Bleak House: Chapters 20-25

I am so thoroughly engrossed in Charles Dickens’ novel, Bleak House, that I’ve gone ahead of the schedule set for us by Amanda at Zen Leaf, our hostess for this read along. As I write these thoughts, it is only September 6, but I’ve had a vacation for Labor Day, and I’ve been reading pages by the hundreds all day on the couch.

As I complete these chapters, I find myself contemplating the role of parenthood that Dickens portrays in this novel. Caddy Jellyby’s mother is a useless example of motherhood as she lets her children squall on the cold stone floor of the kitchen while she opens innumerable letters pertaining to who has gone, or is going, to Africa. The betterment of the human race is her focus, while completely neglecting her responsibilities to her own family.

Contrasting with her, but in a different way as he cares for nothing but Deportment, is Mr. Turveydrop, Sr. He is the dance instructor’s son, one who is very elegant, with quality things, and the perfect epitome of Deportment if that means sitting on a couch before one’s tea and whining.

My favorite, of course, is the guardian Mr. Jarndyce. We do not fully know his relationship to Esther Summerson, yet, except to say how clear it is that he loves and cares for her in action and deed more than in words. He has just taken in Charley to be Esther’s maid, rescuing the former from the garret she was barely maintaining for her brother and baby sister on their parents’ death. Good is he to these three children, better yet to Esther.

I wonder if he’s her father? I wonder if Lady Dedlock is her mother? This is yet to be discovered; all I can say with certainty is I’m glad that neither Mrs. Jellyby nor Mr. Turveydrop are of any relation to Esther. Or, for that matter, me.


p.s. I believe that Amanda from Zen Leaf, our hostess, is not posting for Chapters 20-25 due to all the activities for BBAW. However, posts will resume for our readings next week.

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15 thoughts on “Bleak House: Chapters 20-25”

  1. I may be getting my Dickens novels mixed up, but isn't there also a woman who does charity work with her kids along but does it for all the wrong reasons and in a very pushy way? Another bad parent example.I do remember Mr. Turveytop being such a hoot. And being very irritated with Mrs. Jellyby.

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  2. Shelley, you're not getting your Dickens' novels mixed up at all: I totally forgot about her! Thanks for the reminder of yet another character who is less than admirable at parenting. 😉

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  3. Kristen, the classics are unbeatable, aren't they? Mrs. Jellyby is surely irritating, but I think the one whose neck I would most like to wring is Mr. Tulkinghorn. Thanks for visiting me, and I found your blog beautiful!

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  4. Don't be intimidated, Kathleen! It's long, but so worth it. I've loved every page, and I suspect it's my favorite Dickens' so far (although I've only read A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol).

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  5. I'm a big fan of Bleak House, read it twice, so I've been following this read-a-long hoping you all will like it. Glad to see that you do. I won't offer any hints, but you're right about parenthood being a major theme in the book. There are all sorts of parents in it. I'd list it as a major theme in all of Dickens work.

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  6. I can see that parenting is a major theme, along with the horrors of law, in this novel. It's so interesting! I'm hoping to finish it this weekend, and then I'll be able to properly discuss it with you. It's such a mystery that I hope I'm getting all the pieces and putting them together properly!

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  7. Dickens writes such wonderful characters, and it seems like he has such fun doing it! I'm still behind schedule, but really enjoying this novel. Have had the same thoughts about Esther's parents…

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  8. JoAnn, it's thanks to you that I first heard about this wonderful read-along. I've since finished the novel, as I was afraid if I picked up something else I'd lose the gentle threads holding it together in my mind. I loved it, and I've scheduled my posts to follow Amanda's plan, so I hope we can talk about it more together. XO

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  9. I am just reading this part of the book myself, and I am so vexed at these people in particular Turveydrop Sr.I feel really bad for Caddy, I do. She is my favorite character so far, somehow more human than Esther and Ada who seem a bit too good to be true.

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  10. Nishitak, Esther and Ada do seem too good to be true sometimes, especially self-effacing Esther. And it's weird to me how Esther keeps calling Ada "my darling", and "my pet". Maybe that was just how it was during that era.It wasn't such a quick read for me; it's all I've read in September besides one or two other short novels. 😉

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  11. I'm going to take that as a great compliment. When we saw the PBS version of Bleak House, Lady Dedlock (who is pictured on this particular cover) was by far my favorite.

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