by Charles Dickens
Bleak House Guilt and Blame Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[…] instead of finding Mr. Skimpole stretched upon the bed or prostrate on the floor, I found him standing before the fire smiling at Richard, while Richard, with a face of great embarrassment, looked at a person on the sofa, in a white great-coat, with smooth hair upon his head and not much of it, which he was wiping smoother and making less of with a pocket-handkerchief. [...] "Mr. Skimpole," said Richard to me, "has a delicacy in applying to my cousin Jarndyce because he has lately--I think, sir, I understood you that you had lately--" [...] Richard and I looked at one another again. It was a most singular thing that the arrest was our embarrassment and not Mr. Skimpole's. He observed us with a genial interest, but there seemed, if I may venture on such a contradiction, nothing selfish in it. He had entirely washed his hands of the difficulty, and it had become ours. (6.90-106)
Wow, that's some powerful social conditioning right there. Someone clearly has to feel ashamed in this situation, and if Skimpole isn't going to do it then Richard and Esther will step right up.
I sat down and said after a little effort to be as calm as I ought to be, "One of my earliest remembrances, guardian, is of these words: 'Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you were hers. The time will come, and soon enough, when you will understand this better, and will feel it too, as no one save a woman can.'" I had covered my face with my hands in repeating the words, but I took them away now with a better kind of shame, I hope, and told him that to him I owed the blessing that I had from my childhood to that hour never, never, never felt it. (17.96)
Miss Barbary is a master of psychological abuse. She inflicts Esther with guilt for having been born, guilt for intruding into her godmother's life, guilt for whatever nameless thing happened to her mother, sexual guilt before the fact (since this horrible thing is only known by women), and the anticipation of more guilt ("soon enough"). Man!
"It's brought into my head, master," returns the woman, her eyes filling with tears, "when I look down at the child lying so. If it was never to wake no more, you'd think me mad, I should take on so. I know that very well. I was with Jenny when she lost hers--warn't I, Jenny?--and I know how she grieved. But look around you at this place. Look at them," glancing at the sleepers on the ground. "Look at the boy you're waiting for, who's gone out to do me a good turn. Think of the children that your business lays with often and often, and that YOU see grow up! [...] I have been a-thinking, being over-tired to-night and not well with the ague, of all the many things that'll come in his way. My master will be against it, and he'll be beat, and see me beat, and made to fear his home, and perhaps to stray wild. If I work for him ever so much, and ever so hard, there's no one to help me; and if he should be turned bad 'spite of all I could do, and the time should come when I should sit by him in his sleep, made hard and changed, an't it likely I should think of him as he lies in my lap now and wish he had died as Jenny's child died!" (22.83-85)
Yeesh. Shmoop dares you not to tear up a little at this one. Liz feels so prematurely guilty about the horrible life her child will lead that she wishes him dead, despite how insane with grief this would leave her. Then, of course, she feels horrible for even thinking such a thing. Not easy to be a mom in the slums of Victorian London!