What are some of the first things you notice about Dickens' style in this novel? What functions are served by sarcasm, exaggeration, repetition, and metaphor?
Is Dickens' style well-suited to his audience? What can you infer about his intended audience from his mode of writing?
What expectations are created by the title, Bleak House? Which house or houses will be revealed to be especially bleak?
Where are the section breaks? Does the first installment end appropriately after chapter 4? The second after chapter 7? (etc.)
What are some apparent plot elements introduced in the opening chapters? (Esther's parentage; theme of Dedlock legend; interrelationship of characters; law and its delays; inopportune or tragic deaths; past relationships; debts; surveillance and secrecy; unsettled wills)
What points does Dickens wish to make in his preface? Why does he feel the need to reassert his opinions on British law practice? On the realism of the scene of spontaneous combustion? How can the reader tell that he doesn't actually believe in the possibility of the latter? (esoteric and unconvincing "evidence," his comments on romance)
Chapter 1: In Chancery
How is the London atmosphere described in chapter 1? Is this an effective means of introducing the novel's themes?
What do you make of the choice of names? (Mr. Tangle, Lady Dedlock, Mr. Tulkinghorn, Miss Barbary, etc.) What anticipations are created by the mode with which the persons related to the suit are described by the judge and lawyers? (can scarcely remember who they are) By the description of the disappointed petitioners to the Court?
What are some features of Dickens' third person narrator?
Chapter 2: In Fashion
Why are we introduced to the world of the aristocracy through the notion of "fashion"? What does the narrator tell us is his view of the Dedlocks' world? (11, cannot see larger worlds as they circle around the sun)
What do we learn about Lady Dedlock and her husband? (she is proud, ambitious, intelligent, filled with "insolent resolve," bored) Are we expected to have unmixed sympathy for her?
What is the relationship between the firm of Jarndyce and Jarndyce and the Dedlock family? (they are prosecuting a case related to Lady Dedlock)
What seems unusual about Lady Dedlock's response to the sight of the handwriting on the legal documents brought by Mr. Tulkinghorn? What are some mysteries which the reader anticpates will be uncovered by the plot?
Are there limits to the narrator's claimed knowledge of the characters? (15, Mr. Tulkingham may or may not know what is in the mind of the Dedlocks)
Chapter 3: A Progress
What is meant by the chapter title of "a progress"? Who progresses and in what ways?
What characterizes Esther's early upbringing? Are some of her experiences common to other Victorian protagonists? (orphaned, uncertain of identity) What won't her "godmother" and the servant tell her"? (mystery of her birth and parentage)
What does she learn after her godmother's death? (the "godmother" had really been her aunt)
What favorable intervention is extended to her by Mr. Jarndyce? Do we have any sense of his motives? For how many years is she educated at Greenleaf?
What are some of the effects of Esther's recountal of her own story? Is she relaying it in the past or present? Are there any ways in which combining a retrospective account with a mystery plot can cause some implausibilities?
What do we learn about her character and others' reactions to her? What is the effect of Esther's repeated statements that she is not clever or worthy of love?
At what age does Esther remove to the home of Mr. Jarndyce? Whom does she meet at the lawyer, Mr. Kenge's, office? How do Ada Clare and Richard Carstone seem different from her? (both very handsome) What is to be their future relationship? (Esther is to be Ada's companion) Why does Ada need a "companion"?
What ominous forewarning do they receive from the demeanor of an old, mentally unstable woman who greets them? (the case will never be concluded; this is Miss Flite)
Chapter 4: Telescopic Philanthrophy
What brings the visitors to the Jellyby house? What conditions do they find there?
What seems to be the motive of Mrs. Jellyby's negligence? What does the novel imply are the chief duties of women? The effects of international philanthropy?
Is Dickens satirizing the Victorian missionary movement? A female-run household?
What effect does all this have on the Jellybys' daughter Caddy? To whom can she confide her emotions?
Does this first serial section end at a point which encourages the reader's further interest? (the reader wants to know what's in Bleak House and what this has to do with the court case)
Chapter 5: A Morning Adventure
Who leads the group to Mr. Krook's shop? What significance to the story does Miss Flite seem likely to have? (represents unhappy plaintiffs) Why has she kept caged birds all these years? (hopes to release them when case is settled)
What does the reader expect from Mr. Krook's name and the nature of his business? What seems the purpose of presenting the group visit to the shop of Mr. Krook? What are we to make of his shop?
What is Mr. Krook's relationship to the Jarndyce case? (he copies legal documents) What unfortunate legal claimant had shot himself in the past? (Tom Jarndyce)
What reflections do Ada and Richard make on the long continuance of the law suit? (56) Do they act on this recognition?
Why do you think this episode, and in particular its setting, is included in the plot? (evokes sense of mystery; provides a lower class analogue of the Chancery Court itself)
Chapter 6: Quite at Home
How do the three young people first experience Bleak House? (Mr. Jarndyce sends friendly notes) Is it bleak?
What is the significance, if any, of the fact that Mr. Jarndyce is the man whom Esther had met in the coach some years previously?
What do we learn about the house, and how does it reflect its owner's character?
What seem to be Mr. Jarndyce's traits? What other Dickens protagonists does he resemble? (Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Brownlie, other beneficient, unmarried older men)
What seem to be some of his eccentricities? Why does he ask constantly about the wind, and for what does the wind serve as a metaphor?
What seems to be Mr. Jarndyce's opinion of Mrs. Jellyby? Of Mr. Skimpole? (disapproves of the latter's tendency to borrow money)
Why is Esther given the keys of the household? What does this imply about how she will use them? (gender roles)
How does Mr. Skimpole behave? (plays piano, charming; is arrested for debt) What seems to be the incipient relationship between Richard and Ada? Why isn't Richard as attracted to Esther?
What seems Mr. Jarndyce's relationship to the legal case? (not entirely clear; seems passive agent unresponsible for its ills)
Chapter 7: The Ghost's Walk
What does the narrator tell us about the Dedlock home in Chesney Wold? What new characters are introduced? (Mrs. Rouncewell, her grandson Watt, Rosa the maid, Mr. Guppy)
What stereotypes are appealed to in this grouping? (the faithful retainer who believes in ghosts; the obsequious hanger-on, the proud aristocrats)
What legend associated with the great house does the housekeeper relate to her grandson? What themes stand out in the narration? (violence, captivity of wife, betrayal, bitterness)
What does the reader assume will be the relationship of this story to the plot?
Chapter 8: Covering a Multitude of Sins
How does the group respond to Skimpole's dislike of the legend of the busy bee? Why do you think he chooses this particular analogy? (Victorians liked to recommend its industry)
What does Esther learn about the court case from her conversation with Mr. Jarndyce in the Growlery?
Who had been the former owner of Bleak House, and why has its name been changed? What was Tom Jarndyce's relationship to Mr. Jarndyce? (his uncle)
On what topic does Mr. Jarndyce suggest Esther should talk with Richard? Why doesn't he do so himself?
What unpleasant guest appears? (Mrs. Pardiggle) What unpleasant behaviors does she exhibit toward her sons and those in the vincinity? How do Dickens' criticisms continue earlier themes in the plot? (he doesn't like intrusive evangelism)
How do the young people attempt to compensate for the limitations of their earlier visit to a poor family with a sick child? (they return to bring food and express sympathy)
Chapter 9: Signs and Tokens
What relative does Mr. Jarndyce write in an attempt to help Richard, and what is the latter's response? (Sir Leicester Dedlock isn't willing to help) With what attitude does Richard approach his future?
What seems Richard's attitude toward money? How do we know that this is significant?
What are traits of the new visitor, Mr. Boythorn? (boistrous, loud laugh, old school friend of Mr. Jarndyce) What is his relationship to his pet bird? What unhappiness has happened to him in the past? (failed romance)
Why do you think Dickens introduces the plot element of Mr. Guppy's proposal to Esther? (creates more mystery; later we learn that he hopes she will be an heir) Why does she cry after he has left? (is attracted to another)
Chapter 10: The Law-writer
What are some new characters introduced in association with the law case? (Mr. Snagsby, his wife, Mr. Peffer, a lawyer who has lost his mind, and Guster, a charity case) Which of these are presented as stereotypes?
