Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 34

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 34

A Turn of the Screw

  • (Still the third-person narrator.)
  • The day before his two-month debt payment, Mr. George gets a letter from Smallweed that says that he has to pay the whole thing back immediately.
  • He's freaked out – he obviously he doesn't have the money.
  • Phil suggests declaring bankruptcy, but that's not a good idea because the debt was cosigned by Matt Bagnet, and if Mr. George doesn't pay, they'll go after the Bagnet family.
  • Mr. George is beyond crushed. Then the Bagnets come to resign the loan like always, and Mrs. Bagnet immediately sees that something is wrong.
  • She flies into a rage thinking that are about to lose everything – mostly because of her children.
  • Mr. George is super sorry and feels horrible. Apparently the loan was to start his gym/shooting gallery business, which hasn't been doing well. Even if he sold it he wouldn't have nearly enough money to pay back the debt.
  • Mrs. Bagnet reads the letter, calms down, and apologizes for yelling, since really it's not Mr. George's fault. Mr. George knows she is just trying to protect her family and feels nothing but respect and admiration for her. Us too.
  • Bagnet and Mr. George go to talk to Smallweed.
  • Smallweed is about as hostile as can be. He's a tiny, bitter, nasty monster of a man.
  • After some threatening conversation about how much they owe and how little he cares about ruining the Bagnets, Smallweed takes the pipe Mr. George usually smokes on the payment days and crushes it, yelling, "I'll smash you. I'll crumble you. I'll powder you. Go to the devil!" (34.99). He's like Santa Claus, this guy.
  • So Mr. George and Bagnet go to Tulkinghorn's office.
  • Tulkinghorn is with a client who turns out to be Mrs. Rouncewell. When she comes out, Mr. George has his back to her, but she salutes the two army men and talks a little about her son who ran off to the army. She is happy to see men in uniform. Aww, lots of loving moms in this novel.
  • Tulkinghorn pretends like he doesn't want to give them the time of day, until finally Mr. George says he is ready to give up the sample he has of Captain Hawdon's handwriting.
  • Tulkinghorn immediately takes it, the loan is re-set up the old way with a small payment every two months, and Mr. George gets a letter saying that the Bagnets will be left alone about the money.
  • Wow, that was quite a nifty piece of blackmail Smallweed and Tulkinghorn set up, right? Well played, gentlemen, well played.
  • Mr. George goes over to the Bagnets and is totally depressed. Nothing works to cheer him up.
  • He tells the oldest of the children to always be nice to his mom. Hmm, that doesn't seem to have anything to do with the events of the day...or does it? Stay tuned.

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