Bleak House Day 2 – Just for Fun

(Note – I read the book “blind”, that is with no idea what it contained.  I wrote the essays immediately after reading, so they are first impressions.)

Today I want to do something just for fun.  Before I go on, I need to warn you that there will be some spoilers in here.  Maybe not the biggest ones, but spoilers none the less.

Bleak House is written by two different pens.  Well, obviously it was one, Charles Dickens, but he wrote it from two different points of view.  One point of view was first person from Esther.  She several times mentions that she knows that it is “her part” of the story she is telling, that is, there is another writer, but she doesn’t know who commissioned her to write, or even if it was a male or female.

So, who commissioned her to write and who did write that part that is in third person? 

OK, I understand Dickens might not have had anybody in mind, he just wrote it the way he wrote his other third person narratives.

But what if he did have a person in mind?  Even if it was subconscious… 

Let’s pretend that there really was a mysterious person who commissioned Esther to write her part but was also responsible for the other part.

The first thing to note is that this narrator is almost omniscient, that is, it can “see” into many people’s heads, i.e., know what multiple people are thinking.

Or does it know?

It rarely says, “XXX thought YYY.” 

Well, in ways it does, though.  For instance, we know that Mr. Snagsby is confused as to what all of the secrecy concerning Jo, Mr. Bucket, Mr. Tulkinghorn and the French maid.  He gets paranoid and starts acting strange.  Then we know that his wife decides that he is having an affair and that Jo is really his love child.

So we know Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby’s thoughts, right?

Maybe.

All of the above was known to Mr. Bucket, who was watching them to protect “the secret”.  He spied on all of them, and did his best to hush up Jo, who talked too much.

OK, I just gave it away.  I would say around two thirds of what people knew and even thought would have been known to Mr. Bucket.  He even gave a brief outline of most of it when talking to Sir Leicester and later to Mrs. Snagsby.  He had been working the case long before it was a case and was in on many of the main dealings.  He had a close working relationship with Mr. Tulkinghorn, observed most of the others and questioned many.

A small hole – We see more of Mr. Tulkinghorn’s thoughts throughout and we even know Mr. Tulkinghorn’s exact thoughts concerning Lady Dedlock as they talk that very last time.   Neither of them related it to someone else.  Did Mr. Bucket assume from what he knew?  Did a maid overhear and witness it?  Mr. Bucket did question the entire household about that night, what did he learn?  But it is still hard to account for Mr. Tulkinghorn’s last evening.  On the other hand, there are only a few anomalies like this, so…

But, beyond some of Mr. Tulkinghorn’s thoughts, there are many things that occurred at Chesney Wold (Sir Leicester’s estate, but you knew that since I told you not to read the post unless you read the book…) that Mr. Bucket might not know, as well as the day-to-day dealings in the Dedlock household.

The only answer is that he didn’t just ask Esther for a narrative, but talked to Mr. George as well. 

First, Mr. George is a pretty major character and is in many chapters.  Some of what Mr. George knows and saw Mr. Bucket would have known about as well, but he was also involved in so much more than most of the other characters.

More than that, Mr. George had a few major resources.

First, of course, was his mother.  She had been on the staff at Chesney Wold since before Sir Leicester was even born and was the main housekeeper.  So with a staff that might be counted in dozens, hundreds even, she was the top person.  She had a personal relationship with the Lord and Lady and knew much more about what went on in the house, who visited (like Mr. Guppy) and such than any other human.  She knew the characters, and could read them.

Then there was his brand-new niece, Rosa.  She was Lady Dedlock’s personal maid for a big chunk of the book, by her side at almost all times, when she was in Chesney Wold, London or even Paris.  She would have had a huge amount of inside information on what was on my Lady’s mind.  And at the end of the book, she was preparing to marry Mr. George’s nephew, and he was to be invited to the wedding.

And then, of course, there was Sir Leicester himself.  At the end Mr. George became his almost constant companion.  It is possible the old baronet would have confided in this old friend of his. Don’t doubt that sometimes people like Sir Leicester felt more comfortable confiding with a servant they have known their entire lives than people of their own social standing. Remember that Sir Leicester was almost dead until he discovered that George was around.  Just that piece of information revived him like nothing else would have.  And then, in the narrative, several times it let us know that the Lady was reacting in one way or another by Sir Leicester’s observation, or his supposed lack of observation, such as stating that Lady Dedlock’s cries and sobs were just the moving air to his ears.  Really?

