Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 43

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 43

Esther's Narrative

  • (Prim and proper, boys and girls – Esther takes the narrating helm.)
  • Esther goes through life in a state of shock. Every time conversation goes anywhere near the Dedlocks or Chesney Wold she has to leave the room. Thinking about the fact that she can never talk to her mom again is beyond miserable.
  • Meanwhile Ada and Jarndyce talk about Richard and how totally underwater he is with his obsession with Chancery and his fears and mistrust about Jarndyce.
  • It doesn't seem like there's anything to do about it, though, since they've tried reasoning with him already. He's just delusional at this point.
  • But maybe at least they can get Skimpole away from him, Esther suggests. Jarndyce defends Skimpole and says whatever bad influence he is having is unintentional. Esther is like, well, even so.
  • So the whole gang goes to visit Skimpole's to see what can be done.
  • His house is, not surprisingly, falling apart. But he's got a lot of good food and good wine on the table.
  • Jarndyce and Ada start trying to talk to Skimpole, telling him that Richard is actually quite poor, and to stop mooching off him please.
  • Skimpole waves them off with his whole "I don't understand money, I'm just a naïve artistic guy" shtick. This seems to satisfy Jarndyce.
  • Skimpole then introduces Ada and Esther to his three daughters, who have been raised to be exactly like him. His wife, meanwhile, comes and has a private chat with Jarndyce, who gives her some money.
  • Finally Skimpole complains that yet another guy has been harassing him this morning because of some debts and decides to go to Bleak House to get away from him.
  • Esther wonders why he doesn't think his daughters and wife are going to be stuck at home having to deal with the man. She's totally onto him but can't really do anything about it.
  • Back at Bleak House, they suddenly have a visitor. It turns out to be... Sir Dedlock!
  • Esther almost has a heart attack.
  • But he's just there to say that he heard they had been staying at Boythorn's house. He knows Lady Dedlock knows and likes Jarndyce and he's sorry if they felt like they couldn't come to Chesney Wold and have a nice tour of the place just because he and Boythorn are in a fight.
  • Jarndyce is surprised to see him and thanks him.
  • He leaves. What a totally bizarre visit. Shmoop is guessing this scene is meant to humanize Sir Dedlock somewhat? He's high and mighty, but does he actually care about personal relationships and old-timey values like hospitality? It's hard to say.
  • Anyway, this visit makes Esther decide to tell Jarndyce the truth.
  • She goes to see him that night, and together they fill each other in on some key details.
  • First, from Jarndyce: Boythorn's old fiancée was Lady Dedlock's sister (!), who out of nowhere and without saying why cut off all communication with him.
  • Esther explains that she did that because she decided to raise Esther. She was her aunt, and Lady Dedlock is her mother.
  • Jarndyce is floored but is super nice and loving to Esther. He talks to her and makes her feel OK and generally responds in as positive a way as possible.
  • Esther goes to sleep that night wondering "how could I ever be busy enough, how could I ever be good enough, how in my little way could I ever hope to be forgetful enough of myself, devoted enough to him, and useful enough to others, to show him how I blessed and honoured him" (43.130).

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