Do we have a sense of why these characters have been introduced?
What does Mr. Jarndyce ask Mr. Snagsby? (who has been writing recent legal documents) What do you make of the fact that the writer is allegedly named "Nemo"?
What does Tulkingham find when he tries to visit Nemo? (latter is dead) What questions are raised in the reader's mind?
Chapter 11: Our Dear Brother
Who is the "dear brother" of the chapter's title? Is the title intended to be sarcastic? Who discovers his death? (Mr. Tulkinghorn and Krook) What do they learn of his habits before death? (had purchased opium) What suspicious action do others notice, and what does the reader infer from this? (Tulkinghorn had stood near "Nemo"'s coat, and perhaps may have removed something from its pockets)
Who else joins the scene? (Miss Flite, a surgeon, Snagsby and Mrs. Snagsby, a beadle) What does Jo testify at the coroner's inquest the next day? (the deceased had been kind to him) What does Mr. Snagsby give Jo, and what may we assume could be his motive? (wants him to conceal a secret)
What has prompted the seizures of the Snagsby's servant Guster? (unkindness of mistress)
Chapter 12: On the Watch
In what spirit have the Dedlocks left Paris? (Lady Dedlock has been bored) What news does Sir Leicester tell her has been conveyed in his mail? (Mr. Tulkinghorn wants to speak with her)
How does Lady Dedlock respond on meeting Rosa? (seems fond of her, strokes her cheek) Whose anger is activated by this? May Hortense's nationality be significant? (she's French)
What do we infer from the fact that Lady Dedlock seems to anxiously await Tulkinghorn's arrival? On his arrival, what different topics does he discuss with each of the Dedlocks? (with Sir Leicester he discusses a lawsuit with Mr. Boythorn and with Lady Dedlock he discusses the death of the man about whose handwriting she had inquired) What do we infer from their intent mutual gaze? (she seems mesmerized and entrapped, since he now knows a good part of her secret)
Chapter 13: Esther's Narrative
What apparent flaw now seems visible in Richard's character? What career does he decide to pursue, and how do others react? (Mr. Kenge, a guest at Bleak House, offers to arrange a place for him to study with his cousin, Mr. Bayham Badger.
What attitudes does Mr. Badger express toward his wife's former husbands? (praises them) Why is this notable? (counter to expectations)
What open secret does Ada confess to Esther, and how does Esther respond? (is pleased that they love her) Who conveys the news to Mr. Jarndyce? Why don't they tell him themselves? Which dinner guest does Esther remember favorably, and what do we already know of him? (the surgeon who had been summoned after "Nemo"'s death)
Who has begun to stalk Esther, and what may be his motive? (Mr. Guppy, possibly infatuated but also may see her as a future heir)
Chapter 14: Deportment
What false expectations does Richard cherish about the lawsuit? What relationship do Ada and Richard hope to have with Esther? (want her to live with them)
When Caddy Jellyby visits, what tale of woe does she relate? (her mother wishes her to marry a fellow religionist, but she has become secretly engaged to Prince Turveydrop) What favor does she ask of Esther? (that the latter accompany her to meet the Turveydrops) What are we to make of Mr. Turveydrop senior? (proud of his deportment)
On their way home, whom do they visit, and what knowledge results from this? (Miss Flite tells them of the death of her fellow lodger) Who is also visiting? (Mr. Jarndyce and Ada, also Woodcourt) What odd behaviors does Krook reveal? (apparently has a secret he wants to reveal; the reader will later realize that he has found the missing will) What prevent him from further disclosures? (Mr. Jarndyce wants to leave)
What odd connection with Mr. Guppy does Miss Flite reveal? (he has been giving her money) What can the reader make of this? Also what hints of Esther's emotions toward Woodcourt are dropped? (she mentions him, then says Ada has been teasing her about something)
Chapter 15: Bell Yard
In London, what sanctimonious do-gooders annoy Mr. Jardyce, and how does he express this? (Mr. Quayle, Mrs. Pardiggle, and Mr. Gusher prompt him to complain about the direction of the wind)
When Mr. Skimpole visits them in London, what account does he give of his latest problems? (doctor and butcher demand payment; a debt collector has taken possession of his house) What does Mr. Jarndyce offer to do, and what complications does this cause? (to seek out the home of Skimpole's former debt collector, Neckett, in Bell Yard)
What shocking situation do they find in Bell Yard? (three children are left without a parent) How have they been able to survive? (the landlady has permitted them to stay on free of charge, and a neighbor, Mr. Gridley, has helped them)
What situation has beaten down Mr. Gridley? (he has been involved in a lawsuit which has declined into a quarrel about costs)
Chapter 16 Tom-All-Alone's
What theme is suggested to the author by the differences between the Dedlocks and Jo? (all may share some connection) What are Jo's circumstances? (belongs nowhere, seeks money to return to Tom-All-Alone's)
What woman does Mr. Tulkinghorn notice as she passes his office? (Lady Dedlock) What does she ask of Jo? (that he take her to places associated with the dead lodger, including his place of burial) What does she give him in return? (a gold coin--that is, a sovereign)
How does she behave toward him? (demands that he stand apart from her to avoid infection)
In what environment has Nemo been buried?
What does Lady Dedlock do with her evening? (attends parties) According to Mrs. Rouncewell, what change occurs in the footsteps on the Ghost's Walk? By what logic do we assume that Lady Dedlock will be doomed to repeat the fate of the house's seventeenth-century inhabitant?
Chapter 17: Esther's Narrative
How is Richard adapting to his new occupation of medical assistant? (isn't very interested in the work) How do we know this? (Mr. and Mrs. Badger visit and remark that he has chosen the wrong profession) What do Ada and Esther encourage him to do? (choose another line of work)
What does Richard decide on and with whom does he apprentice? (law with Mr. Kenge, Mr. Jarndyce's lawyer) Does Mr. Jarndyce seem hopeful about the change, and is this significant? (no, and we know he's always right)
What new change occurs in Esther? (can't sleep) What do we realize about her reliability as a narrator? (like the others, she keeps secrets) In their nighttime talk what does Mr. Jarndyce tell her about her past? (he has been asked to take her by her aunt)
Why hasn't he told her this before? Does he know the name of her aunt? What new information has Esther gleaned from this conversation? (confirms that the woman called her "godmother" had really been her aunt)
What do we infer from the fact that Mr. Jarndyce isn't happy to be called Esther's father?
Where is Mr. Woodcourt going, and what are his motives? (needs to earn money in China and India) What is his age? (he is seven years older than she)
When Mrs. Woodcourt visits, what views does she hold on what would be a desirable marriage for her son? (hopes he will marry a titled Anglo-Indian woman) Are these views realistic? Why does she express them in this context? (doesn't like the idea of Esther as a daughter-in-law)
What gift does Caddy convey to Esther? Who had left them for her and where? (Allan Woodcourt had left them with Miss Flite as a gift for her) Why hasn't he brought them himself?
Chapter 18: Lady Dedlock
How does Richard behave in his new apprenticeship in London? (overspends) What prompts Ada, Esther, Mr. Jarndyce and Mr. Skimpole to visit Mr. Boythorn in Lincolnshire?
What neighbor's property has Mr. Boythorn sworn never to set foot on? What is the reader expected to think of this? (both he and Sir Leicester are equally unreasonable)
Whom do they meet in the neighborhood? (Watt, Mrs. Rouncewell's grandson) In the neighborhood church? (Rosa, Mrs. Rouncewell, and the angry Hortense) How does Esther respond upon seeing Lady Dedlock? (feels she is seeing her double; is agitated)
When they shelter in a groundskeeper's lodge, what voice do they hear, and what reaction does this prompt? (Esther is startled by Lady Dedlock's voice because it seems like her own; Ada believes Esther has spoken)
How does Lady Dedlock respond on meeting Esther? (turns away) What strange question does she ask Mr. Jarndyce, and what account does she give of their relationship? (had he met her sister; they have since parted ways) What seems revealed by this conversation? (Lady Dedlock doesn't know that her sister is dead)
What awkward incident occurs when a carriage arrives for Lady Dedlock? (after Lady Dedlock enters the carriage, she and Rosa drive away and Hortense is forced to follow on foot) What does this seem to show? (thoughtlessness; one person could have sat on another, etc.)
