Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bleak House Week 2: So far, this puzzle is mostly corner pieces.

We're not anywhere near getting a full picture at this point, but there have been definite developments.

Lady Dedlock continues to be a difficult woman to entertain. Most recently, she showed that she is also hilariously bad at undercover work (“I am but a lowly servant woman. DON’T TOUCH ME, PEASANT.”)

Richard has his hands full sorting out what he wants to be when he grows up.

We've ruled out priest and surgeon,
but little black rain cloud is still a viable option.

And what of our dear Esther? As practical as she is in the matters of the Jarndyce household and other people’s lives in general, she can’t seem to afford herself the same no-nonsense treatment everyone else gets. Guppy is stalking her. Brazenly. And yet she says, “It was at the theatre that I began to be made uncomfortable again by Mr. Guppy.” Never has there been a more telling use of passive voice. Repeat after me, Esther: Guppy is making me uncomfortable.

She still seems to be in love with Ada (“It was so pretty to have her clinging to me in that way . . . that I would not help her just yet”; “To see Ada lift up her flushed face in joyful surprise, and hold me round the neck, and laugh, and cry, and blush, was so pleasant!”), but now Mr. Woodcourt, the young dark surgeon (who I think is the same young dark surgeon present at Nemo’s death scene) has entered the picture. I'm not sure how Esther feels about him. She gets a bit squirrelly on the subject of Woodcourt, talking out of the corner of her mouth about his participation in the events of her narrative, if she talks about him at all.

Dickens is providing plenty of commentary on the disparity between the upper and lower classes, but along with that, he seems to be showing us that children are the most vulnerable casualties of this system, even below unattached women. Just look at Tom and Charley.
It was the first time since our entry that a tear had been shed among these children. The little orphan girl had spoken of their father and their mother as if all that sorrow were subdued by the necessity of taking courage, and by her childish importance in being able to work, and by her bustling busy way. But now, when Tom cried, although she sat quite tranquil, looking quietly at us, and did not by any movement disturb a hair of the head of either of her little charges, I saw two silent tears fall down her face.
Not crying. Not . . . crying.

And then there’s Jo, who is even more alone in the world than Tom and Charley, because he doesn’t have a Tom or a Charley. And he is further victimized by his keen awareness that society considers him more an animal than a human, and also that he quite agrees with that judgment in the end. But what can he do to improve his standing? Nothing whatsoever, because the system is stacked against him. Even when he’s given money—the great equalizer—the more powerful rob him of it in one way and another, and then nobody believes his story about how he obtained the little he has left. He cannot win.

In other developments . . .
  • My fondness for Boythorn grows, helped along by his outspoken distaste for one Harold Skimpole and one Harold Skimpole’s continued lack of principle, and sealed by his extreme commitment to this dispute with Sir Leicester. The man posted cheeky “No Trespassing” signs and set up an elaborate bell-and-bulldog attack plan. He’s my hero.
  • I think that Mrs. Chadband is Mrs. Rachael Chadband. This gives me hope that we may yet see her get her comeuppance for being an evil hag to little Esther. Regardless, she’s married to Mr. Chadband, so her suffering has just begun.
  • Guppy and Smallweed are up to no good. I don’t know exactly what they’re up to just yet, but they’ve put Mr. Jobling in Krook’s open room and connected him with work law-writing for Snagsby and introduced him to Krook by a made-up name (Mr. Weevle? At least let the man choose his own alias). It feels as though Nemo’s mysterious history may be repeating itself with a new mark. And Guppy may be even worse than he already seems.

We can ALL see your bad-guy costume under that top hat.


  1. Guppy is SO up to something. But what, exactly? Who can say!

    I LOVE when Esther talks about Mr. Woodcourt, cause she's all like 'SOME might say his company is pleasant' and 'he will be missed by all, I suspect' and shit like that and I'm like 'DUDE, just admit that you like him.'

    Although obviously she will love Ada with the fire of a million suns forever and ever.

  2. Guppy is the creepiest. And his band of creepy, creepy man.

    I love Boythorn. And the Badgers. I want them to all hang out together.

  3. Maybe we will find out NEXT week. But probably not, because Dickens.

    Do we like Woodcourt? I think we do, but there's something a little suspicious about him at the same time. Like, wasn't he the one who prescribed Nemo all the opium? Whyyyy did he NEED opium? I demand answers!

  4. The Badgers are fun because they're ridiculous. Boythorn is fun because he's a great big, perfect man. He is everything I hoped Fosco would be before I learned Fosco was to be a lovable VILLAIN instead (of course we still love him, of course we do).

  5. Corner pieces. Rain clouds. I am cry-laughing.

    (And now just crying, because THE CHILDREN.)

  6. HE NEEDED THE OPIUM BECAUSE HISTORY AND SECRETS AND SOMETHING TO DO WITH LADY DEADLOCK (I mean, right? Why else is she all wanting to see where lived and was buried and shit? Those two have A Past).

  7. Oo, such a good point on the use of passive voice, editor-reader-literary lady, you.

    You guys are all on your A-game with the funnies, this week. I maybe guffawed a bit. Which is good, because it's distracting me from Charley, who's story makes me want to weep and then die.

  8. "Most recently, she showed
    that she is also hilariously bad at undercover work"


    Also I thought it was pretty clear it was Rachael? Also she sucks. But so does Mr Chadband aka Dickens who wants to be Jarndyce but NOTHING DOING, DICKENS. You are Chadband and so you shall remain.

    Seconding Kayleigh on the passive thing. AND with Esther, I'm gonna go ahead and say that along with stuff she does despite herself, the things she tries not to draw attention to are important. Although that can be ARGUED.

  9. It's pretty clear YOU'RE Rachael.

  10. I'm honored that I was able to make you guffaw before you weep and die. Truly honored.

  11. Also, I would tend to agree with you that the things Esther dances around are the MOST important. We could interpret her reluctance to gush over Woodcourt as an unwillingness to admit that she is having feelings for him, because she can't trust that those feelings will be reciprocated since she doesn't think anyone could ever possibly love her. OR we could interpret it as her not liking the menfolk in a general way. Either way, IMPORTANT.

  12. Totally. I don't think Woodcourt prescribed the opium. He just happened to be available when they needed a doctor to fill out the death certificate.

  13. Guppy is involved in some way. I feel it in my joints like an east wind.