Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bleak House Week 4: And the nominees are . . .

In this week’s section, every character seemed to reach a personal high of either awesomeness or asshattery. So let’s do this awards-season style and announce some nominations.

Most Romantic Couple

Esther Summerson and Allen Woodcourt: Allen isn’t technically in these chapters, but Miss Flite brings news of his heroic deeds following a shipwreck in the East Indian seas. Esther expresses some pretty intense feelings of admiration and love (YES, LOVE) after receiving these tidings, and then she writes the most quietly romantic and selfless tribute to her love-affair-that-could-have-been-but-she’s-grateful-never-was-because-of-her-face:
Oh, it was so much better as it was! With a great pang mercifully spared me, I could take back to my heart my childish prayer to be all he had so brightly shown himself; and there was nothing to be undone: no chain for me to break or for him to drag; and I could go, please God, my lowly way along the path of duty, and he could go his nobler way upon its broader road; and though we were apart upon the journey, I might aspire to meet him, unselfishly, innocently, better far than he had thought me when I found some favour in his eyes, at the journey’s end.
Esther Summerson and Ada Clare: After her illness had done its number on her face, Esther walked all around the village in Chesney Wold and talked to Charley and John Jarndyce with no more than a passing twinge of sadness about her diminished looks. But when the time finally came to reveal herself to Ada, she LOST it. Overcome with the anxiety of waiting idly, she set off up the road to meet Ada’s carriage, but then she panicked and ran all the way back home, impulsively hiding behind her bedroom door . . . and then Ada was there, and they ended up in a heap on Esther’s bedroom floor, with Ada embracing and rocking her and crying and kissing her scarred face.

Mr. and Mrs. Bagnet: These two are a TREAT. First, Mrs. Bagnet tells George exactly where he can go if he is even thinking of defaulting on that loan and screwing over her trusting husband. And then Mr. Bagnet, out of her hearing, describes her various virtues to George in such sincere and halting language that I’m convinced one would be quite wise in striving to achieve a relationship just like theirs, founded on even a fraction of their implicit trust and teamwork.

Best Comedic Duo

Mr. Smallweed and Judy: This is the only nominee . . . because there’s really no competition.
Here Mr. Smallweed, wrought up to the highest pitch by his own eloquence, actually throws Judy at her grandmother in default of anything else, by butting that young virgin at the old lady with such force as he can muster and then dropping into his chair in a heap.

Most Amusing Use of a Wall

I tell you, there's a Supernatural GIF for every occasion.

Phil Squod: “Phil approaches in his usual way, sidling off at first as if he were going anywhere else and then bearing down upon his commander like a bayonet-charge.”

Mr. Jellyby: “‘He comes every evening,’ returned Caddy, ‘and is so fond of sitting in the corner there that it’s a treat to see him.’ Looking at the corner, I plainly perceived the mark of Mr. Jellyby’s head against the wall.”

Most Pitiable Wretch

Lady Dedlock: This woman. She’s spent 20-something years believing that her sweet baby died. And then she hears that the daughter she thought was dead and just learned is alive is sick with a disease that will likely kill her. And after that danger passes, she gets just one meeting with her long-lost daughter to hug her and cry over her and drop her façade of cold indifference, before she has to go back to being the honorable Lady Dedlock and never a mother to Esther forevermore, lest she disgrace her faithful husband’s most honorable name.

Richard Carstone: It was a toss-up whether Richard belonged in this category or the one below, but in the end, I’m pretty convinced that Richard sincerely believes he’s doing the only thing he can do in pursuing Jarndyce and Jarndyce. We know he had a gambling problem before, and he is now exhibiting all the signs of an addict trying to justify the continued pursuit of his self-defeating behavior.
I am young and earnest, and energy and determination have done wonders many a time. Others have only half thrown themselves into it. I devote myself to it. I make it the object of my life.
We have something to tell you, Richard:
You are not special.

Miss Flite: We learned a little bit more about the frail little woman who haunts Chancery, and her story makes Jarndyce and Jarndyce sound more like a far-reaching curse than anything has yet. Her little family was perfectly fine until her father was drawn into the suit and died in a debtor’s prison, her brother was drawn into the suit and died a drunk, and her sister was drawn into the suit and apparently ended up doing something worse than both of those things because we're forbidden to speak of it. And now it’s Miss Flite’s turn, and who knows what her end might be, but it will likely involve dead birds in cages.

Most Shameful Excuse for a Man That Ever Was

William Guppy: This cowardly son of a baboon in ribbons. After prostrating himself before Esther in what he claimed was helpless love for her and complaining to anyone who would listen about how she broke his heart and he could never be happy again, all it takes to expose that as a damn-dirty lie is for Esther to lift her veil and show him her scarred face. He barely fell short of making her sign a statement confirming that there was never an official engagement between them and such an offer could never be renewed . . . because of reasons. But he is devoting himself to finding and destroying that packet of letters that would serve as solid evidence of Esther's parentage. Credit where credit is due.

Effing Harold Skimpole: It can be argued that Skimpole hit his all-time character low when he suggested that Esther and Jarndyce throw a critically ill Jo back into the cold, cruel world. His current damaging influence on Richard is much more subtle and all the more insidious for it. And as much as he claims to have no responsibility for anyone, least of all himself, Esther has straight-up told him, “Look. Richard is heading for ruin and you are helping him to his destination sooner. THIS IS ON YOU.” He can’t claim ignorance after having it told him so plainly, but he insists on enabling Richard’s doomed course. If he is, in fact, a child, he should be grounded indefinitely—in a prison.

So those are the nominations, and I'm not picking any winners.

Also, I may have found the official GIF of the Bleakalong.


  1. YES for this post! Very deserved awards, especially for that wall. Although after reading Alice's post, I'm pretty angry at Lady D for not just keeping her burden to herself. Esther has enough going on (with only her love for Ada to see her through) that she did not need that shit heaped on.

    Guppy did say he was going to make sure not to reveal Esther's parentage and get rid of the evidence, so that was kinda nice of him. He's not a gold digger. He's just super shallow.

  2. Omg that last gif.

    You're where I was with Lady Dedlock the first time I read this. That, again, is why it's so distressing to be so angry with her this time around. But she's really, REALLY putting herself first here.

  3. Yeah I did the same. I'm glad we have Alice's posts for the smarts.

  4. So, winners announced at the end of the readalong? I can't get over the wall category, I just want to applaud you for DAYS for that!

    If Skimpole gets out of this alive, I want my money back. That douche.

  5. If Skimpole gets out of this alive, I will kill him myself. SOMEHOW.

  6. I guess it's nice that there's enough nuance to the writing that we CAN feel differently about the situation from one reading to the next...or from one hour to the next, as the case may be for me.

  7. Yeeeeees. I wrote this before I read Alice's post, and then I completely changed my mind. But I LEFT it...for accuracy and such.