Bleak House - Chapter 21-24 Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 21-24 Summary

Bart Smallweed's grandfather lives in Mount Pleasant with his grandfather Joshua Smallweed, a money lender, his grandmother, and twin sister Judy. His grandmother is senile while his grandfather is paralyzed in the lower part of the body. They employ Charley Neckett as their maid. The family tends to take up careers early, taking advantage of any financial opportunities. Mr. George, a former soldier, comes to Mr. Smallweed about his difficulties with debt repayment to his principal. His loan was taken for a shooting gallery, after serving with Captain Hawdon, also a debtor to Mr. Smallweed. Mr. George thinks Hawdon drowned.

In Chapter 22, Mr. Tulkinghorn and Mr. Bucket, a detective, intend to find out from Mr. Snagsby about Jo and a lady he met. Mr. Bucket and Mr. Snagsby trace him at Jenny and Liz's place. They bring Jo to Mr. Tulkinghorn's place, and ask if he recognizes a veiled lady. Jo identifies her clothes but not her voice. Mr. Bucket pays him and Jo leaves. The veiled woman is Hortense. Mr. Tulkinghorn and Mr. Bucket conclude that Jo must have met a woman dressed as Hortense.

Chapter 23 reveals Hortense begging Esther to employ her as her maid but Esther refuses. Richard believes he will win his suit and does Miss Flite favors. Finally he becomes discouraged with law through the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case, and enlists in the army. Esther helps Caddy and Prince to reveal their engagement to their parents so that they can gain approval to marry. Upon return Esther finds that Mr. Jarndyce employed Charley as a maid.

In Chapter 24 we find that Richard exhausted his resources when joining the army. Mr. Jarndyce advises Ada to break off her engagement with Richard, and they separate for a time. Richard persists with his commitment to follow the Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit, distancing himself from Mr. Jarndyce. Mr. George prepares Richard for the army although he thinks Richard is only partially engaged in it. Mr. George finds that French ladies also learn how to shoot.

He is hiding Mr. Gridley at his shooting gallery. Upon Mr. Gridley's request he brings there Mr. Gridley's close friend, Miss Flite. At the same time Mr. Bucket comes to arrest Mr. Gridley, introducing himself as a physician. Mr. Gridley falls down and dies.

Chapter 21-24 Analysis

The Smallweed family is a grotesque portrayal of greed, being deprived of any humane aspects of their existence. Grandfather Smallweed, although invalid himself, abuses his wife by throwing objects at her at his own liking, encouraging his grandson to use any situation where he can gain financial advantage, including payment for his dinners. Their relationships are dictated by any possible financial gains over one another.

They treat those who work for them with even less respect, avoiding spending any money if not necessary and engaging in anything that can render profit, including lies, blackmail, or bribery.

Charley works for them, suffering from their greedy attitude and unwillingness to spend money if it is not absolutely necessary. Grandfather Smallweed lends money for interest, encouraging his grandson to accept when other people offer to pay for dinners.

Mr. George is not likely to find any sympathy when he comes to discuss problems with his debt payment, despite adhering to all previously set conditions. He is also a victim of Smallweed's greed.

As Mr. Tulkinghorn finds out from Mr. Snagsby about Jo's encounter with a mysterious lady and intends to find out everything he knows. He presents Hortense in disguise, paying her for that. Mr. Snagsby is unaware at first that Mr. Bucket is also involved in the matter. Mr. Tulkinghorn wants Mr. Snagsby and Mr. Bucket to bring Jo and confront him with a lady looking like Lady Dedlock.

When Jo sees veiled Hortense, he recognizes her clothing but not her voice. It is clear for Mr. Tulkinghorn that someone must have dressed as Hortense and talk to Jo. He can only speculate that the most likely person to do that would be Lady Dedlock.

Hortense is desperate to get employment and begs Esther to employ her but Esther refuses. Richard continues his progression towards failure, disengaging from law and concentrating mostly on his law suit. Esther strives to be a good influence on everyone, helping Caddy Jellyby with her marriage arrangements.

Richard's efforts become questionable. He tries hard to make a good impression on Esther and Ada, who thinks she has to trust him, being in love with him.

As it turns out, the legal profession is also unsuitable for Richard, who is mostly worried about his case. He is also unable to control his debts, only studying the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case that discourages him in the end from law.

He decides to enlist in the army, which is viewed by Mr. Jarndyce with criticism and concern for Ada. Mr. Jarndyce suggests that Ada break off her engagement to Richard and she agrees. The influence of the lawsuit deprives Richard of his relationship and career.

George detects in Richard lack of interest in what he is trying to achieve, as something else is on his mind. Richard's obsession with the suit obstructs any positive developments in his life. The case is heard but adjourned again, only leading to another disappointment.

This section contains 880 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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