Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 38

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Chapter 38

A Struggle

  • (Still Esther.)
  • After a nice long recovery, the gang leaves Boythorn's and returns to Bleak House. It's all in disarray, since Esther couldn't do the housekeeping while she was sick. She puts everything back in order.
  • Then she sets off to London on a mission she doesn't yet tell us about.
  • On the way she decides to visit Caddy and see how life is going with the Turveydrops.
  • Life with the Turveydrops is going pretty well, actually.
  • Caddy is learning how to dance a little and to play the piano and violin so they can save money on accompanists. They've also taken on four apprentices.
  • Brain snack time: back before formal vocational training, all different kinds of tradesmen – tailors, gardeners, doctors, and anyone else with specialized knowledge – would take on students (apprentices) to live with them and learn the business. Parents would pay a reasonably steep fee for this. The idea was that after the kid learned whatever he needed to learn, he'd either set up his own business or take over the one where he'd been apprenticed.
  • Anywho.... Mr. Turveydrop and Mr. Jellyby get along really well, since one is all performance and the other is all audience.
  • Esther and Caddy go on Esther's original errand, which brings them to the house of Mr. Guppy.
  • At first he's all excited to see them. But as soon as Esther takes off her veil and he sees her face, he loses it.
  • What comes next is a totally horrible scene of awkwardness straight out of The Office.
  • Guppy starts, in legal language, to make it clear to Esther that since she had refused his offer of marriage already, there is nothing legally binding them, and that he can't re-propose.
  • It's so painful. She is cringing. He's embarrassed. Disaster.
  • Finally Esther interrupts and tells him what she actually came there for. She's worried he's going to find out about Lady Dedlock, so she makes him promise to stop trying to do anything for her interests like he'd said he was going to do.
  • He is so relieved that he swears to do whatever she asks, cross his heart, hope to die.
  • Esther and Caddy leave and he follows them into the street to make Esther repeat again that they are not engaged, and to get Caddy's name and address as a witness.

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