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...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 944 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7602 literature essays, 2153 sample college application essays, 318 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in