Chapter 19: Moving On
Who attends the dinner held by Mr. Snagsby the law stationer? What are Mr. Chadband's peculiar traits? (lectures incessantly) Who enters with Jo, and why has he been arrested? (constable has arrested him for being homeless, he won't leave Tom-All-Alone's) Who drops in? (Mr. Guppy, a law apprentice)
What information does Jo reveal, and who finds it especially interesting? (he says a woman had given him money to take her to the burial place of the dead man; Mr. Guppy asks leading questions) What do we think may be Mr. Guppy's motives?
What startling information does Mrs. Chadband reveal? (she had known the law office of Kenge and Carboy because she been a caretaker for the orphaned Esther Summerson) What can Mr. Guppy tell her in return? (Esther is in London)
What is Mr. Chadband's response to the orphaned Jo? (lectures him on adapting to his poverty)
Chapter 20: A New Lodger
Who is this new lodger? What do we learn about Mr. Guppy's character from his response to Richard? (jealous, paranoid) Are any of his judgments correct? (he knows that Richard will harm himself by reading obsessively about Jarndyce and Jarndyce)
What are the traits of fellow law office clerk Smallweed? (one of the "good" characters) What do you make of his name? How are the characters of Jobling, Guppy and Smallweed revealed as they talk over dinner?
What does Mr. Guppy suggest about his connection to the Snagsbys and to Miss Flite? (has been giving money to the latter) What lodging does he suggest for Mr. Jobling? (Mr. Krook's dwelling) Does this suggest ominous precedents?
How will the recently introduced characters--Smallweed and his grandfather, Mr. Guppy and George--be related to the central plot? (issues of debt, predatory financial dealings, solidarity)
Chapter 21: The Smallweed Family
With whom does young Smallweed live? (his grandparents and sister Judy) What are some traits of the grandfather? (stingy, bickering, crass) How is the maid Charley treated?
Who is George, and what prompts him to visit the Smallweed family? (needs to pay a debt) How do we know that George is responsible? (doesn't want to take money from relatives)
What information does he reveal about Captain Hawdon? (he had owed money to Grandfather Smallweed before he died; could have committed suicide or been murdered)
Whom does he encounter when he goes to George's Shooting Gallery? (Phil, his fellow ex-soldier and a man who has suffered accidents)
Chapter 22: Mr. Bucket
Why are Mr. Tulkinghorn, Snagsby, and Mr. Bucket gathered in Mr. Tulkinghorn's room? (eager to learn from Jo who has been seeking information from him)
Who is Mr. Bucket, and what function does he serve in the narrative? Why is Mr. Bucket interested in the case? (apparently paid by Mr. Tulkinghorn; the dead lodger, Captain Hawdon, may have been entitled to some money and the woman Jo encountered may also have been seeking it) Is he correct? (Lady Dedlock's motives are different)
What are some unusual or surprising search methods which he uses to make discoveries? What do these add to the plot? Does he remind you of an early version of Sherlock Holmes?
What scenes do they encounter at Tom-all-Alone's? They go with Jo to Mr. Tulkinghorn's rooms, where on approaching Jo thinks he sees the woman who had previously visited, who is identically dressed. Is she the same woman, and if not, how does he know? (The person he had seen previously had smaller, whiter hands.) Who is this woman, and what is the purpose of her visit? (This woman is Hortense, who has come to ask Tulkinghorn to help her find employment, which it seems he had promised to do.)
At this point what do we know about the Dedlock/Tulkinghorn secrets? (Lady Dedlock had attempted to visit her former lover's grave; Hortense has been associated with Mr. Tulkinghorn, perhaps to gather information; and Mr. Tulkinghorn has been interfering in Lady Dedlock's affairs)
What seem to be Tulkinghorn's motives is causing discomfort to Lady Dedlock? If he were seeking to protect Sir Leicester's interests, as he claims, would driving his wife to despair over a many-years past affair seem a likely means to this ends?
How has Mrs. Snagsby responded to her husband's absence? (has called police to report him missing) Why do you think this incident has been added? (parody of the general atmosphere of surveillance, suspicion, guilt, and paranoia)
Chapter 23: Esther's Narrative
With what is Esther preoccupied during her visit to Boythorn's estate? (whether she would see Lady Dedlock) What does Hortense ask of Esther, and why does Esther refuse? What are we supposed to think may be Hortense's motive? (wants to spy or intervene)
What troubling news does Richard bring when he visits? (is in debt, feels adrift)
Why do you think middle-class Victorians felt so strongly about the evils of indebtedness?
What news does Caddy bring about her forthcoming marriage? What does her choice of husband reveal about her attitude towards her mother's lifestyle? (in marrying a dancing master chooses someone entirely different than her own family)
What does she request of Esther? (that she accompany the young couple when they tell their news to their parents) Why do you think this arrangement was included? (Esther will be able to recount their interviews directly)
How does each parent respond? (Mr. Turveydrop expects to live off them; Mrs. Jellyby pays little heed)
Who becomes Esther's servant, and how has this come about? (Mr. Jarndyce has kindly hired Charley to help Esther)
Chapter 24: An Appeal Case
How does Mr. Jarndyce respond to Richard's confession that he is in debt and wishes to join the army? (asserts that it is better to die than to be involved in Jarndyce suit) What does he demand of the young couple? (that they break off their engagement)
When they all travel to London, who visits their lodging? How does George react to Esther? (asks if he has seen her before) Why does he think this? (she resembles her mother Lady Dedlock) Does the near-identity between Esther and her mother seem plausible? (Esther is so much younger that it's unlikely they could be confused)
What account does he give of a former Chancery suitor, Mr. Gridley? (had been so violent at George's Shooting Gallery that he was asked to leave) What has happened to Gridley? (is now hiding, and we later learn he is at George's Gallery)
Esther and Richard attend the court to observe the latest hearing. Nothing progresses, but a Mrs. Chadband introduces herself as the former Rachel, the maid at Esther's "godmother"'s (aunt's) house. What may account for her presence in court? (she too may be involved in the suit, since she inherited from Lady Dedlock's sister)
What favor does Mr. Gridley ask? (he wants to talk with Miss Flite) What would seem to be his motive? (one would expect it to be financial, but in the event it seems they are friends) How is Esther involved? (goes with George and Miss Flite to the Shooting Gallery) How does Mr. Bucket discover Mr. Gridley's location? (through a skylight)
On what grounds has Bucket sought to arrest Mr. Gridley? Under what circumstances does Mr. Gridley die? (feels despair) Does this seem a bad omen for the other claimants? (Richard too will die of the effects of postponed hopes.)
Chapter 25: Mrs. Snagsby Sees it All
What recent events and circumstances cause Mr. Snagsby unease? (feels he has been involved with Mr. Tulkinghorn and Bucket in some sinister secret)
What motivates Mr. Chadband to invite Jo to Cook's Court? (seeks to impart moral improvement) What does Mrs. Snagsby make of the meeting between Snagsby, Jo, the Chadbands, and others? (thinks Jo must be Mr. Snagsby's son)
Why does Mr. Snagsby give Jo a half-sovereign? What does the reader expect will result from this?
What role does the figure of Jo serve in the novel?
