Surprise! Surprise! ‘Bleak House’ isn’t bleak thus far

As the title suggests, I thought ‘Bleak House’ would be all about tears, sadness and disappointments. I was preparing myself to feel that way after I bought the novel. I had read bunch of sad stories so reading another one  wouldn’t be a great matter for me, said I.

I’m still 1/8 of the total pages of the book. I can’t help writing down here what I got so far from the book although my reading is very far from over.

While the book does contain a mournful story about Esther Summerson, one of the main characters in the book, about her childhood, what I instead remember most so far is the presence of two minor female characters who are very comical.

I can’t help smiling when reading parts regarding the two characters. The first one is Mrs. Jellyby, say, an activist about Africa. She aims at educating and improving the lives of the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of Niger. She spends a lot of time taking care of other people while her children, mostly are little, don’t get attention as they deserve. I laugh when coming to the part that one of Mrs. Jellyby’s sons falling down. The part when Mrs. Jellyby’s daughter ‘leaves off biting her pen and makes a return to Esther, Ada and Richard’s recognition’ thus making her looks ‘half bashful, half sulky’ is amusing, too. I can tell these parts signify Dickens’ critics to aristocrats ladies who put so much efforts helping people they may not know all but neglect their own children.

Best laugh, so far, comes when Dickens mentions Mrs. Pardiggle, one of Mr. Jarndyce’s correspondent. Mr. Jarndyce is Esther’s guardian, the owner of Bleak House. If I were not in the train by the time I come to the part regarding this lady, I would laugh out loud. So I chuckle while imagining the faces of Mrs. Pardiggle’s sons when she introduces them to Esther and Ada. The mother introduces Egbert (12), the eldest son, as the boy who sends some parts of his pocket-money to Tockapoopo Indians. She presents the remaining four boys with similar statements, except the youngest one, who swears won’t ever use tobacco and eat cakes.

What entertains me so much is when Esther says how the boys look so ferociously discontent and unhappy. When her mother mentions Tockapoopo Indians, Egbert gives Esther a savage frown. The youngest kid looks even more miserable. It turns out that the children are violent. They pinch Esther when she doesn’t give Egbert a shilling as his pocket-money is ‘taken’ from him. Felix (7), the fourth kid, stamps upon Esther kid and the youngest one terrifies her by turning his face into purple after passing through a pastry-cook shop, absorbed in grief and rage.

I can’t believe Dickens can be this funny after those sorrowful events in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop.’ Truly entertaining. Now, I can’t wait for more surprises and hopefully more foolish parts to come.




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