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Bleak House Themes
Little Words, Big Ideas
Bleak House's search for the legal identity of several characters is vitally important in a society where birth and social rank mean so much that the unidentified are in a way non-persons. But thi...
Bleak House is obsessed with appearances. Characters' features are scrutinized by narrators, by mirrors, by people watching them and spying on them, and even through artwork that represents them....
In Bleak House, law is a hopelessly tangled mess of unsolvable, endless cases, and the power of the police is new enough to be used sometimes to further private interests or for other morally ambig...
The world of Bleak House is so interconnected that duty is the natural byproduct of almost any relationship. Because no characters are wasted or non-recurring, and anyone we meet we will meet over...
Guilt and Blame
The deeply related sensations of guilt and blame dominate the emotional life of most of the characters in Bleak House. Almost any situation calls forth feelings that fall somewhere in this categor...
Rules and Order
There is something in the way the legal system does its best not to work in Bleak House that anticipates the nightmarish bureaucracies of Kafka (see The Trial ), especially in the terrifying momen...
The kind of degradation that the poor suffer in Bleak House is all-consuming and relentlessly bleak. There is no relief from predation, especially for the children who wind up on the streets throu...
Respect and Reputation
Obsession with personal reputation is one of the many kinds of monomania presented in Bleak House. There are those whose social rank entitles them to limitless respect, which they don't hesitate t...
Although many seemingly positive values and emotions are questioned in Bleak House – generosity, honesty, friendship, and even justice each come in for some criticism – love is never portrayed...
Language and Communication
Bleak House is acutely concerned with questions of when to speak and when to remain silent. Part of Esther's maturation is understanding how and when to deploy criticism: keeping quiet maintains s...
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