Bleak House Essay

Submitted By ndtalton
Words: 2275
Pages: 10

BLEAK HOUSE ANALYSIS Charles Dickens’ Bleak House is perhaps one of the greatest novels ever written. Dickens’ cleverly included all the aspects of a great story: murder, deception, disease, insanitation, and at the center rests one of the most dreadful of nemeses: the Court of Chancery, which has single-handedly ruined everyone’s perspective of it by being a blood-sucking being of its own with the character’s lives in its icy clutches. Miss Flite spent her whole life in the Court of Chancery uselessly awaiting a settlement, as did every character involved in the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce suit, “squeezed dry years upon years ago” and which came to a bitter end and ruined several people with the amount of funds gone into the case over the numerous years (Dickens 7; ch. I). Dickens’ ill opinion of the Court of Chancery extends to the whole city of London whose reputation is dwindling due to the overwhelming condition of the poor and the diseased. “The whole place is awash with garbage, and human beings are becoming hard to distinguish from bits of rag and bone,” (Eagleton). The orphan Jo is just one of the characters synonymous with poverty and insanitation. And in the opening chapter, Dickens illustrates his contempt more so with a less than flattering depiction of the streets of London, including the Court of Chancery, with the infamous “London fog.” “[The fog] is something like being imbedded in a dilution of yellow peas-pudding, just thick enough to get through it without being wholly choked or completely suffocated” (Miller 902). “Dickens sees his society as rotting, unraveling, so freighted with meaningless matter that it is sinking back gradually into some primeval slime,” (Eagleton). He sees the Chancery as the “most pestilent of hoary sinners” and warns: “Suffer any wrong that can be done you, rather than come here,” (Dickens 7-8; ch. I). From the soot snow blanketing the town to the choking fog and the grimy, mud-covered streets, the shape of the city is but a filthy correlation to the corruption and disease that abides there. Dickens ingeniously expounds his criticisms of the social and legal systems (with the Chancery at the core) of nineteenth century England with the specific references to health, medicine, disease, and sanitation in his novel Bleak House. He uses his characters’ lives to personify his criticisms and accomplishes it masterfully. “In all my writings, I hope I have taken every available opportunity of showing the want of sanitary improvements in the neglected dwellings of the poor,” so boldly states Dickens (Pollution 901). Dickens holds the social problems, including diseases and poverty, influenced by the pollution and insanitation of nineteenth century, in the highest regard (Pollution 901). The impoverished, unfortunate Jo epitomizes these problems impeccably. Dickens places him in Tom-All-Alone’s, a “black, dilapidated street, avoided by all decent people” which contains a “swarm of misery” surrounding it. His elaborate descriptions of the “foul existence that crawls in and out of gaps in walls and boards,” demonstrate just how dreadful the place that Jo calls home is (Dickens 197; ch. XVI). “Jo is an orphan, like so many Dickensian children; but being orphaned is now a collective condition, as society disowns responsibility for its citizens,” and no one seems to want to help Jo while he’s struggling every day of his life just to survive (until he’s on his deathbed) (Eagleton). In fact, Dickens proclaims that, “Jo lives—that is to say, Jo has not yet died…” because Jo’s life can hardly be called ‘living’ in that disease-ridden street of London. It is a dangerous, dirty excuse for a place to live. Jo cannot simply ‘live,’ he constantly “fights it out” every day of his dejected life having to seek out food and shelter with no money (Dickens 199; ch. XVI). Jo is at the mercy of several of the other characters when he develops his sickness. His sickness spreads to Charley and