Bleak House Study Guide

Bleak House Study Guide

Original title:
Bleak House

“Bleak House” by Charles Dickens isn’t the most famous of his novels, but it is a brilliant satire on the English judicial system. The main plot drive is the two contradictory wills and the following Jarndyce and Jarndyce court case. The tangled family story with unexpected turns and suddenly revealed relationships, marriages, lost children and enamored cousins makes this imaginary court case a nightmare for any lawyer. Every new dozen of pages presents us some new information that adds a new layer to the already existing situation and urges the lawyers (and the readers) revise every single bit of what they have already figured out in these tangled family relationships.

The narrative style of the story is quite interesting: the same events are described by the omniscient narrator, detached and cold, and also there is another point of view presented to the readers - the one of the main heroine of the novel, the young, modest, kind-hearted and severely traumatized lady named Esther Summerson. Her style of narrative is much more emotional, though she is constantly reminding us that she is unable to write, too shy, not too clever - but when her actions are presented by the second narrator, we see that Esther is a true heroine, just with some self-esteem issues caused by her family story and strict Victorian upbringing.

Some critics consider that Bleak House is the best novel written by Dickens, and it even entered the The Novel 100: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels of All Time book by Daniel Burt as number 12. Nevertheless, the law society of England was so deeply offended by that novel that they criticized it openly - though it was still a fictionary case - for being exaggerated and impossible. Still, it is considered that “Bleak House” played its role in hastening the legal reform. It means a lot for just a written story, isn’t it?

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