So, pretending that Bleak House was a true history instead of a work of fiction by Charles Dickens, we can imagine a few years out Lord Dedlock passes away and Mr. George, having by then found out much more through means given above, wants to write a history.  He contacts Mr. Bucket, who knows so, so much more.  In fact, Mr. Bucket knows almost the full case and only needs those personal bits from the manor to fill it in.  Except, something is missing.  So he uses a proxy to reach out to Esther.  Esther, thinking of her mother, takes the matter very seriously and writes a 300 page book about her own life and how it related to the case.  Remember, early on Esther says, “as if this narrative were the narrative of my life!”  Yes, it was the narrative of Esther’s life, but obviously the instructions were to write all that she remembered about somebody else.  Her mother?  Or was she told to write about the case Jarndyce and Jarndyce?  No matter.

In ways it makes sense.  Most of those keen observations about society could have come from Mr. Bucket, who was a shrewd observer of human nature, none the better before Sherlock arrived on the scene (maybe better than Sherlock when it comes to sympathies for his fellow man!). And there are odd inconsistencies between points of view, and even contradictions in some of the things history shows Dickens believed, so having (obviously) Esther talking, and then a combination of two other voices, Mr. Bucket and Mr. George, those inconsistencies and even contradictions disappear – sometimes it is one person’s view, and other times another person.  It all makes sense then.

As I said, this was just for fun.  It is very probable Dickens never even gave a thought as to who this other narrative belongs to, just writing as he usually did for that part.

Having Esther’s first-person narrative counterbalance that third person narrative, though was a stroke of brilliance on Dickens’ part.  It turned this book into something else that it couldn’t have been without it, something much more personal.  And having the third person was very much needed since there was so, so much she could have never known.  This book needed both.

I hope you enjoyed this flight of fancy.  What do you think?  Who wrote that other narrative?

A quick aside – Mr. Bucket was an odd character.  My opinion of him was fluid.  He seemed ruthlessly efficient, and yet he did show sympathy to those he arrested (and harassed!).  His harassment of poor Jo was almost unforgivable, and yet he did it to try to protect Lady Dredlock – Jo talked too much.  He was very manipulative and made people trust him to give him the information he was looking for.  At the same time, he was “decent” enough in his manipulations, as can be seen in his arrest of Mr. George.  He was a very shrewd judge of people and could read them, and yet he had his sympathies for his fellow human.  When Mr. Bucket went to arrest the dying Mr. Gridley he tried to encourage him and was genuinely sad that the man he had arrested so many times in the past was deathly ill.  This was the first time I thawed at all towards him, but it is how he tried to help at the end that won me over (at least a little…).  And there were so many weird mixed feelings when he was being so polite and yet you knew he was just biding his time to arrest Mr. George!  But it all made sense later.  He worked tirelessly to find the real perp in the murder case because he wanted justice done, and he felt sorry for those falsely accused, even those who might not get many people’s deepest compassion.  That all night journey through the blizzard, well, you can’t not like him after that.  Or can you?  An interesting bloke all around.

*

Bleak House Main Challenge Post

***

52 thoughts on “Bleak House Day 2 – Just for Fun

  1. Pingback: Monday Morning Blooms & Bleak House Challenge A to Z Takeaways📚☀️😊 – priorhouse blog

  2. Pingback: Dickens Challenge – Bleak House Recap Post | Trent's World (the Blog)

  3. Pingback: Monday Morning Blooms & Bleak House Challenge is THIS WEEK📚☀️😊 – priorhouse blog

  4. Resa

    Amazing, Trent!
    You got a lot out of Bleak House. Although, as Dickens wrote it, I could expect no less.
    As all of his writings, it sounds like a fancy wrought iron gate, filled with motifs and other solid bits. He was strong with his characters.
    I really like this. Thank you!

    This is so stupid… but I couldn’t get the Britcom “Keeping Up Appearances” out of my head every time you said the name Bucket.
    … No, it’s not Mrs. Bucket. It’s pronounced Bouquet. Anyway! Sent you a mail!
    Just mentioning it, in case Spam doesn’t recognize the name and sucks it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I did see the email and just responded!

      I couldn’t read this type of work all of the time, but I agree, it does resemble some of the craft work from that period, with detail inside of detail. I think he understood human nature better than almost any other author out there (a few did better,but not many) and so could write those compelling, realistic characters. I can just hear Bouquet/Bucket. lol

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Prior...

