Montreal Dickens Fellowship Study Questions: “Bleak House”
January 5, 2021
- Comment on the Smallweed family, where money is everything. Mr. Smallweed is always swearing at and throwing things at Mrs. Smallweed, while he is always being shaken up and carried everywhere as though he were a puppet. Compare them to a “Punch and Judy” show (their grand-daughter’s name is Judy!)
- What do you make of Trooper George? Do you like him? Note the deformities of Phil Squod (not unlike those “freaks” that titillated the Victorian public at side shows.) What role does Phil play? What does this character say about Dickens attitude towards the disabled?
- In these chapters, links of the plot chain are coming together rapidly. Dickens is resolving some questions and adding more characters and more intrigue. Discuss the importance of pace in such a large, ambitious novel.
- Marriage plays an important role in “Bleak House”. This is quite ironic given the state of Dickens marriage in 1852. Compare and contrast his marriage and the marriages of: Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby, Mr. and Mrs. Jellyby, Mr. and Mrs. Bagnet, Mr. and Mrs. Chadband, Lord and Lady Dedlock and Mr. and Mrs. Smallweed
- Mr. Rouncewell, the iron master, is shown as the “new” man of his age, with money, education and political ambition. He even has his own class- consciousness and pride, putting down Rosa for not having a good enough education. Comment on Sir Leicester’s reaction to him.
- What is Mr. Guppy’s motivation in his dealings with Lady Dedlock? Is he a blackmailer? Do you like him? Do you think he is funny or threatening? Both?
- Comment on the poor parenting by Mr. Turveydrop and Mrs. Jellyby in relation to Caddy and Prince’s marriage.
- Hearty and warm, Mr. and Mrs. Bagnet have strong values and love and respect for one another. The novel needs some normalcy. Comment.
- Comment on Dickens’s success at raising the melodrama to new heights at the end of each serial. e.g.: “Oh, my child, Oh my child!” and “I am Blind!”