What purpose is served by the chronicle of Mrs. Snagsby's amusing mistakes? (parody of the detection plot)
Chapter 26: Sharpshooters
What new information do we gain from hearing the conversation between George and Phil in the shooting gallery? (George had rescued Phil, his fellow veteran, from the street; although George's mother is alive he doesn't wish to speak of her)
When Grandfather Smallweed visits the Shooting Gallery, what prompts his concern with the Gallery's safety practices? (George still owes him money)
Who does he claim is his legal contact in the city, and with whom is the latter dealing? (Richard is his contact, and has been involved with Grimsby) What does this suggest? (Richard had deceived or in other ways harmed Grimsby, or the reverse.) What interest does Grandfather Smallweed take in Richard? (may be able to exploit him further)
Do we know how George came to be associated with this evil and conniving old man? (owes him money)
What bombshell concerning Captain Hawdon does Grandfather Smallweed now drop? (he believes Hawdon may not be dead; also a lawyer has been asking for samples of his handwriting) Why would he suspect that George might have copies of the handwriting? (they were soldiers together) Does George offer to provide these? (no; he dislikes Smallweed) What will he do instead? (visit Mr. Tulkinghorn)
What can we infer about George's character from all this? Is he aptly named? (George patron saint of England)
Chapter 27: More Soldiers than One
They visit Tulkinghorn's rooms, where George sees that Sir Leicester Dedlock is also his client. Why does George refuse Mr. Tulkinghorn's offers to compensate him for copies of Hawdon's handwriting? (Mr. Tulkinghorn won't indicate the purpose for which these are wanted) What makes Smallweed and Tulkinghorn assume that George does possess such documents? (Smallweed has seen him slip some paper with handwriting into his pocket.)
What secret are they trying to extract? (want to know if Hawdon is Esther's father)
With whom does George eat dinner? (the Bagnet family; Mr. Bagnet is a former army friend) What is the Bagnets' occupation? What advice regarding the handwriting matter do they give? What does this indicate? (good people avoid entraping themselves in the machinations of lawyers; those who had cared about Captain Hawdon wish to protect his memory from evil uses)
Why does George return to Tulkinghorn's rooms, and what does the latter ask him? (had Gridley died in his shooting gallery?) Why does he want to know?
What accusations does Mr. Tulkinghorn make against the dead man? What does the reader infer from these opinions? (he had wronged Gridley)
What seems Mr. Tulkinghorn's role in all this?
Chapter 28: The Ironmaster
Who is Volumnia Dedlock? (one of Sir Leicester's poor relations staying at Chesney Wold) What do you make of her name? How do Sir Leicester's dependent relatives respond to Lady Dedlock? (admire her)
Who is the "ironmaster"? Is is probable that a housekeeper's son would become an industrialist, or be invited to run for Parliament? (wouldn't he have supported his mother so that she didn't need a housekeeper's salary?) Why do you think Dickens makes these connections? (it fits into his social commentary; the industrialists are overtaking the landed gentry)
Who do we suspect might be this unnamed son? How does Mr. Rouncewell respond to the desire of his son to marry Rosa, Lady Dedlock's protege and maid? (wants her to be educated and to leave Lady Dedlock's employ)
By the lights of the time, was this reasonable? Why does Sir Leicester object? (he has provided for Rosa's schooling) What final determination does the father make? (wishes to break up engagement)
What does Rosa tell Lady Dedlock about her love affair? (loves Mr. Rouncewell Jr., Mrs. Rouncewell's grandson) What does Lady Dedlock urge her to do? (stay at Chesney Wold) Would this have been to Rosa's advantage? (probably not; Mr. Rouncewell is above her in station and she loves him)
Chapter 29: The Young Man
When Mr. Guppy visits the Dedlocks, what does he reveal? (has noticed strong resemblance between Esther Summerson and Lady Dedlock's portrait) What is his motive? (hopes to establish relationship between Esther and Lady Dedlock to connect her with Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit)
Who does he reveal had been Esther's guardian before Mr. Jarndyce, and why is this important information? (Miss Barbary was Lady Dedlock's sister)
What further information does he reveal? (Miss Barbary had told Esther that her name was Esther Hawdon; the lodger at Mr. Krook's had been named Hawdon) How does Lady Dedlock respond? (pretends disinterest) What has Hawdon left behind, and what does Guppy offer? (letters, which he will obtain and bring to her if these concern Lady Dedlock)
What seems Guppy's motive in all of this? What does Lady Dedlock now realize? (her sister had lied in telling her that her daughter was dead)
Chapter 30: Esther's Narrative
What has apparently motivated Mrs. Woodcourt's visit to Bleak House, and why does Esther find her annoying? What does she say about her son's marriage prospects, and what alternate marital fate does she predict for Esther? To what is she alluding? (hopes Esther will marry Mr. Jarndyce) Does Esther wish for Mrs. Woodcourt's goodwill? (yes, a future mother-in-law)
How does Esther help Caddy Jellyby prepare for marriage? (she visits to learn housekeeping; Esther visits her home to persuade Mrs. Jellyby to prepare a dress for the wedding) What advice born of experience does Mr. Jellyby give his daughter? (never have a mission)
At the wedding, what remark on women's roles is made by Miss Wisk? (doesn't believe women belong only in domestic roles) Is this a feminist view? How is it undercut by the narrative? (Esther notes that no one with a mission cares for that of others; not necessarily true, of course)
Chapter 31: Nurse and Patient
What test of character does Mr. Skimpole fail? (wants to send the infected Jo away, presumably to his death) Was he correct that Jo's presence was dangerous? (smallpox could be fatal)
What concatenation of events causes Esther to contract smallpox? (cares for Charley, who has contracted smallpox from Jo) Was smallpox a major problem in Britain at the time? (yes, and there had been recently a major epidemic)
Are there symbolic reasons why her illness might occur at this place in the plot? (her parentage revealed--a flawed parentage--and moreover she is suffering from anxiety about Allan Woodcourt)
What symbolism inheres in the fact that Jo is the cause of illness to those of a higher class? (interconnectedness of wealth and poverty)
Chapter 32: The Appointed Time
To what does the chapter title refer? What new name does Mr. Jobling now have? (Mr. Weevle) What seems to be its purport? Who first visits, and what does he find strange? (Mr. Snagsby notes that both the deceased and Mr. Weevle are copyists for him)
After Snagsby leaves, who enters and with what purpose? (Mr. Guppy has come for the letters) Whose portrait does he find on the wall? (Lady Dedlock's) From whom are they expecting to receive the letters? Is the timing of their appointment with Mr. Krook significant? What ominous signs do the men experience? (burning wax without cause)
What do the men find of the remains of Mr. Krook? How has he died and how do they react? Why did Dickens include this incident? Is it well told? What symbolism is embodied in the fact that the letters have disappeared? (empty signifier, secrets which would prove inheritance have seemingly died with Hawdon--however there is a mysterious trace)
Is the reader certain that the letters no longer exist, or does some doubt remain to add suspense? What do we assume may be their contents?
What has been Mr. Krook's symbolic role in the novel? (figure of evil and pure greed) What changes might we expect after his startling demise? (plot will start to tighten)
Chapter 33: Interlopers
Who gathers to hear the accounts of Mr. Krook's death from Weevle and Guppy? (Miss Flite, the Snagsbys, and others) What does Guppy want Weevle to do, and why does he refuse? (too frightened to stay in the room after such a gruesome death)
Who suddenly appears and claims a relationship with the combusted? (Grandfather Smallweed) Why has he come on hearing of his brother's death? (concerned for his property) Is there any significance to the fact that his lawyer is Mr. Tulkinghorn? (evil characters seem to band together)
Who does Mr. Guppy meet as he reports the loss of the letters to Lady Dedlock? (Tulkinghorn) What seems to be the relationship between Lady Dedlock and Mr. Tulkinghorn? (she is frightened of him; he suspects her of some concealment) What do we think may be his motive for caring about her illegitimate child?
Chapter 34: A Turn of the Screw
What debt owed to him does George decline to collect, and why? (The Bagnets owe a debt, but it may be that they borrowed from Smallweed to provide money for George's purhcase of a shooting gallery)
Who pressures George to collect the debt? What response does Grandfather Smallweed make when George and Mr. Bagnet visit him to explain that the Bagnets have no money for repayment? (Smallweed becomes enraged and smashes the pipe, symbolic of harmony after payment, to the floor.) What does he threaten? (to destroy George financially, and we later see he will do this by demanding instant repayment of his entire debt)
What is the significance of the fact that Mrs. Rouncewell appears at Tulkinghorn's office when George is there? What does George offer to Mr. Tulkinghorn in return for cancelling the Bagnets' debt? (will give him a letter sent to him by Captain Hawdon) What will we later learn is important about this letter? (contained instructions for contacting Lady Dedlock--that he had tried to reach her indicates his faithfulness)
What advice does George give to the Bagnets' son Woolwich? (value your mother so as not to bring her grief) What has apparently prompted this train of thought? (he has just seen his mother, to whom he has caused sorrow) Does his memory of callousness seem consistent with his present good character?
