Bleak House Characters

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 1,184 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Esther Summerson

Esther Summerson is raised by Ms. Barbary, her godmother, who denies her the knowledge of her background, only disclosing that it would be better if she had never been born. Her godmother never mentioned to her anything about her mother's grave or her parents past, as she regarded as suitable for Esther only what was useful and needed.

Esther, in her modesty, considers herself to be only a little clever as she has no means of quick understanding. She has always longed for friendship and love. Her only companion in her childhood was a little doll while she was brought up with care but without idleness.

While staying with Mrs. Barbary, Esther was never allowed to have friends or make friendships. She was not allowed to accept invitations and had difficulties getting along with children in her class that were older than her.

Her disposition is affectionate and her manner quickens with affection. When her godmother dies, Kenge from Kenge and Carboy tell her that they can renew the offer previously made to Miss Barbary to place Esther at a boarding school.

Esther's guardian is Mr. Jarndyce and as part of the suit she also becomes part of it. After she finishes her school, he undertakes to be her guardian and care for her. Esther is always grateful, full of compassion, and care for others. In her devotion she often forgets to care for herself.

Richard Carstone

Richard is Ada's cousin, handsome, inclined to laugh and displaying a light-hearted manner. He is good-natured and sometimes thoughtless. Despite his good intentions, his carelessness and getting involved with people like Harold Skimpole, who live on other people's money, leads him to his own demise.

Richard is full of enthusiasm and passion but seems to be consumed by these emotions in any pursuit he undertakes. He is described as an excellent acquisition to the society. His efforts are appreciated and admired. He is also described to be a Neophyte but the choices he makes are made without proper consideration. Despite his easy disposition, he has a leisurely way of going about his profession without a positive interest. Easily discouraged in his professional engagements, he is adamant about the legal suit. He finds professional engagements tiresome. While unable to make a decision about his career, he seems to be indifferent to anything he does.

Richard also displays a strange attitude towards financial matters. When calculating his spending, he justifies higher expenditures with savings on other things that could be purchased instead. His restless nature disrupts him in considering anything seriously.

He becomes entirely possessed by the chances of success in his legal court case concerning his inheritance. His reliance on the right course of the suit becomes fatal. The oppressive power of Chancery leads to his death. He fails to deliver a proper home for Ada, for whom he chases the law suit.

Lady Dedlock

Lady Dedlock is married to Sir Leicester Dedlock. She has a daughter Esther and is regarded as wealthy and refined. Changing her accommodation releases her from boredom. She has an illegitimate child with Captain Hawdon, her fiancé prior to her marriage. Believing the child died at birth, as was told her by her sister Mrs. Barbary, she marries Sir Leicester. When the truth comes out she flees from her husband's anger and dies where her fiancé was buried.

Ada Clare

Ada is Mr. Jarndyce's ward and Richard's cousin. She is pretty, with golden hair but naïve and sweet. Becoming close with Esther, she confesses everything to her and they become best friends. Her relationship with Richard, although based on love, turns out sour and unhappy because of his pursuit of the court case. She secretly marries him and even shares her inheritance, but Richard's debts and reckless obsession with the court case in the matter of Jarndyce and Jarndyce makes their relationship disintegrate.

Sir Leicester Dedlock

Sir Leicester is a baronet from an old family. He is respectable, instilling the notion of his own family's importance. He regards the Dedlocks as essential to the existence of the world. He admires nature, but such a notion is always connected with the notion of county families. His most important aspect of life is maintaining his integrity, which needs to be achieved at any price even if it is the matter of life or death. His conscience and generosity are part of his honorable and spirited attitude towards life. Although truthful, he is prejudiced and unreasonable.

He is older than Lady Dedlock and suffers from gout that affects his walking. In appearance he is well presented, with grey hair and whiskers. His dressing is always perfect and always buttoned, dominated by light colors, such as a white waistcoat or blue coat.

He eventually changes, weakening after the disappearance of Lady Dedlock. He wants to forgive her but his intentions are expressed too late.

Mr. Jarndyce

Mr. Jarndyce is Esther's guardian who owns Bleak House. He also takes care of Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. He can be generous but does not like to display it in public, finding it difficult to deal with gratitude. He is considerate and understanding. He is involved in Jarndyce and Jarndyce but, aware of its sad consequences for other members of his family, he tries to distance himself from it. Mr. Jarndyce proposes to marry Esther and she accepts it but he realizes that she is in love with Mr. Woodcourt and steps aside.

Harold Skimpole

Harold Skimpole is a man who engages others to pay his debts. He is poor and wants to live outside of the business area of the world. As he himself admits, he knows nothing about money and does not want to know. Although somewhat comical at the beginning, Skimpole becomes a sorrow example of the way one human being uses another. He accepts his own position even though somewhere at the back of his mind he realizes that what he is doing is not quite right. Perhaps his book written before he dies explaining why he thought and acted in a particular way is the way to justify what he did also to himself.

Mr. Tulkinghorn

Mr. Tulkinghorn is a Sir Leicester's lawyer who is also involved in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case. He holds many secrets, including Lady Dedlock's, and in the end threatens to reveal them. As he also threatens other people, he is murdered. The investigation finds that Hortense, a former maid of Lady Dedlock, is responsible for his death.

Grandfather Smallweed

Joshua Smallweed is a money lender. His body is partly paralyzed. As he lends money, he takes advantage of the opportunities it creates. He lends money to George, and tries to get hold of the paper he has written by Captain Hawdon.

Mr. William Guppy

Mr. Guppy is employed by Kenge and Carboy. He falls in love with Esther Summerson and wants to marry her. Her refusal incites him to find out about her past to gain her sympathy. Mr. Guppy recognizes that Esther resembles Lady Dedlock. His investigation confirms that Lady Dedlock is Esther's mother.

This section contains 1,184 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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