    Good morning Trent
    This was an unexpected and refreshing post!
    Really like your thinking about the narrative and third person!
    And not sure if you have the “names” dickens used coming up – but I often smiled at the subtle name connections (ie Lady “dead lock ” was stuck) and then having
    Detective Bucket- the bucket image being a vessel that collects and holds much- and so you are right about all he knew!
    //
    I did read that Bucket marks the first official detective in literary fiction – that is a fun little fact for those who like the crime and mystery genre!

    I agree how the reader can grow with and change as it relates to both George and Bucket!

    And George was maybe my favorite character – as he mentored and helped others – ran a cool business – wouldn’t compromise and just give up captain Hawden’s writing – and even the way Bucket respected him adds to the revere dickens developed for George – and even George’s response to having close up shop after being lied to!
    Yes – George is high on my list and is in my top 25 –

    Your writing about Bucket a so spot on T
    A little sneaky and always alert as a detective – but also astute and darn good at what he does!
    The excellent judge of character and ultimately – I agree – better than Sherlock and perhaps paved the way for detective characters that would come later in literature!

    I read that dickens used real-Life people to develop characters and so I wonder About the folks that inspired George and Bucket —
    Oh and Jo did talk way too much –
    And at times my pity for him was covered with annoyance for his rattling – but did fit his characterization

    ☀️😊💛

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Glad you like this, Yvette! A lot of fun exploring it.
      Dickens was a genius with names. There are few characters that the name doesn’t have some significance, even Summerson is fitting. Then there are people like Guppy – major lol on that one! I really only bring it up once, and at the end of a post with a warning since it is PG-13 (almost R) rated. I am not sure if Dickens meant it, but I can’t see it any other way…
      George was a great character. I think it wasn’t until I went back later that I understood how major he was. He was in so many chapters and was one of the few people who were in both the first person and the third person narratives. Generous, loyal, high standards, a man of service in many meanings of that word – such a great character. Can’t wait to read about him in your top 25. (I’ll admit I did not see the connection with his mother! I was taken by surprise, but it all made perfect sense. And the book is about mothers, right? I feel stupid on that one.)
      Bucket was so intriguing. And since Dickens was such a genius at manipulating emotions, I know that my fluid opinion of him was purposeful.
      Yeah, poor Jo… He didn’t mean to give Esther small pox (indirectly – he gave it to Charlie who gave it to Esther), he didn’t realize that his prattling was doing anybody harm, but… Move along, move along…

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Prior...

        Yeah and the small pox for Esther at least got guppy off her back and also showed more of his true character (don’t want ya if you are not the beauty queen I once perceived – but then he changed later) – and then her small pox maybe highlighted more of Jarndyce’s genuine love for her (even though he crossed the line of guardian and ward with the proposal by then got his wits about him- but he would have loved her even if the small
        Pox scars stayed bad! That kind of love – that goes beyond external beauty is so wonderful).

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. trentpmcd Post author

          I’m not sure if the small pox did get Guppy off her back – she pretty much threatened him, and yet he was still trying to figure out the mystery in the background up until the end.
          I talk about it more in one of my other posts, but I think Jarndyce did love her very deeply, but not romantically. Hi proposal, besides being inappropriate and more than a little creepy, I think was more out of an almost fatherly desire to protect her from the world than a romantic bond. He sure threw her off quick enough ;) (I read that one of the biggest complaints in the 19th century is how he treated her “like a bag of flour”, just handing her off to another man.) But I do think he was a man who knew love and compassion and was a good man, if a little misguided where marrying Esther is concerned.
          And I have been thinking more about the pox, particularly after seeing that drawing on Derrick’s post. I may have to write something…

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. Prior...

            Well I think the “bag of flour” toss is because sometimes the only way to release something one really wants/needs/desires is to get detached and do it fast- perhaps a human thing

            And I am not sure about the romantic part – but considering he planned it from when she was young does show it was more logical in theory.

            Like

            Reply
            1. trentpmcd Post author

              I’ll admit that I think it was great that Mr. Jarndyce did understand Esther enough to know that she would be far better off with Mr. Woodcourt. His creating a miniature Bleak House for the happy couple not only made her feel at home, made it so he kept his promise (in a way) and such, it was by far the most romantic thing Mr. Jarndyce did in the entire book and to me redeemed the creepy marriage proposal. That being said, when I read that people in the 19th century were upset by how casually he handed her over, I understood what they were talking about (“bag of flour” was the description I read). Anyway, to me it was a much happier ending her living in that small Bleak House with Alan and their kids than sharing a huge empty Bleak House with Mr. Jarndyce.

