Montreal Dickens Fellowship Study Questions: “Bleak House”
March 2, 2021
Chapters 31 - 40
- 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!”
- What is the importance of Esther’s disfigurement? Does it add a gothic tone to the novel? How does it change her relationships to the other characters? Mr. Jarndyce, Mr. Guppy, Mr. Woodcourt.?
- In many of Dickens’s novels, there are adult characters behaving like children (Dora in David Copperfield, Smike in Nicholas Nickleby, Toots in Dombey and Son, Mr. Dick in David Copperfield, Maggie in Little Dorrit) Many of them are spoiled or have some brain injury or madness. Mr. Skimpole and Richard Carstone are adults that behave as children. Discuss. In many of Dickens’s novels, there are children that act as adults (Amy Dorrit in Little Dorrit, Jenny Wren in Our Mutual Friend, The Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist, Little Nell and the Marchioness in The Old Curiosity Shop, Paul Dombey in Dombey and Son.) The Smallweed children, Guster and Jo behave as adults. Discuss.
- Why doesn’t Lady Dedlock want to see Esther again? (even if she doesn’t publicly acknowledge her as her daughter?). Esther must have a lot of questions. Couldn’t they meet discreetly with or without Sir Leicester’s knowledge?
- What do you make of Mr. Guppy’s withdrawal of his proposal? Does he or did he ever have true feelings for Esther?
- Comment on Dickens’s description of Mr. Vholes as a predator.
- Do you think Mr. Smallweed might be Jewish? He is a moneylender, wears a skull cap, his first name is Joshua and he has a daughter named Judith. It is never mentioned that he is a Jew. Discuss possible anti-Semitism in this characterization
- Why does Mr. Tulkinghorn reveal (albeit in a veiled manner) Lady Dedlock’s secret before a crowded room?
- What function do Caddy and the Turveydrop Academy play in this novel?
- Why doesn’t Mr. Tulkinghorn allow Lady Dedlock to leave? Is it his loyalty to the Dedlock family or does he have ulterior motives?
- What do you think the painting of “Allegory” symbolizes?
- “The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself”. Discuss this claim in terms of our modern society and lawyers today.
- Comment on Dickens’s use of foreshadowing through his description of the paintings and the interior of Chesney Wold. (Chapter 40).
- Why does Mr. Jarndyce have Mr. Skimpole for a friend?
- What does his description of the elections (Coodle, Doodle,etc.) tell us about Dickens’s view on party politics ?