Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 13

By Charles Dickens

Chapter 13

Esther's Narrative

  • (OK, straighten out your pinafores and put on your best little-girl smiles – Esther's back as narrator!)
  • The Bleak House gang is hard at work trying to figure out a career for Richard.
  • He's mostly a good guy, but he is totally unserious and indecisive about getting a job. Anything Jarndyce suggests is fine. The navy? OK, awesome. The army? Sure, why not. Law? Yup, sounds good. Medicine? Totally.
  • Esther and Jarndyce think this kind of thinking comes from two places: 1) classical liberal arts education that didn't stress anything after getting a degree, and 2) growing up with the uncertainly of this long lawsuit hanging over him (because in theory, at any moment he could end up inheriting a giant chunk of change and never have to work again).
  • Finally Richard decides that medicine it is.
  • Kenge comes over to formalize the details and tells them about Bayham Badger, his cousin, who is a surgeon, who may be willing to take Richard on as his apprentice.
  • Richard promises to do his best. Well, "promises" might be too strong a term, since he kind of just blows off the decision process and is acting half-stoned all the time. Just thinking about him as a doctor is giving us goose bumps. Good thing there wasn't much doctors could do for sick people back then anyway.
  • They decide to go to London to check out this Bayham Badger character.
  • While there, they check out the theaters. Esther is shocked to run into...Mr. Guppy! He only has eyes for her, doesn't watch the play, and does kind of a sad puppy-dog (or guppy-dog) thing in her direction every time he sees her.
  • It's way creepy and borderline stalkery, especially when she catches him outside their house staring up at her window. Dude.
  • But it's also sort of flattering or intriguing or something, we guess, because she doesn't tell anyone about it, ostensibly because she doesn't want to get him fired. Um, OK.
  • Now on to Mr. and Mrs. Badger. They are pure comic relief. Mr. Badger's main source of pride is that he is Mrs. Badger's third husband. Hardy-har, what a crazy wacko. Her first two husbands and their illustrious careers are all he ever talks about. It's like a weird fetish of some sort.
  • In any case, "Mr. Badger liked Richard, and as Richard said he liked Mr. Badger 'well enough,'" (13.40), so it's a deal.
  • That night, Ada says she has to tell Esther a secret.
  • The secret is... that Richard loves her! Esther is all, "duh."
  • Oh, but there's something else, which is...that Ada loves Richard back! Esther is like, "double duh." But, as always, she says it in a nice and sweet way.
  • The next morning Esther tells Jarndyce, who seems happy enough about it. He makes Richard promise to work hard for Ada's sake and to start taking things more seriously.
  • Richard agrees. We're not holding our breath, though.
  • The lovebirds go for a walk.
  • Then all of a sudden, Esther busts out with the information that at the Badgers' there was also a "sensible and agreeable" (13.133) young surgeon. She doesn't know why she didn't tell us this originally. We don't know either!