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Bleak House

Bleak House

by Charles Dickens

Analysis: What's Up With the Title?

This title is really heavy, man. It's deep like the ocean, layered like a cake, and allusive like David Blaine. (Well, OK, David Blaine is actually all about illusions and not allusions, but work with us here.) Seriously though, which house in the novel wouldn't be called bleak? Of course, there's Mr. Jarndyce's place – which is actually called Bleak House. (Nice, right? That's what we're calling the next mansion we buy.) Its reputation is rehabilitated in the novel, though. Then there's Casa de Dedlock, a pretty bleak place too, what with the suicides and ghosts and horrible family secrets. There's Krook's Knasty Kraphole, where Nemo overdoses and Miss Flite and her birds lead their bleak existence. And of course, who could forget the lawyered-up Courthouse, with its totally bleak track record of actually getting any cases resolved, or doing much of anything besides creating more business for itself.

In fact, this novel is so depressing that all of London ends up being a kind of unbelievably bleak home for a host of city-dwellers who can never leave it. And if you crack open the meaning of the word "bleak" (hopeless, comfortless, dreary, oppressive), you could think of all of England as bleak, in the grip of impenetrable and inhuman systems and institutions like the Court of Chancery.

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