Chapter 35: Esther's Narrative
As Esther recovers, what does she notice about her room? (no mirror) What news does Mr. Jarndyce give when he visits? (Richard and he have quarreled over Richard's suspicion that Mr. Jarndyce is an opponent in the suit)
What causes Esther's return to Boythorn's house? (desires to be in country) Who visits her there? (Miss Flite) When Jenny reports that a visitor has taken a handkerchief which belonted to Esther, whom do the women think was the likely visitor? (Miss Flite thinks it is the lord chancellor's wife; Esther thinks it is Caddy Jellyby) Who does the reader assume may have wished the handkerchief? (Lady Dedlock)
Who has been Miss Flite's doctor? (Allan Woodcourt) What has caused his return to England? What is Esther's response to the news? (she is glad that he hadn't declared his love, since he would surely not love her now) What does this reveal about the nature of Esther's love? Why has she waited until this point in the story to declare her feelings openly?
Is her manner of informing us consistent with the claim that she is narrating her life story 7 years after the events described? Is it possible to maintain suspense and use a retrospective narrator at the same time?
Chapter 36: Chesney Wold
What are Esther's sensations on seeing herself in a mirror while at Mr. Boyton's home?
When roaming outdoors, whom does Esther meet, and what information does she impart? (Lady Dedlock tells her she is her mother) Why does she state that this secret cannot be revealed? (for Sir Leicester's sake) What does Lady Dedlock fear? (that Mr. Tulkinghorn will reveal her secret)
What does Lady Dedlock give Esther? (a letter) Why doesn't Esther reveal its contents?
Is the reunion between Ada and Esther a happy one? (yes, Ada doesn't seem offended by her appearance--we note that perhaps Esther has exaggerated the effects of her smallpox)
Chapter 37: Jarndyce and Jarndyce
What are Richard's preoccupations during his army leave? Who apparently approves of his concern with the legal case? (Mr. Skimpole) What may be the latter's motive? (wishes to profit from him? or simple bad moral judgment?)
To whom has Mr. Skimpole introduced Richard, and for what purpose? (Mr. Vholes has given Skimpole money) What is the reader expected to deduce from this news? (Mr. Vholes has an ulterior motive) Is his name propitious?
What point is made by presenting Vholes's excuse for his bad behavior as the need to support his aged father and daughters? (rationalization of evil)
What response does Ada have to Richard's degeneration? (she will love him no matter what) Is this a proper Victorian woman's response?
Chapter 38: A Struggle
To what does the chapter title refer?
Whom does Esther visit and what new career is she learning to undertake? (Caddy is practicing to be a dance instructor) Would her mother consider this a suitable occupation? Who visits them regularly, and why? (Mr. Jellyby wants to get away from home)
When Esther and Caddy visit Mr. Guppy, what ungallant insinuations does he make? (he won't renew his proposal--she hasn't asked him) What does she wish to ask of him? (that he cease to investigate her background) Why do you think she does this? (knows Lady Dedlock is her mother and wishes no one to know) Does he agree? (yes)
Chapter 39: Attorney and Client
What are Mr. Vholes' views on British law? (should make business for itself) Of what does he attempt to persuade Richard? (they will win the suit)
What observations does Mr. Guppy make on Richard's life? (he is in debt through his obsession with the suit) Whom does Mr. Guppy ask about the fate of the letters which had been in the possession of the dead lodger in Krook's house? (Mr. Weevle) What seems to be indicated by Mr. Weevle's name?
Whom do they meet at Mr. Krook's old shop, and what is his motive for being there? (Grandfather Smallweed has also been looking through the contents) When they visit Mr. Weevel's lodging, who appears? (Mr. Tulkinghorn) Does this seem odd? On what does Mr. Tulkinghorn congratulate Mr. Guppy, and what are his motives? (he has been visiting with Lady Dedlock--Tulkinghorn desires to learn any secrets)
Chapter 40: National and Domestic
What seems the condition of England? Of Chesney Wold? How is Lady Dedlock faring? (seems unwell) What is the social atmosphere of the estate? (constant guests)
What seem to be Sir Leicester's political views? What split does he notice? (people and government opposed) What recent events in England might have prompted this observation? (Chartist movement of 30's and 40's) Is there a symbolism to the fact that he loses an election to Parliament?
Who conveys this message? Who has been his opponent, and how is this significant? (Mrs. Rouncewell's son, an industrialist, has run against him; the social structure of England is changing in favor of industrial wealth)
How does Sir Leicester respond to the news that his opponent's son wishes to marry his wife's servant? (wants Rosa to avoid her suitor) What attitudes does this reveal? What retort does Mr. Tulkinghorn make? (most likely the industrialist family will consider themselves above Rosa)
What story of the past does Mr. Tulkinghorn tell the Dedlocks? (someone of similar standing as Mr. Rouncewell had an illegimate child and when her secret was discovered the townsman forbade his daughter to spend more time with her) Why does Tulkinghorn ask pardon for the painfulness of the story? (emphasizes its relevance to Lady Dedlock)
What threat has his story contained? (she will lose Rosa and be shamed) Do you think this is likely? (exaggerates effect on servant's reputation of an employer's deed twenty years previous)
Chapter 41: In Mr. Tulkinghorn's Room
What emotions does Mr. Tulkinghorn feel after he has cornered Lady Dedlock? (satisfaction) Why does she come to visit him in his room? (wants to tell him that she knows Rosa would be hurt by the scandal were it to be known)
Does it seem strange that she is so eager to confide in him?
Is it plausible that people would blame a maid for her employer's behavior? (seems far-fetched) Why does Dickens include this claim? (shows Lady Dedlock's attachment to someone she sees as a daughter surrogate)
What does Mr. Tulkinghorn tell her is his motive in pursuing her? (aims to protect Sir Leicester) Does revealing his wife's secrets seem a way to help Sir Leicester? What seem to be Mr. Tulkinghorn's actual motives?
What does he fear Lady Dedlock will do? (commit suicide) Why would he not wish this? What does he advise her to do? (keep her secret to herself--what of course would have happened had he not interfered)
Chapter 42: In Mr. Tulkinghorn's Chambers
What do we infer about the painting on the ceiling of Mr. Tulkinghorn's chambers? (the Roman represents justice) What motivates Hortense's visit and why is she angry? What does she demand, and what does she offer to do? (wants employment, is eager to find out more secrets about Lady Dedlock)
Why does Mr. Tulkinghorn reject her offer? What does she reveal she has done for him in the past? (has brought to him the clothing Lady Dedlock used for a disguise; has interviewed Jo to seek information)
How does he respond to her importunities, and what is her response? (threatens her with prison; she is enraged) What does the reader think may happen as she exits? (either something will happen to her or she will commit a crime)
Chapter 43: Esther's Narrative
What response does Esther have after her visit with Lady Dedlock? (can't avoid thinking about her)
What part does Skimpole now have in Richard's life? (encourages him in his suit; extracts money from him) What excuse does he give for taking money from someone who has none? (pretends not to know that Richard isn't rich)
What do we learn about Skimpole's family situation? (has a wife and three daughters) How does this affect the reader's view of him? (is irresponsible in not attempting to work for his family's support)
What statement by Esther is intended to increase the reader's suspense? (says something interesting will occur by the end of the day) Does the reader have any suspicion of what the "something interesting" may be?
Who now visits Bleak House and on what mission? (Sir Leicester wishes better relations) Is this an important plot element?
