Bleak House

Winning Love

Bleak House, by Charles Dickens, is chiefly a novel about the consequences of abandonment. Dickens utilizes a mixture of nameless third-person narrative and the personal narrative of Esther Summerson, thereby balancing social criticism with a measure of personal experiences. Esther is only one of several orphans in the novel. In different ways, Jo, Esther, Charley, Richard, and Ada are all abandoned children. Mrs. Jellyby, Mrs. Pardiggle, Harold Skimpole, and even Mr. Turveydrop also abandon their children by forcing them to endure emotional neglect.

Mrs. Jellyby, for example, claims to be a noble philanthropist, yet ignores her own family's poor quality of life in order to focus on the injustices occuring in far-off Africa. Her "public duties [are her] favorite child." Here, Dickens highlights the irresponsibility and arbitrariness of choosing to exhaust one's resources (which are most likely being ineffectually employed) on an abstract problem, rather than on a literal one close at hand. Dickens maintained that people devoted to distant ("telescopic") philanthropy very often show a tendency to neglect the needs of those around them. In this example, Dickens satirizes Mrs. Jellyby as a misguided...

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