Study Guide

Mr. George in Bleak House

By Charles Dickens

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Mr. George

A retired army trooper, Mr. George runs a shooting gallery and gym, where he trains would-be soldiers and others who want to learn how to fight and use weapons. He is upright, honorable, and up to his ears in debt to Smallweed.

George is an army man, in the best sense of the word. Physically, he's a total stud – tall, broad, muscular, really strong, awesome mustache. And he's got a personality to match – he's all about honor and duty and protecting those around him from harm. He's not necessarily the brightest bulb on the tree, but we feel nothing but happy when good things happen to him, and nothing but pain whenever he's being taken advantage of or forced to betray his principles. Still, pleasant as he is, there is nothing particularly surprising about any of these aspects of his character. We kind of know what we're getting with him from the start.

But there is one great detail that Dickens throws in at the end of the novel that seems worth thinking about. Remember when George finally reunites with his older brother, the successful factory owner Mr. Rouncewell? Rouncewell offers him a job, but George says he's happier working as Sir Dedlock's servant, telling his brother "You are not used to being officered; I am. Everything about you is in perfect order and discipline; everything about me requires to be kept so" (63.52).

It's a pretty telling way to compare these brothers. Both are independent and not really tied down by society's rules (one ran off to join the army and created a new sort of family for himself, the other climbed his way up the socioeconomic ladder). But the two brothers apparently represent two different brands of independence. What do you think about this distinction?

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