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Bleak House

Bleak House


by Charles Dickens

Miss Flite

Character Analysis

A half-delusional but very nice old woman who faithfully comes to the Chancery Court every day, Miss Flite is a kind of oracle in the novel. She frequently says things that other characters dismiss as crazy but that turn out to have symbolic or otherworldly meaning that only the reader can understand.

Way, way back in Ancient Greece, there was a temple of Apollo in the town of Delphi, where the Oracle – an older woman, usually intoxicated by the spirit of Apollo (or maybe toxic gas in the temple) – would spout out cryptic phrases that were supposed to predict the future. If what she said made no sense, or if it ended up not being consistent with future events, it was the interpretation of her words that was wrong, not the prediction.

Um, Shmoop? Hello? Aren't we talking about Bleak House?

Well, the reason we bring up the Delphic Oracle is that Miss Flite kind of functions the same way in the novel. Sure she seems like a harmless eccentric, but in reality pretty much everything she says is full of Symbolism with a capital S. The creepy collection of birds named Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Ruin, Despair, Madness, Death, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach, plus the extra two named the Wards in Jarndyce – all of which are caged until the end of the court case? Yeah, we're thinking there's a lot of meaning to the idea that the Jarndyce lawsuit has imprisoned youth, hope, and life – that's certainly borne out by the rest of the novel.

And that thing about how the day the Lord Chancellor decides the case will be the Day of Judgment (a.k.a. the end of the world Bible-style)? Well, maybe it doesn't become the end of the world, but it's certainly the end of the novel's world, since that's about when it wraps up.

Can you find other true predictions in what Miss Flite says? What do you make of the fact that she thinks that her landlord Krook is insane when Woodcourt, with his expert medical knowledge, doesn't?