When Esther tells Mr. Jarndyce what she has learned of her mother's identity, what further information does he give her? (He doesn't know why the sisters had separated, but he tells her that Lady Dedlock's sister had been engaged to Mr. Boythorn, and as a result of the sisters' quarrel she deserted him, leaving him permanently unhappy.)
How does Esther respond to this news? Is her response entirely rational? (blames herself; feels gratitude to Mr. Jarndyce)
Chapter 44: The Letter and the Answer
What new information does Esther give Mr. Jarndyce? (Lady Dedlock's sister had been her caretaker) Why hadn't he known this before?
What is the content of the letter which Mr. Jarndyce gives Esther? Why does he send his proposal by letter?
What promise does he give her? (their relationship will not change) Is this a surprising promise? What does it seem to suggest? (thinks she may refuse?)
Are there factors which might make their marriage seem unlikely? (he's much older and it had been a guardian-daughter relationship)
Does his proposal entirely surprise her? How does she respond to it? (claims to be happy but cries) What symbolic act of destruction does she perform? (burns flowers from Mr. Woodcourt)
Is it significant that she waits a few days before accepting?
Chapter 45: In Trust
Does Esther's position in Bleak House seem to have substantially changed as a result of the engagement?
What prompts Mr. Vholes to visit Bleak House, at least according to his own claims? (wants to alert them to Richard's problems with debt, will advance no more money) Why has Richard joined the army? (to raise money)
When Esther and Charley visit Richard at his place of deployment, what does Esther learn? (Richard has left his commission) What has prompted Richard to leave his post? (unable to concentrate on his duties)
What offer does Ada make to him? (offers him her small inheritance) What is his response? (declines, but is angry at Mr. Jarndyce)
What unexpected scene does Esther encounter on her way home? (ship lands with Mr. Woodcourt) What is her response, and what motivates this? (rushes away) How does she later communicate with him? (writes to tell him she is there)
What does she believe is his reaction to her changed appearance? (feels pity) What does she ask him to do on Richard's behalf? (to befriend him in London)
Chapter 46: Stop Him!
As we move to Tom-All-Alone's, what does the narrator claim is its importance to the wider world? (though people discuss how to help the poor, nothing is done, and in the meantime this district will contaminate all others) Is it true that Tom-All-Alone's will contaminate persons who live elsewhere?
When Mr. Woodcourt visits, what kind act does he perform? (bandages head of woman with baby) Who is the woman he encounters? (Jenny, with Liz's baby) Where have we met her before? (in cottage visited by Mrs. Pardiggle and later Esther and Caddy)
Under what circumstances does he encounter Jo? (is running away from a woman) What does the woman who had been chasing Jo tell Woodcourt? (Jo had left the woman who had cared for him in his sickness, and she later contracted his sickness and lost her appearance) What information does this provide Woodcourt? (he realizes that Esther had risked her life to help a poor child)
What does Jo tell Woodcourt had been his reason for leaving Bleak House? (a man has taken him away and given him money) Do we suspect who this man may be? (Inspector Bucket)
What does Woodcourt discover to be Jo's medical condition? (very sick) What recent news does Jo tell Woodcourt? (has led a veiled woman to the graveyard) With which old friend do they meet up? (Miss Flite), and what does she suggest as a possible hiding place for Jo? (George's Shooting Gallery)
Why do you think Inspector Bucket would have intervened to take Jo from Bleak House? (he had taken him to see Mr. Tulkinghorn) What does he later claim has been his motive? Is this claim consistent with his actual actions? (claims this was to prevent him from spreading what he knows about Lady Dedlock--clearly contrary to what he actually does here)
Chapter 47: Jo's Will
How does George respond to the visit from Woodcourt and Jo? (takes Jo in, introduces him to Phil) What is George's opinion of Tulkinghorn? (he's evil)
When Woodcourt visits Snagsby to find out more information about Jo, what does the latter complain of? (he is always getting involved in other people's secrets)
Why does he not wish to discuss Jo? (has been instructed not to do so--do we suspect who has told him to be quiet?) When Snagsby visits him, what touching request does Jo make? (that Mr. Snagsby record past events so that others will know that he hadn't intended to cause harm)
What occurs during Woodcourt's next visit to see Jo? (the latter dies)
Chapter 48: Closing In
What action does Lady Dedlock take to protect her servant? (dismisses her) Does Rosa wish to leave, and what is shown by this? (she wishes to stay with her mistress, thus indicating that Lady Dedlock can inspire devotion)
With whom does Rosa finally leave? (Mr. Rouncewell) Is this appropriate? (he is the father of her lover and her future father-in-law)
How does Tulkinghorn react to her action? (angry, feels dismissing Rosa will raise suspicions) Does this seem a rational response? (unlikely that anyone would suspect her motive--even Rosa doesn't)
What threat does he hold over Lady Dedlock? (intends to tell her husband but won't say when) What does he not intend to tell her? (won't tell her what he will do)
While Lady Dedlock is walking in the garden that night, what noise is heard? (gunshot) What shocking event has happened? (Mr. Tulkinghorn has been shot)
Who do we think may be suspected? Is it an unhappy coincidence that she has just dismissed her maid, an act which in retrospect might seem suspicious?
Chapter 49: Dutiful Friendship
On what occasion does George visit the Bagnet family? (Mrs. Bagnet's birthday celebration) Who else enters, and how does he behave during the festivities? (Mr. Bucket is jovial and friendly to all; walks out with George with locked arms)
What sudden and shocking reversal occurs? (he arrests George for the murder of Tulkinghorn) What circumstantial evidence would make George seem the murderer? (he had visited the previous night, and Tulkinghorn's words regarding Gridley are mistakenly applied to George)
What makes this arrest particularly surprising? (both George and Mr. Bucket have been presented as good people)
Chapter 50: Esther's Narrative
What prompts Esther's move to London? (must visit Caddy during her illness and so Mr. Jarndyce suggests the move) What practical result does this have for her relationship with Allan Woodcourt? (she seems him every day)
Why has she delayed to tell Ada of her upcoming engagement? What change in Ada's behavior concerns Esther, and how does the latter interpret this? (seems less warm; Esther thinks she may disapprove of the marriage)
What do we later learn has caused this change? (Ada is preoccupied with the fact that she has secretly married Richard.)
What opinion of Mr. Woodcourt does Mr. Jarndyce express to Esther? (wishes he could benefit him--as he will--and fears Woodcourt may have suffered a disappointment)
Chapter 51: Enlightened
What does Mr. Woodcourt do on reaching London? (seeks out Richard, as he has promised Esther) What account of his own role in Richard's life is given by Mr. Vholes? (claims to be attempting to serve Richard)
What account of himself does Richard give Mr. Woodcourt when they meet? (seems listless, claims to be attempting to help Ada by focusing on the court case)
When Esther and Ada later visit, what does Ada confess? (she has married Richard) How does Esther react? (misses Ada and Richard) When she tells the news to Mr. Jarndyce, what regrets do they share? (are sorry that Bleak House is becoming empty--later of course Esther and Allan will live in the newly formed Bleak House II with their children)
What do you make of the fact that Esther assures Mr. Jarndyce that their relationship won't change? Would such a promise be expected? (in a marriage, one would expect romance rather than mere friendly gratitude) Does she keep her promise?
Chapter 52: Obstinacy
Who brings the news of George's arrest to Mr. Jarndyce and Esther? (Mr. Woodcourt) What is their reaction? (find it hard to believe that George would commit murder; they go to visit him in prison)
Why does George at first refuse to employ a lawyer? What does he seem to believe of lawyers? (even though the lawyer would pretend to defend George, he would believe him guilty) Who also visits the prison and finally convinces him? (Mrs. Bagnet)
Will the issue of his lawyer continue to be relevant?
What unexpected reaction to Esther does George mention? (has seen woman on stairs of Mr. Tulkinghorn's office who resembles her) Whom do we infer he has seen instead? Is it probable that Esther and her mother should seem so similar?
What new information about George's family does Mrs. Bagnet reveal? (he has a family in Lincolnshire, including a mother) Do we understand how she has come to know this?
