19th century,  General Fiction

Bleak House – Part V

I found Part V weaker than the previous one, yet, it added to the mystery perfectly.

Part V

14. Deportment

15. Bell Yard

16. Tom-all-Alone’s

Chapter 14 was really boring for me. It recalled a play called The Man of Mode, of an English beau who makes himself acquitained with a French, affeminated wanna-be French. And I hated it, I really did. Ada and Esther are visited by Miss Jellyby who confesses to be tortured under her mother’s African project and has seeked out support outside her family. Basically, and to put it plainly, she is engaged to a young man who is a slave to his own father, a lazy man practicising “deportment” which means that he does not work and leads the life of an aristocrat, more or less. Esther goes to visit Caddy’s fiancé and finds him agreeable, hard-working and devoted. There was nothing really remarkable in this chapter.

Chapter 15 means the return of Mr. Skimpole with his particular ethics and his childish ways. But, he leads us to another subplot: Coavinses has died and left three children. So, the whole group goes to visit them and find Charley, an over-worked 13 year old in charge of her little sibblings, Tom and baby Emma. This story broke my heart. Charley was working so hard to make a living and Tom, not over 10, was dutifully taking care of Emma while they were locked in their only room because Charley was afraid someone would enter. But, things are not as sad as they seem: the lodger does not ask them for a rent and one of the neighbours takes care of Tom and Emma while Charley goes to work. And… that neighbour is also engaged in Chancery! He tells his history to Mr. Jarndyce, which I am sure will later on be revisited. I missed an illustration of the children in this chapter, but maybe their situation was too tough to be depicted. Also, Mr. Jarndyce and the group go to visit them but do not help them… How can it be? But, for what I have seen, they visit a lot of people in-need and cannot help them all. I think Dickens wanted to portray a social reality only visible for those who were surviving it.

Finally, it was Chapter 16 what added to the mystery. Jo, a witness dismissed in the accidental death of our unkown men, becomes the focus of the chapter as he leads a woman who says is a servant (but seems to be a lady and I guess it’s Lady Dedlock) to revisit the whole accidental death: from his house to where his body was laid. What really intrigued me is who was this lady and why she was so interested in the death man. I really can’t tell where the plot is going to lead me, I find myself surprise at every chapter.

Jo showing the servant where the body of the dead man was laid.
Jo showing the servant where the body of the dead man was laid.

As I said before, this was a weak part, with no remarkable quotes. The story of Mr. Coavinses’ children is really good from a social perspective because it redifines childhood for the modern reader. Nowadays no one can imagine a thirteen year-old working to support her younger sibblings who do not attend school and who are kept locked in a room.

You can also read Bleak House for free thanks to Project Gutenberg – Bleak House HTML


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