Widely regarded as Dickens’s masterpiece, Bleak House centers on the generations-long lawsuit Jarndyce and Jarndyce, through which “whole families have inherited legendary hatreds.” Focusing on Esther Summerson, a ward of John Jarndyce, the novel traces Esther’s romantic coming-of-age and, in classic Dickensian style, the gradual revelation of long-buried secrets, all set against the foggy backdrop of the Court of Chancery. Mixing romance, mystery, comedy, and satire, Bleak House limns the suffering caused by the intricate inefficiency of the law.
The text of this Modern Library Paperback Classic was set from the first single-volume edition, published by Bradbury & Evans in 1853, and reproduces thirty-nine of H. K. Browne’s original illustrations for the book.
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.
- Fiction + Literature Genres, Fiction + Literature Themes
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- January 3, 2012
- January 3, 2012
- Charles Dickens