of Lady Dedlock. Only Mr. Tulkinghorn senses that his death will have implications. Nemo, although standing for "no one" in Latin, affects the lives of many people. His death is the beginning of the end of the Dedlock family.

The Snagsbys represent somewhat strange couple. Their features are ridiculed and grotesque. Lady Dedlock is never able to find fulfillment. Her boredom is not critical to her relationship with Sir Dedlock. He is more concerned about his own matters. He engages in the political life of the country, engaging in ineffective debates. Various problems are raised but never resolved. In the same way, his conflict with Mr. Boythorn is never resolved despite engaging one of the best lawyers.

This section contains 871 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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