Bleak House

Bleak House Summary and Analysis of Chapters 14-16


Richard leaves to start his studies. He is hopeful about a career as a surgeon, but continues to hope to inherit a fortune through the Jarndyce suit. Esther and Jarndyce find this troubling.

Esther and the others go to visit the Jellyby household, and see Caddy and Peepy. Peepy is in a disheveled state, as usual, but Caddy has endeavored to make her appearance somewhat better, and looks very pretty. She tells them good and bad news.

She is engaged to young Mr. Prince Turveydrop, the son of the dancing master Mr. Turveydrop. The old man is a "model of deportment" but makes his son do all the work in the dancing school. Also, Mr. Jellyby is on the brink of bankruptcy.

The party continues to Miss Flite, who is being attended professionally by Dr. Woodcourt. She has quite recovered, and talks merrily about her good fortune in being forwarded seven shillings a week from some mysterious source through Kenge and Carboy's. The source is not revealed, but Mr. Jarndyce, Esther notes, is staring intently at Miss Flite's birds (named allegorically: Hope, Faith, Jargon, Documents, Sheepskin, etc.) during this interlude, and Esther draws her own conclusions. Caddy Jellyby and Miss Flite have become friends, and Caddy helps Miss Flite to use her newfound money to best advantage.

Mr. Krook intrudes, and shares that he has been attempting to learn to read. Allan Woodcourt, who is also Mr. Krook's doctor, converses with the company, is invited to dinner, and becomes friends with Esther, Ada, and Richard.

In Chapter 15, Mr. Skimpole reveals that Mr. Neckett of Coavinses has died, leaving three destitute children. The party goes to visit them, and meets Charley (about 13), Tom (5 or 6) and Emma (18 months). The two younger children are locked in while Charley, whoses real name is Charlotte, goes out to work each day for some money. Charley is hardworking and tries hard to be a good mother to her younger siblings. The lodgers in the house (Mrs. Blinder, Mr. Gridley) help out with the children also, but their situation is desperate.

Mr. Gridley (the Man from Shropshire from Chapter 1) reveals that he is also embroiled in a Chancery suit which has ruined his life. He should have inherited money but the Chancery delay has consumed it. He and Jarndyce agree on the evils of Chancery.

In Chapter 16, Sir Leicester is afflicted with gout, and laying in sickbed at Chesney Wold. He considers it a privilege to have such an aristocratic disease, which all of his lineage have also had. He waits in the country looking at a picture of his lady.

Lady Dedlock, meanwhile, goes to their house in London and secretly leaves it dressed in servant's dress, veiled. Mr. Tulkinghorn sees her in passing, but does not recognize her. He finds, however, the ladylike bearing to be incongrous with the plain clothing.

Jo leaves Tom-all-Alone's, a street of vacant squatter's houses in a dingy street in London. He walks to his usual haunts near the court of Chancery.

Lady Dedlock seeks out and finds Jo the crossing-sweeper. Though he is abhorrent to her, she has him guide her to Krook's house where Nemo lodged. She is shown the tavern where the inquest took place, and then the charnel-house of bones behind an iron grate where Nemo's body was lain. She is horrified, gives Jo a gold coin, and disappears.


Again, Dickens treats the dissarray of badly parented households. The Jellybys house is in an even more chaotic state than it was previously, and Caddy has taken a route out, by spending time with Miss Flite and becoming engaged to Prince Turveydrop. Another variation on the bad parent is presented in old Mr. Turveydrop, who is a vapid and pretentious man who cares only for appearances. His dead wife, and now his only overworked son, taken in by his accomplishments in "deportment," support him entirely; and now Prince spends all his time running the dancing school so his father can be seen around town in the fashionable places. No doubt Prince and Caddy bond over their difficult situations and unkind parents.

Miss Flite is yet another recipient of Mr. Jarndyce's quiet charity, though she fully believes it to come from the Lord Chancellor. Her strangely named birds are a direct jab at the legal system (Jargon, Sheepskin, Document, etc) and she remains a symbol, if a pleasant one, of the wastes and foolishness of Chancery. Mr. Gridley is introduced, as the aging but angry male counterpart of Miss Flite. His kindness to the Neckett children instantly makes him a sympathetic figure.

The seemingly unimportant detail of Mr. Krook learning how to read will be important to the story later. The scene at Miss Flite's creates another, separate meeting for Esther and Woodcourt, and brings Woodcourt closer into Esther and Jarndyce's circle.

Lady Dedlock's fantastic incognito trip to the scenes of Nemo's life and death give us some more insight into her character. She is repulsed by Jo, rather than feeling kindness and charity to him (though she does give him money), but continues on to see the place of Nemo's demise. We wonder what motivates her so strongly.

The Neckett children and Gridley are further examples of victims of the current system of society. Charley Neckett has had to become a woman much before her time, and even young Tom has had to learn to care for his baby sister. We are told by Mrs. Blinder than sometimes Charley can't find work, because her father was a "follerer" (a repossession man), and so the three children struggle to survive as orphans on their own. Mrs. Blinder and Mr. Gridley are kind to them (Mrs. Blinder forgives the rent, Mr. Gridley plays with them and gives them food), but they are not substitutes for good parents.

At the close of this section there is an eerie foreshadowing back at Chesney Wold -- Mrs. Rouncewell hears the step on the Ghost's Walk very loudly, implying that the fall of the pride of the house of Dedlock could be near.