Having lastly terminated the reading of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (1853) and taken the time to reflect, I’ll share my impression.
Concerning any Dickens novel I’ve read, Bleak House included, the descriptive language proves the most remarkable feature. If you partake in this literature without the taste for the rhetoric, for the imagery, for the allusion, you will severely undermine the appreciation. These factors render the literature great.
The storyline involves several subplots and a vast set of characters from varying economic classes. Especially in the first half of the novel I made significant marks and annotations to keep track of much detail, before the plot and character interrelations wove themselves solidly into the mind. Considering the length, much detail there is indeed.
There is the Victorian England juridical system presented as it’s own personified entity. There is the satirized high society next to the impoverished, struggling to make ends meet. There is the working class in-between. These denominations are fairly standard across Dickens novels.
The cast includes characters of pure angelic Dickensian virtue alongside those of infernal drive to victimize and dehumanize, the latter typically concealed within a cask of supposed goodwill. A subset of characters, likewise, doesn’t clearly belong to any one extreme.
With the exception of one protagonist, whose story we follow in first person by way of her journaled chronicle, the remaining cast, presented in third person, operates to a varying degree of opaqueness. In fact, certain character disposition is not evinced at full scope until fairly late into the novel. Such surprises were not few, in this contained an element of a powerful and suspenseful narrative.
Among some notable characters we have a bachelor and recluse who opts to raise a few solitary orphans; hopelessly bored and repressed members of British nobility; a mother consumed by philanthropy yet blind to family affair; a free-spirited child of adult age and no responsibility or conception of practical value; clerks, solicitors, and lawyers of varying degree of ludicrous entertainment or malice; a relentless detective; a street orphan, this among the favorite themes of Dickens; a buffoon of a landlord, drunkard, and hoarder of secrets; a vagabond with a stoic sense of military virtue; and a certain embodiment of chivalry mixed with a taste for adventure and benefice, not entirely unlike a distant species of Don Quixote.
I’ve been occasionally asked, what does Bleak House signify? To fully explore the meaning would not necessarily unveil unnecessary detail, but may reduce the appetite by just the tiniest of a measure, which, although nearly insignificant, does not give merit to any sense I can shape. Rather, I recommend to fully arouse your visual instinct in pursuing this novel.
Much of London and surrounding boroughs Dickens paints with notably bleak hues: the all-enshrouding fog, mud, mist, slush, frost, gray sky, chill and deathly atmospherics, economic blight, bureaucratic labyrinths and ghoulish presence taking manifest in the human, the allegorical, as well as the metaphorical. Appeal to the imagery, this craftily (and for the appreciators of the darker tones, voluptuously) penned from the introductory passage. The imagery enables the already rich and engaging story to acquire an extraordinary organic proportion. I emphasize again, great literature.
Questions, comments? Connect.