              Liked by 1 person

              Reply
              1. Prior...

                Well I am not sure it would have been so bleak in the big house with Mr. Jarndyce. Well maybe.
                if it was all obligatory on Esther’s part then yes
                But I think she did have some sort of feelings for him – more platonic than anything else – and that could have grown because he was so like minded and supportive of her and open about his idiosyncratic bachelor ways.

                And maybe that is why the final realization to release her to Alan – it was for her sake (and I knew you “read” the bag of flour part – you made that clear!) but it might have also been for his sake because I am sure one gets used to the bachelor life just like one might be used to always have a partner.

                At first – I didn’t like that Esther seemed unharmed from her early years. But! Then my counselor side kicked in and I had some insights about that which will make the top 25 list!

                And how very cool that you are doing these essays because we get to discuss it even tho I am
                Not ready to post about it!

                Liked by 1 person

                Reply
                1. trentpmcd Post author

                  I think Esther was very neurotic because of here hard early life ;) I will discuss that a little on today’s post. Waiting to see what your counselor side said about it.
                  Esther did love Mr. Jarndyce, but, as you said, I think in a platonic way – he was her surrogate father. I have some theories on Mr. Jarndyce which I will briefly mention later, but I think it may be more than he just liked being a bachelor…

                  Liked by 1 person

                  Reply
                  1. Prior...

                    Oooo – I look forward to
                    Your thoughts on Mr Jarndyce and his bachelor status

                    Also – I think Esther is able to rise above some of the whims many have in youth.
                    Because as her character unfolded it reminded me that some humans are just more innately wired for stability (low neuroticism in the Big5) and thy likely combined with a sense of duty –
                    And or how many years was marriage about arrangement and less about choosing or following one’s heart?
                    Many folks today might not be in arranged marriages but I am not sure status and “arrangements” are completely out of the picture.
                    Oh and a while back I watched the cool history show about the rich women of new york – later 1800s and early 1900s with all
                    That new money – 💰
                    But they could not be received by the snobby old money folks in NYC and north east
                    So the show follows may of the brides who went to England and got a TITLE by bringing their cash infusion to the spouse’s family!
                    Similar to the mom in Downton Abby and I guess Winston Churchill momma’s was one of the rich beauties who crossed the Atlantic for such a marriage !a
                    So! With Esther – women had so many less opportunities for centuries and I can see why she felt the appeal of his offer. Love and desire likely had little
                    To do with it – but her devotion and gratefulness ? And maybe she liked his transparency because I did get the sense that Mr Jarndyce was open about his eccentric ways .
                    — however – the chemistry with Alan is when the “heart skips a beat” and is a natural connection that two souls cannot force!
                    And so getting back to the fun “tossed like a bag of flour” analogy for the way J released Esther – I think he saw that chemistry between Esther and Alan and the spark could not be ignored
                    So he allowed two folks to be fulfilled by releasing Esther (and of corse he likely knew how Esther would lose out – and maybe it was ultimate love in action?)

                    Liked by 1 person

                    Reply
                    1. trentpmcd Post author

                      Won’t say a lot, but you are right that Esther was most likely the only person Mr Jarndyce confided in, starting long before the proposal. She knew him better than any other human did.She was happy about the proposal, even if it seems a little creepy by modern eyes. And that is a big point – it is impossible to read it the way people would have in the 1850s. Most of the marriages and affairs in the book were about love more than money, but arranged marriages were still very common and even non-arranged marriages among the rich were often about money and titles.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Prior...

                      You are so right that it is easy to forget the original audience
                      And

                      The installments
                      We might have said it before but being released in 20 monthly installments must have been awesome – to wonder what would happen next and to feel the twists -/
                      I started reading your day 3 essay and got pulled away for a little work stuff – but eagerly look forward to returning to it –
                      BRB

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Prior...

                      I didn’t read straight through and had to break it down – well
                      Obviously – hahaha
                      But also glad to not have it spread across 20 months

                      For some reason I was also thinking about radio days – and when stories and live acts were done on weekly radio programs
                      – and to think now we stream shows and download books on demand

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. trentpmcd Post author

                      Tune in next week, same Bleak Time, same Bleak channel! lol I know. In many ways we are very spoiled. I’ve said it with “free music” that people don’t value what they don’t pay for, and “pay” does not always mean money. Time. Effort. When things are too easy, they have less value. Remember waiting all year to see The Wizard of Oz how special it was? The world came to a stop that one night of the year. Pure magic! As soon is it came out on video, it stopped being special. You could see it any time. You could watch ten minutes now, ten later… lol, yep, I guess I’m getting old and cranky!

