Charles Dickens Writing Styles in Bleak House

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.
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Point of View

The story is narrated from two points of views. One narrator is Esther Summerson who describes her experiences in first person as if in a diary. She engages analysis and reflection. The other point of view is conveyed in the present tense in the third person.

The point of view is the same as the audience, with performances similar to stage performances. Unrealistic, expressionist, and allegorical expressions resemble theatrical forms. The reader is part of the third person narrator looking as an outsider which allows for distancing from the action while remaining uninvolved. There is little explanatory information that is not more narrative. Rather than describing expression Dickens uses action.

Esther appears to be objective but her position as depicting events in the first person leads to the inability to maintain objectivity. She assumes the position of a reader. The first person narration cannot be reliable as it is based on personal experiences, individual opinions, and subjective views. The reader needs to put together the information that incorporates selection. Her narration is sometimes random, made of observances, and sometimes thorough.

Instead of placing a protagonist as central to the plot as classic formula suggests, Dickens uses various elements that make one journey. Through Esther's point of view, Dickens presents her journey to become stronger and learning about herself. The more Esther learns about her past the more she gains control over her life.

The final narrative that is the third person remains an objective spectator. The point of view of Mr. Guppy provides a perspective that incorporates some part of society as well as part of legal profession that engages in not entirely legal pursuits, as if standing on cross roads.


All sites that are depicted by Dickens are authentic. Although dreary, city sites remain most interesting. Bleak House takes place in or around 19th century London, depicting sites that are mostly authentic. The dense fog surrounding streets and suburbs features in London in that time. The Dedlocks lived in Lincolnshire that is part of east-central England, some 200 miles away from London.

St Albans, where Bleak House is situated, was on the outskirts of London in 1850. Windsor, the place where Esther Summerson was born, is 20 miles away from London. The main site that involves the Jarndyce case is set in Tom-All-alone that is full of misery while the two other worlds of Chancery and Chesney Wold are stagnant and decayed. Each setting represents a different public sphere conveyed symbolically, with Chancery involving the entire society.

Although Chancery represents a great system as involving the entire society, members of this society engage in methods that are selfish and based on self-interest. Disease that arise from the way Chancery operates is represented by sickness that engulfs various characters. Chancery creates and spreads such disease that affects the entire country. Its corruption is also reflected in Parliament that engages either in power dividing factions or bribery to win elections. Chancery is also part of the emptiness that pervades society through either being childless, as is the case with the Dedlocks, or their deadened world full of coldness and boredom.

Language and Meaning

Dickens uses language that engages anger, sarcasm, and sadness. He manages detachment through irony, allowing for certain justified ignorance on the part of the lawyers. Humorous character portrayal makes them appear amiable and sympathetic while sarcasm allows for delineating narrow mindedness, such as depicting Sir Leicester as well disposed towards nature as long as it is within certain limits and controllable. The language expresses the dependence between subjective expression and objective irony of social analysis. Revelation is conducted through the depiction of a certain individual's transformation.

Some parts are clearly impersonal. Language depicts vividly meaning through symbolism and underlying theme. The variety of means engage emotionally through combining reality with unreal elements of the story. Dickens provides a sense of mystery through revelation and partial revelation of certain aspects. Others combine only general aspects that induce distance.

The use of language allows for cinematic conveying of meaning, where fog represents symbolic significance. When emphasizing only certain parts of events, the narrative nature of the book acquires the function of a close up, where certain elements only become apparent.

Some parts incorporate the journalistic use of language, where only fragments of sentences are used while bitter irony interlaces with outrage. Language used allows the third person narration to connect various worlds. Such connections intensify with the progression of the book, further emphasizing the way everything is interconnected.


Structure involves no string of incidents but a cycle of incidents. There are recurrent motives, artistic constancy, and artistic revenge. The story takes place in three symbolic places. The Bleak House turns into Chancery but ends with Bleak House. The unity of the book is fulfilled by motif and calculated in relation to the influence of evil doing in society.

With many themes and people intertwined, the plot ventures into various areas of life and meaning. All story-lines connect somewhere, while all characters are in one way or other involved in a legal suit.

The story combines various narratives. The main narrative is written by Esther Summerson whose life becomes successful despite many difficulties. Her personality and attitude towards life is positive. She delivers help while being affectionate about those around her. Her deliberation in her actions, along with careful consideration of others, allows her certain control in her life. She feels responsibility and she delivers it. Those that lose control over their lives through obsession, even a most noble one such as charity work, are punished. Only caring for others can assure that personal lives can thrive along with society.

Those who maintain their course of action exhibit insight and become rewarded as everything that is constant. Richard's constancy towards Ada is rewarded but he places financial interests above her. Lady Dedlock also terminates her contact with her daughter, fearing that it would destroy her. Despite such termination the inevitable happens, while her relationship with her daughter may have saved her.

This section contains 1,003 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Bleak House from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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