Chapter 53: The Track
Instead of joining the funeral procession in its entirety, what does Mr. Bucket do? (returns to Sir Leicester's home) What does he find at Chesney Wold? (several letters addressed to him purporting to be from Lady Dedlock, but actually from Hortense) What does he do to determine their authorship? (compares with other handwriting)
How has Sir Leicester responded to the death of his lawyer? (very upset) When Lady Dedlock returns, does he ask her about these recent letters? (no, he suspects they are fraudulent) What does he learn from the servant, Mercury, about Lady Dedlock's actions the night of the murder? (had been out walking at night wearing a fringed veil)
To what does the chapter title refer?
Chapter 54: Springing a Mine
What is the significance of the metaphor in the title? What "mine" does Mr. Bucket spring on Sir Leicester? (a woman has murdered Mr. Tulkinghorn)
Who does he imply was this woman, and what had been her motive? (Lady Dedlock had attempted to find out the fate of her former lover, and Mr. Tulkinghorn had tracked down Jo to learn that she had borrowed Hortense's clothing to visit the grave)
What improbable group enters at this point? (Grandfather Smallweed, Mr. and Mrs. Chadband, and Mrs. Snagsby) In Victorian England would they have likely been admitted to Sir Leicester's private room?
What motive prompts their visit? (Grandfather Smallweed wants help in finding his dead brother's money; believes letters which have since disappeared would be worth 500 pounds to him; wants Tulkinghorn's murder further investigated) Is it appropriate that he is revealed to be the brother-in-law of Mr. Krook?
What further information is imparted by Grandfather Smallweed? (has found letters from Captain Hawdon to Honoria--Lady Dedlock--and had looked through them before they were taken to Tulkinghorn)
What does Mr. Bucket promise to Grandfather Smallweed and the attendant company? (will solve mystery) How can he be certain of success?
What information is revealed to Mr. Bucket and Sir Leicester by Mrs. Chadband? (had been caretaker for Esther after Lady Dedlock's sister had claimed the child was dead)
After this motley party leaves, what does Mr. Bucket tell Sir Leicester? (he's going to arrest the guilty party) Whom does he summon, and where has she been? (Hortense has been residing with him) Does it seem probable that a woman about to commit a murder would be living with a detective?
How has Mrs. Bucket aided him in determining Hortense's guilt? (Mrs. Bucket observed Hortense's actions and saw that she was trying to frame Lady Dedlock for the murder) What had Hortense done to evoke suspicion? (wrote letters pretending to be from Lady Dedlock)
Why had Bucket delayed in making the arrest? (wanted to find weapon) How has Mrs. Bucket come to suspect where the weapon was discarded? (Hortense had wanted to go into the countryside for tea near a river and briefly disappeared.) How is the weapon found? (Mr. Bucket drags the river.)
How does Sir Leicester respond to all this? (feels compassion for his wife, falls to floor)
Chapter 55: Flight
How does Mrs. Bagnet know how to find Mrs. Rouncewell? (George has told her his secret) What motivates the two women to return together from Lincolnshire to London? (wish to enable a reunion between mother and son)
What is the tone of the reunion between George and his mother? (she forgives) What secret does he wish withheld? (doesn't wish his brother to know of his predictament) What may motivate this? (doesn't wish financial or other interference)
What is he doing to try to aid his case? (is writing up an account of his relations with Mr. Tulkinghorn)
Why does Mrs. Rouncewell seek out Lady Dedlock, and where does she find her? (in Tulkinghorn's room) What may have prompted Lady Dedlock's presence there? Does she know that George has been arrested for the murder? (Mrs. Rouncewell must tell her)
What request does Mrs. Rouncewell make of Lady Dedlock, and what is contained in the envelope she leaves for her? (asks for assistance, gives her newspaper article with her name and the word "murderess" written underneath)
Why does Mr. Guppy visit at this point? (wants to tell Lady Dedlock that Mr. Tulkinghorn had been investigating her relationship to Esther's past) What news does he provide? (the missing letters from Captain Hawdon have been found) Of what does he wish to assure Lady Dedlock? (he himself is following Esther's desire to leave the matter alone)
What does he suspect have been the motives of the earlier visitors to Chesney Wold? (feels they will wish money in return for the letters retrieved after Krook's death) Is he correct? (the letters have disappeared so Grandfather Smallweed can't ask for money in return for providing them)
What is the point of introducing this Guppy episode? (opens the issue of the missing letters again)
What action does Lady Dedlock take in response to this information? (leaves a note for Sir Leicester and leaves)
Chapter 56: Pursuit
Who finds Sir Leicester sprawled on the floor, and what news do the doctors give him of Lady Dedlock's whereabouts? (she has left without knowing he was sick)
Might events have turned out differently if Lady Dedlock had known of her husband's collapse and continued love?
After Mrs. Rouncewell gives him the letter from his wife, what does he instruct Mr. Bucket to do? (seek Lady Dedlock and assure her of his forgiveness)
What good news can Mr. Bucket now give Mrs. Rouncewell? (George is no longer a suspect)
What clues enable Mr. Bucket to seek Lady Dedlock's whereabouts? (finds handkerchief with Esther's name on it in her drawer) At Bleak House, why does he ask Esther to join him in his search?
What clue does the narrator give of Lady Dedlock's whereabouts? (fleeing near the brick kilns)
Chapter 57: Esther's Narrative
As Esther and Mr. Bucket set off in search of Lady Dedlock, what are some possibilities they explore? (examine a drowned body, return to Bleak House, travel northwards to St. Albans)
What does Mr. Bucket give as his motive for removing Jo from Bleak House? (wanted to protect Lady Dedlock from his sharing information about her visit to the graveyard) Does this seem a good reason for removing a convalescent smallpox victim from his caretakers? Is it consistent with his earlier actions?
Who had given Mr. Bucket information about Jo's whereabouts, and why has he done this? (Mr. Skimpole was bribed for the information) What warning does Mr. Bucket give Esther? (avoid the Skimpoles of this world--hard to tell, of course)
What do they find out when visiting the home of Jenny, Liz, and their husbands? What seems suspicious about the behavior of Liz's husband? Jenny's husband? (Liz's husband kicks her; Jenny's husband says they don't have a watch) Who has left the house? (Jenny)
What does Mr. Bucket infer from all this? (Lady Dedlock has given them her watch; they may have given her something in return--what will we later learn this has been? [Jenny's clothes])
What incidents temporarily impede their search? (Mr. Bucket fears he has lost the trail; Esther faints) What new direction does Mr. Bucket finally suggest? (return to London to follow Jenny)
Chapter 58: A Wintry Day and Night
What has happened to Sir Leicester in the meantime? (still bedridden) What does he ask Mrs. Rouncewell to do? (to prepare Lady Dedlock's room) How do we know the hope of Lady Dedlock's return is futile? (had told Mrs. Rouncewell that the footsteps on Ghost's Walk had "almost walked her down")
Who tends to Sir Leicester? (George, his mother, and Volumnia) After what seems a slight stroke, what message does he wish conveyed to the world? (he harbors no anger toward Lady Dedlock)
What anxiety preoccupies Volumnia? (if Sir Leicester dies she will be left without support)
Chapter 59: Esther's Narrative
How does Bucket glean the information which enables him to find Lady Dedlock? (talks to his informants on the streets) Whom do Esther and Mr. Bucket encounter in London, and what news does he give them? (Mr. Woodcourt, who tells them Richard is deteriorating)
Why does Bucket decide to visit the Snagsby home for clues? (seeks letter from Gusher) What incident delays their obtaining a letter from the Snagsby residence? (servant Guster is weeping)
What gives Bucket authority to lecture Mrs. Snagsby on her suspicious nature? (he is a real detective and thus understands when suspicions are valid)
What are the contents of the letter? (Lady Dedlock had visited Jenny and Liz's cottage, and now hopes to die) Is this important new information? If not, why is it included? (lets the reader know Lady Dedlock's mental state and adds to the suspense)
How had Guster obtained the letter? (had met a strange lady asking the way to the burial ground) Does this seem likely? Does it make psychological sense? (all things converge)
Why does Esther think the woman at the grave is Jenny? (is wearing Jenny's clothes) What causes Mr. Bucket to infer that it is Lady Dedlock? Why has Lady Dedlock chosen to die in disguise?
