Bleak House - Chapter 17-20 Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 17-20 Summary

Mrs. Bayham Badger observes that Richard lacks passion for medicine, criticizing his inexperience. Richard himself thinks medicine is tiresome and decides to switch to law, especially that it would enable him to control the Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit. Mr. Jarndyce helps to place him under Kenge and Carboy.

Mr. Jarndyce tells Esther that her aunt wrote to him, revealing that she raised Esther in secrecy, begging him for help before she died. Mr. Kenge was appointed to be an agent and Mr. Jarndyce was to be her guardian. Allan Woodcourt visits them before departing for China and India as a surgeon on a ship. The next day he sends Esther flowers through Caddy.

In Chapter 18, Richard undertakes his studies of law at Kenge and Carboy. The opportunity to untangle the Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit makes him so absorbed with the case that he has no time even for Ada.

After helping Mr. Skimpole, whose furniture was repossessed due to accommodation debts, Esther, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce visit Mr. Boythorn. They encounter Lady Dedlock at church. The next day they meet her again in a lodge, where they hide from the rain. She introduces herself and apologizes for the disputes between her husband and Mr. Boythorn. Esther is impressed with her. A carriage arrives for Lady Dedlock with both Rosa and Hortense. Lady Dedlock chooses Rosa as her maid. Hortense refuses to accept the notice to leave and protests by walking away in the rain.

Chapter 19 unveils the summer recess in London. Most lawyers are away except for Mr. Snagsby. He invites the reverend Mr. Chadband with his wife. She is a former Mrs. Rachael who worked for Ms. Barbary. The row erupts in front of Mr. Snagsby's office as a constable wants to take into custody Jo, who will not move on. Jo claims that he knows Mr. Snagsby while the constable becomes suspicious about the money Jo has in his possession. Jo explains that this is the remainder of the money he received from a lady, who looked like a servant. The entire incident immediately raises Mrs. Snagsby's suspicions that Jo must be her husband's son. Mr. Guppy, who happens to be passing by, interrogates Mrs. Chadband, learning that she was put in charge of Esther Summerson by Kenge and Carboy. Mr. Chadband wants to lecture Jo, but he departs.

In Chapter 20, Mr. Guppy engages in idle pleasures during the summer, plotting against new employees who may threaten his position. Such threat pertains to Richard studying the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case and displaying little interest in what is happening around him. Another trainee at Kenge and Carboy, Bart Smallweed, is full of admiration for Mr. Guppy. When Mr. Jobling arrives, the three go for dinner. Mr. Jobling is currently unemployed and Guppy offers him help if he rents a room formerly occupied by Nemo to spy on Mr. Krook. Mr. Jobling agrees to do it under the name of Mr. Weevle.

Chapter 17-20 Analysis

Esther pursues questioning about her past while Lady Dedlock is impelled to find out everything about Nemo. This apparent connection proves later to be most significant. Mrs. Badger indicates how important is passion in any pursuit, admiring Richard but finding him lacking involvement. His only devotion seems to be directed towards Ada.

Esther finds out more about her past from Mr. Jarndyce while meeting a man who is to figure later prominently in her life.

Richard continues to be indecisive and unable to commit. His inability to handle money makes him vulnerable to those who want to take advantage of him. Richard spends all his money on expensive items. Mr. Boythorn and Sir Leicester Dedlock are absorbed with fighting each other. Further connections that become apparent are unveiled as Esther meets Lady Dedlock and then encounters her in a lodge. Her maid Hortense's

hate towards Lady Dedlock is decisive in the final resolution.

The Snagsbys become part of the problems Jo has with the adult world. This

world is unable to understand him as much as he is unable to understand it himself. He is constantly pushed, paid money, then questioned about it, then asked to move. He gets into trouble because of the money he received from Lady Dedlock. The amount of money he received from her is unlikely and raises suspicion that he must have stolen it, encouraging others to steal from him. He has to keep moving and is confused. It was a common fate for children like Jo to be deprived of any opportunities to be able to provide for themselves.

Mr. Guppy exhibits obsessive proclivities when pursuing his love interests and following Esther, as well as towards any threats in his employment. He sees threats that do not exist, fearing every new trainee. He is bored yet always suspicious. He wants to get rid of Richard as well as any other new employee. He plots to substitute Hawdon's letters, that are in Mr. Krook's possession, for false ones. His legal profession does not deter him from engaging in illegal acts that serve his purpose. He engages Mr. Jobling to spy on Krook and steal the letters in his possession.

This section contains 866 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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