Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 36

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 36

Chesney Wold

  • (Esther still at the wheel.)
  • Esther and Charley go off to Boythorn's place near Chesney Wold. It's fantabulous, and everything has been prepared to make Esther as comfy as possible.
  • Finally she sits down and looks at herself in the mirror.
  • It's a shock. From everything we've been told, Esther used to be quite beautiful. Now she's...not, to the point that she doesn't recognize herself in her reflection.
  • But she's a trooper and tries to pep herself back up.
  • It's good to be in the countryside, and Esther uses Boythorn's place to rehab. Lots of walking and riding, lots of food – whatever it takes to get her strength back.
  • The village of Chesney Wold is full of people who are very happy to see her, and everyone is super friendly wherever they go.
  • One day they go walking into the park at Chesney Wold, near the Ghost's Walk (Boythorn has told her that old family legend).
  • Out of nowhere comes... Lady Dedlock!
  • She very calmly asks to speak to Esther alone, then as soon as Charley leaves, she throws herself around Esther and tells her about being her mom and everything.
  • They cry and talk a lot. Lady Dedlock keeps asking for forgiveness, and Esther realizes that she's forgiven her mom a long time ago and now feels nothing but love. Also, Esther realizes that she no longer looks anything like Lady Dedlock and is happy that one of the clues linking them is gone.
  • It's a pretty hard-to-take scene. Shmoop may have shed a tear or two.
  • Then Lady Dedlock says that this is the one and only time they can ever see each other, and that Tulkinghorn suspects the truth and is close to busting the secret wide open.
  • Brain snack: having sex out of wedlock back then was a major, huge, horrendous no-no, especially for a woman. And having a baby out of wedlock? That was almost criminal. Certainly no woman who had done that would have gone on to marry as well as Lady Dedlock had – she'd be tainted forever. So that's why it's a really big deal to keep the whole thing secret.
  • Esther asks permission to tell Jarndyce, and Lady Dedlock consents.
  • Lady Dedlock is wracked by guilt at not having raised her daughter, shame at having a baby out of wedlock, and fear that she will dishonor Sir Dedlock with her doings.
  • Tulkinghorn is like the Terminator. He has no feelings and can't be reasoned with. He just keeps going and going, digging and digging, without mercy or pause.
  • Lady Dedlock takes off.
  • Esther sits for a while, recovers, and goes home to Boythorn's wishing she'd never been born.
  • Back at home she finds letters from Ada and Jarndyce, who are on their way down. She is reminded of their love, which cheers her up a little. Honestly, though, this would be a totally psycho shock to the nervous system. Esther is pretty amazing for handling it as well as she does.
  • She starts getting very nervous about Ada seeing her for the first time. But when Ada comes her face shows nothing but love and happiness. Yay!

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