Chapter 60: Perspective
What seems the symbolic significance of Esther's sickeness at this point? Is it important that Mrs. Woodcourt stays with her?
What relationship do Mr. Jarndyce and Mr. Woodcourt have? (see one another daily) Does this seem a bit unusual?
What reason does Mr. Jarndyce give for their continued stay in London? (wishes to be near Ada and Richard) Do you think he may have additional motives? (is planning home for Allan and Esther)
Why may Esther feel unsettled by Mrs. Woodcourt's continued visit? (we learn later that she is being spied upon, though rather benignly and at Mr. Jarndyce's request)
Is it significant that Esther learns of Woodcourt's plans to remain in England indirectly through Mr. Jarndyce? (he seems to control or at least arrange their relationship)
What does Esther learn during her visits to Ada and Richard? (Richard is declining, and all his money goes to Vholes.) Whom has Miss Flite made her executor, and why? (chooses Richard) Does this seem wise, or does it matter?
What incident makes Esther suspect that Richard has also begun to suspect Vholes? (he overpraises him at dinner)
What allows Esther to recount her experiences as though she was unaware of outcomes? If she had anticipated, how would this have affected the story? (would have removed suspense)
Throughout these final chapters, what new developments lead toward the novel's ending?
Chapter 61: Discovery
On what topics does Esther confront Mr. Skimpole during his visits to Richard and Ada? How does he respond? (eventually leaves) Has Esther improved the situation? (yes, he has been a bad influence)
What "discovery" does Esther make in her conversations with Mr. Woodcourt? (he still loves her, had not pitied her but admired her) What information does she need to tell him? (of her engagement) Has his declaration altered her view of herself? (she claims it will make her feel better)
Chapter 62: Another Discovery
What will be this new "discovery"? (a new will!)
What prompts Mr. Jarndyce to set a time for his marriage to Esther? (Esther asks him if she has been as attentive as usual)
What news about the Jarndyce's will does Mr. Bucket bring to Bleak House? (a new will has been found in Krook's possessions) How is the site appropriate? What further connection with the novel's plot does this suggest? (Captain Hawdon had copied the will)
To whom does Mr. Bucket entrust the new will? Would this be proper? (no, should have been taken to lawyers; Bucket would know better)
What do Esther and Mr. Jarndyce learn when they bring the will to Mr. Kenge? (the will is later than the others and is thus valid) What changes does this new will make? (decreases Mr. Jarndyce's share and gives more to Ada and Richard) When will the case come forward to be resolved? (the month following)
Chapter 63: Steel and Iron
Where does George now take up residence? Whom does he visit, and how is he received? (his brother is glad to see him) What new relatives does he meet? (Watt, his sisters, and his fiancee Rosa)
What does George offer regarding his mother's will, and what motivates this renunciation? (he may feel that his return is a financial loss to his brother, and wish to prevent harm to his family) What is indicated by his brother's refusal? (he's fairminded and generous) Why do you think George doesn't want to join the iron business?
What are the contents of a letter for Esther which George reads to his brother? (had received letter from Hawdon instructing him to contact Honoria; gave it up because he hadn't realized its importance; also hadn't tried to help Hawdon because he didn't know he was alive) Why hadn't he told her this before? (didn't understand her relationship to Lady Dedlock)
Why do you think he is presented as reading the letter rather than simply mailing it? (the reader needs to know its contents)
Chapter 64: Esther's Narrative
Why is the wedding between Esther and Mr. Jarndyce postponed until after the case is next heard in court? (adds to suspense; hope for a kind of closure)
How does Mrs. Woodcourt respond to the news? (seemingly approves) What do we later learn about her reaction? (she had been told that Mr. Jarndyce wouldn't be marrying Esther, but was asked to observe Esther's reaction)
After her arrival, what does Mr. Jarndyce tell Esther he has done, and what is her reaction? (she is asked to fix up a house for Mr. Woodcourt, and cries) Does she claim to be aware of the reason for her sadness? (hopes she is crying from happiness--hard to believe)
What do you make of the fact that this house is also to be named Bleak House?
What revelation does he spring on her? (house is for her and Mr. Woodcourt) How has he learned of Allan Woodcourt's love for Esther?
What has been Mrs. Woodcourt's role in all this? Why hasn't Allan told her himself? Wouldn't it have been better to permit Esther to help name the house?
Chapter 65: Beginning the World
What delays Esther's arrival in court? (talks to Caddy) By the time she arrives, what has transpired? (case is closed; has been expended in legal fees) Who is assigned the task of telling Richard the news, and who tells Mr. Jarndyce? (Allan is deputed to tell Richard and Esther Mr. Jarndyce)
How has Richard collapsed? (had been trying to shout at judge) What desire does Richard express? (wants to see the new Bleak House) Will he obtain it? (no, he dies)
What symbolic news does Miss Flite bring? (she has freed all her birds) What have these been named? (allegorical representations of traits associated with court case)
Chapter 66: Down in Lincolnshire
What has happened to Sir Leicester since his collapse? (still feeble) Who cares for him? (Mrs. Rouncewell and George) Who else remains on the estate? (Volumnia and Phil)
What new relationship does he have with his neighbor Mr. Boythorn? (relations are more cordial as matters wind down)
What seems the general atmosphere of the estate? How do most of the neighbors or guests respond? (are afraid to walk in it alone)
Chapter 67: The Close of Esther's Narrative
To whom does Esther suddenly claim she has been writing her account? Is her proximate audience male or female? What effect does this indirection and uncertainty have on the reader?
What retrospective account of herself does Esther give? (has been married 7 years, has two daughters, Woodcourt a successful doctor) What has happened to Ada, Charley, Charley's siblings Emma and Tom, and Caddy? (successful and a good mother).
What final exchange between Allan and his wife ends the book? Why do you think this incident was chosen? What does it seem to reveal about Esther's judgments and perceptions? (emphasizes her modesty)
Would the Victorian reader have felt more respect for a beautiful heroine?
In your view, is this a good end to the novel? Does the ending provide closure? Which traits are rewarded and which punished?
What are some important ways in which the scenes of the novel are organized?
What are some Victorian assumptions which lie behind the Lady Dedlock/Tulkinghorn/Esther plot?
The novel was divided into serial sections, most three or four chapters long. How do the section endings after chapters 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 29, 32, 35, 38, 42, 46, 49, 53, 56, 59, 63, and 67 create dramatic closure or suspense?
After examining the illustrations to the original edition by Phiz, what do you find to be especially notable images and recurrent themes of these illustrations? Do they help emphasize or intensify the novel's themes?
Does the novel's ending provide closure? Which traits are rewarded and which punished?
How does Dickens construct character names? What is the effect of such names as "Charley" (for an adolescent girl)
What function is served by letters throughout the narrative?
What repeated themes dominate the narrative of Bleak House, and how does Dickens draw them together? (child victimization, lost parentage, melodramatic reunions, debt, parasitism, excessive moralism, non-traditional families, legal corruption, greed, detection, surveillance, indirect messages and messengers, need for class reconciliation and charity, goodness usually triumphs)
What is the effect of presenting the characters as though they could have no effect on the lawsuit? (they could have withdrawn the suit and agreed among themselves; Dickens wants to show the alienation of the law from human agency, sans details which might have drawn the reader in to take sides)
What features of style complement and enliven the narrative? (comic exaggeration, dramatic descriptions)
How are satire and comedy balanced with and/or contribute to the novel's serious themes?
What are some underlying structural features of the novel? (characters mostly good or mostly bad; those in each grouping congregate together and support one another; eventually the good characters combine to produce mostly better outcomes)
Can you see parallels with other British novelis of the late 1840s and 50s? (theme of fallen woman appears in Gaskell's Ruth and Mary Barton as well as Dickens' earlier Oliver Twist; in both Mary Barton and Bleak House the protagonist's father suffers from an addiction)