Esther grows up completely sheltered and cut off from the rest of the world. To make things even more fun, her crazy psycho of an aunt raises her to believe that she's evil, wicked, and sinful. Fun times. So it's crazy and disorienting when she gets to the relatively normal and emotionally nurturing Bleak House and meets the kind, generous John Jarndyce.
Esther thrives as Bleak House's housekeeper and does a lot of good for the people around her. But she has a lot of trouble accepting their praise and can't help but think of herself as really flawed and damaged (thanks, crazy godmother/aunt!). She is very unsure of herself as a person and doesn't seem to trust her observations and opinions of those around her.
Suddenly Esther realizes that the mystery of her birth is somehow tied in with the beautiful Lady Dedlock. Seeing her one day, Esther has a panic attack of epic proportions.
A double nightmare, actually. First Esther catches some horrible disease, goes blind, almost dies, and ends up with deforming facial scars. Which would be enough for anyone, really. But no – she also discovers that Lady Dedlock is her mother and that if this fact were to get out, everyone's lives would be totally ruined. Which is scary, because there are at least three people who are actively trying to get to the bottom of the story.
Esther just barely survives a terrifying chase of her mother across the wintry countryside and through the London slums. After everything calms down, an emotionally healed, grown-up, capable, and self-assured Esther returns to the new and improved Bleak House II (Victorian Boogaloo) – the one Jarndyce built just for her and Woodcourt.