Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 57

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 57

Esther's Narrative

  • (Um, Esther. Obviously.)
  • The chase is on!
  • Bucket and Esther hop on the carriage and start trying to find Lady Dedlock. It's pretty exciting, but it's hard to make it sound that way in a recap – just take our word for it.
  • A quick aside – this chapter is the very first time a police procedural appears in fiction. Really. So for us, who've been schooled by Law and Order, NYPD: Blue, CSI, Lethal Weapon and every other cop show and movie out there, some of this police-chase stuff is old hat. But for people reading the novel when it first came out? Whoa! This was something totally new. And obviously awesome – after all, check out how the genre took off.
  • So, first to the police station, where they work out a description of Lady Dedlock and where a bunch of officers do police things. Esther is impressed that they work fast while staying calm.
  • Next, to the officers dragging the river to make sure her corpse hasn't turned up. No corpse.
  • Then off to Bleak House, in case that's where Lady Dedlock went to find Esther (not knowing that Jarndyce & Co. were actually in London).
  • No one there but Skimpole. By the by, Bucket tells Esther that it was actually Skimpole who tipped him off about Jo the night they took him in. All it took was a little bribe. Oh, Skimpole, you horrible hypocritical monster. Or, as Bucket puts it, "Whenever a person says to you that they are as innocent as can be in all concerning money, look well after your own money, for they are dead certain to collar it if they can." (57.57).
  • Then, quickly, to the house of the brickmakers where Lady Dedlock had already been once to get Esther's handkerchief.
  • Liz is there, but not Jenny. No one will tell Esther where Jenny is. No one wants to fess up to Lady Dedlock's having been there, but finally it turns out that she had. She asked Jenny to go back to London, and she herself went further north.
  • Esther thinks maybe she went to find Boythorn, who lives further north, and sent Jenny back to London with some message for Esther.
  • Either way, Bucket realizes that Lady Dedlock left the brickmakers her watch, as payment for something.
  • On they go to the north. Bucket keeps stopping at various inns, asking if people have seen a woman who matches her description.
  • Suddenly the trail goes totally cold. Bucket thinks this is really odd and unlikely.
  • He thinks quickly and decides to instead follow Jenny back down south. Esther is extremely upset – "but what about my mom?!" – but Bucket asks her to please just trust him. Well, he hasn't been wrong yet about anything, so now is probably no time to stop listening to him.

Bleak House Chapter 57 Study Group

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