                      Like

                    5. Prior...

                      I don’t remember the wizard of oz movie but did feel
                      That way with Christmas specials – and if you missed the start 😊 there was no rewind or rewatch until next year!
                      And next year when it is time for checking in – just signal the “bleak signal”

                      Liked by 1 person

      1. Prior...

        Well Marsha – I think you might enjoy the book a lot!
        Be prepared for how long it is because it was originally delivered in monthly installments (20 months it took) and so I bet it was a completely different experience being released like that!

        There are two dramatizations of Beale house – 2005 and I think 1985…. and it is on audio at different places
        So that is another option to get the plot and much feel
        For the characters. Of course the book has so many extras that are felt when “read”

        And I think I mentored that Trent is doing five essays this week whereas I am going to post one long post – and I just moved it t
        The weekend so I can feature my monthly interview and because a blogger joining us is posting hers on the 16th….

        Liked by 2 people

        Reply
            1. Marsha

              It is. Well, I am 2% through the book. I loved the description of fog. It was “everywhere” and so was the description taking up pages and pages of the first chaper. Even the judge sat in the midst of fog, giving it addition depth of meaning by using it as a metaphor for the ongoingness of the case and the complete loss of context.

              Liked by 1 person

              Reply
              1. trentpmcd Post author

                It is a great description, and I used it on one of my reminder posts (the last two reminder posts were pretty much a synopsis of Chapters 1 and 2, which introduce us to the two big plots). You are right, the entire case is lost in the fog of that system, and Dickens does such a great job making those metaphors.

                Liked by 1 person

                Reply
              2. trentpmcd Post author

                And as a FYI – there is someone who said they are doing a post on the 16th, so if you are a fast reader, even though you might not hit this week, you still may be part of the discussion.

                Liked by 1 person

                Reply
                1. Marsha

                  We got a lot of fog in CA, and I wrote several poems about it. When I wrote my novel, I had a hard time writing descriptions, and now I see what I could do, and how much time it took to weave in all those details, but they really meant something to the story.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  Reply
    2. Retirement Reflections

      Hi, Yvette and Trent – I love that real life piece. From my “rabbit-hole reading” (I fell down quite a few while devouring Bleakhouse), many believe that Bucket was based on real-life Inspector Charles Frederick Field. Dickens had already written three articles about Field in Household Words. Even more engrossing, Hortense is said to have been modelled on Swiss Maid, Maria Manning, who (along with her husband) was convicted of the murder of her lover, Patrick O’Connor (The Bermondsey Horror). Fascinating stuff!

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      1. trentpmcd Post author

        It is fascinating. I think this is such a big part of why his characters have such life – they are based on real people. A few times I was tempted to go down that rabbit hole, but I wanted to keep my thoughts as “pure” from the book as possible without knowing background and such, though the edition I used had a lot of notes that I read, which helped with things like puns and biblical references I might have missed.

        Like

        Reply
      2. Prior...

        That is fascinating stuff indeed!
        And you know – I had a feeling that Hortense was very close to a real life person – just felt it so many times –
        However – bucket? I didn’t guess (even knowing CD used real life people to develop characters) and so it was great to learn about Inspector Charles Frederick Field and that connection!
        Thanks for letting us know and also for sharing about your rabbit holes and side trails

        Liked by 2 people

        Reply
        1. Retirement Reflections

          So many Bleakhouse characters are thought to be based on real life people. Many of these, Dickens openly admitted. Esther was believed to modeled on Georgina Hogarth, Dicken’s wife’s younger sister. Georgina was extremely self-sacrificing, immersed herself in household duties and dedicated herself to the welfare of others.

          Liked by 2 people

          Reply
          1. trentpmcd Post author

            That is interesting. Georgina sounds like a great person, but I hope she took some time for herself and that she was happy in the end – he wrote Esther as being very happy with her choices, so hopefully the real person as well :)

            Like

            Reply
          2. Prior...

            Oh another example you gave – thanks!!
            And when it comes to Mr Skimpole – I think I met a couple like him
            In real life!
            And a lady dedlock or two😊

            Like

            Reply
  6. Pingback: Dickens Challenge – Bleak House Intro Post | Trent's World (the Blog)

Express Yourself

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s