Bleak House

Bleak House Summary and Analysis of Chapters 50-53


Caddy and Prince Turveydrop are have a baby girl, but Caddy is not feeling well after the birth. As usual, in any distress Caddy turns to Esther, who is only too happy to help. Esther makes three visits, and then Mr. Jarndyce, again with his usual generous nature, proposes that he, Ada, and Esther go to London and stay for some time. He contacts Allan Woodcourt, and sends him to Caddy to be her doctor.

In these circumstances, so blameless and in fact arranged by her fiance, Esther and Allan meet often. After a time, Esther tells Ada and Caddy about Jarndyce's proposal. Esther seems to notice a strange, subtle change in Ada's behavior toward her.

Cryptically, Jarndyce asks Esther if she would like Allan to be magically made rich. Esther returns that he would be less likely to be as useful to as many poor people if he were rich. Jarndyce continues, asking if he would be rich enough to live comfortably and continue in his good works, would that be agreeable to Esther? She says that would be quite a different thing, and good for the doctor and others.

In Chapter 51, Allan Woodcourt, as good as his word to Ada, obtains Richard's address from Mr. Vholes. The greedy lawyer never ceases in his assertions that Richard needs money to resolve his suit -- money that would go directly into Vholes's pocket.

Woodcourt finds Richard in a worn and haggard state, though not yet actually ill. He puts all his energy into the suit, and has given up the army. Richard says that he will be guided by Allan.

Esther wants Ada to go with her to visit Richard, and Ada reacts strangely. She ends up going, but once they are there she reveals to the shocked Esther that she has been secretly married to Richard for two months. She is not going home to Bleak House.

In Chapter 52, Woodcourt is convinced of George Rouncewell's innocence, but he is also aware of the large amount of circumstantial evidence which looks bad for Rouncewell. Esther, Allan, Mr. Jarndyce, and, of course, the Bagnets visit George in prison.

In a characteristic twist, George refuses to have a lawyer. He is a simple, straightforward man, and he wants his own innocence, not legal wrangling, to acquit him of any crime.

He looks at Esther, and says aside to Mr. Jarndyce that a figure like hers passed him on Tulkinhorn's staircase on the night of the murder. He doesn't think that it was Esther, but it was so very like her he has to say it.

Mrs. Bagnet, on an errand of mercy, visits George's mother and asks her to help convince him to get legal counsel.

In Chapter 53, we see the machinations and investigations of Inspector Bucket. He is not completely convinced of Sgt. George's guilt.

He spies on the guests at the funeral of Mr. Tulkinghorn. He visits the Dedlocks, and is extremely subtle in his talk with Volumnia, Sir Leicester, and Mercury the footman. From Mercury, by a circuitous means, he manages to extract that Lady Dedlock took a walk, by herself, on the night of the murder.


Caddy and Prince provide the most realistic picture of domestic life -- sometimes happy, sometimes sad. Caddy has ever been a device for getting Esther to London, and she performs this service again. In addition, she has need of Woodcourt, which puts the two young people together.

The strange suggestion from Jarndyce about making Woodcourt rich leads the reader to believe that he knows that Esther and Woodcourt love each other. Esther, of course, does not understand this.

The revelation of Ada and Richard's secret marriage is a deep disappointment to Esther and to Jarndyce. Ada and Richard seem to be married under an unlucky star, and, for a long time now, the reader has had no cause to hope for Richard.

George Rouncewell, who serves as a refreshingly simple character in a tangle of difficult and complicated characters, must be persuaded to defend himself. It now becomes clear his connection with the Dedlocks, and his past is about to come full circle back to him in the person of his mother.

Bucket has many suspects now -- Lady Dedlock and even Esther, in addition to George. The "detective story" part of the novel is at full steam now, and it is interesting to note the means that the Victorian detective, who must be so careful of social boundaries, and to work without any forensic support, must use to pursue criminals. Incidentally, Mr. Bucket is considered to be the first fictional "detective": the precursor to Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, and one hundred and fifty years of other figures. The restrictions of Victorian society require him to use quiet methods -- observation and logic, mostly -- to "crack" the case, and this pattern of deductive detection has proved extremely popular beyond Victorian society.