In the fog of London, lawyers enrich themselves with endless litigation over a dwindling inheritance. A sterling example of Dickens's genius for character, dramatic construction, and social satire, this novel was hailed by Edmund Wilson as a "masterpiece".
The English legal system is the main object of Dickens's satire in BLEAK HOUSE, perhaps the first legal thriller, which centers on the interminable case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce as it makes its tortuous way over the generations through the Court of Chancery. The battle drags on, the litigants are ruined by the legal fees, and the case itself becomes so convoluted that no one--lawyers, judges, plaintiffs--even remembers entirely what is at stake. As Dickens takes us through the case's history, he creates his usual array of vividly realized comic, tragic, and satirical figures, from the corrupt lawyer, Tulkinghorn, to the pathetic crossing-sweeper, little Jo, to the clerk called Nemo, including characters with such wonderful monikers as Krook, Snagsby, Lord Doodle, and the perfectly named Lord and Lady Dedlock. As he does so often, Dickens shows us in BLEAK HOUSE--perhaps his most ambitious novel--that venality, corruption, and vanity have always been a part of human nature. Under the high comedy, he also shows us, very clearly, the anger and indignation these qualities roused in him, and his compassion for the helplessness of the poor in the face of a social and legal system that seems, at times, designed only to destroy them.
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- April 5, 2011
- April 5, 2011
- Charles Dickens