Today is my conclusion to Bleak House. First, I wrote this several months after the other posts. In those months I had read a couple of short essays on the book, which in ways made me change my mind about a little of what I wrote. I left what I wrote mostly unchanged because they were my first impressions. (Note – I added a few lines on some of the posts, but no major changes and no changes to conclusions)
Some of the big changes in my thoughts after the later reading were about Esther’s narrative. For instance, how reliable is it? I took it at face value when I read the book. On the other hand, I took the difference between her and Mrs. Rachael’s reactions at their parting as a later, adult sense of irony. So, if the writer Esther is allowed some editorial license here, what is to say she didn’t use it everywhere? Was her emotional reaction what she was thinking during the time the book was taking place or was it from a perspective more than 7 years later? Back when the book was released, a lot of people complained about how unreliable the narrative is. I am not so sure I would come to some of the conclusions they did, but maybe some of it has to be questioned, or at the very least acknowledged. (I still take it mostly at face value, but with eyes fully open.)
I did bring up the plot and the ins-and-outs of Esther’s narrative during these posts. What I didn’t bring out was that Esther’s narrative really was about the lawsuit, Jarndyce and Jarndyce. She came in relatively late, but even before she met Mr. Jarndyce, she imparted important information on the case (for instance, Mr. Kenge mentioned the cost of the suit at that time, which, of course, was huge importance at the end!). Overall, though, her narrative is the story of Ada, Richard, and Mr. Jarndyce. She gives her own story as part of it, and her mother’s story almost incidentally. Her mother’s role in her narrative is actually quite small! And though there are players in the law suit in the other narrative, it is not very important in that narrative, which is mostly (indirectly) about Lady Dedlock.
So I had once stated that the Jarndyce and Jarndyce plot was just the glue of the story, and yet, in some ways it formed an equal, counter plot to the other side, the Lady Dedlock plot. They have little to do with each other and work on different levels, and yet there are odd similarities and connections do exist. And in ways each of the two narratives follows each of the two plots with just a bit of intermingling between them, and, as I said, some connections between narratives and plots (though it is only mentioned once or twice, Lady Dedlock has a minor role in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, another connection.)
Thinking of all these connections, there is the huge complexity of the stories and the often-contradictory conclusions. I did see a lot of that, but how do you write about it? Others have, I didn’t as much. (OK, my piece on PoV did explore some of the contradictions.)
And, of course, as with all Dickens, this book was very much a product of its day and it was a very political product at that. Some of the politics still exists and a lot of the social commentary is still relevant, but it is impossible to see it as Dickens’ contemporaries would have, where court cases did sometimes run for decades (actually, some still do…) and where the level of poverty glimpsed here still existed in Britain (you can argue it still does, but not quite like back then!).
A lot of complaints about Dickens does have to do with the fact that it is product of its times. Today a popular author would not be so wordy! And yet, some of these “flaws” are also what gives the book its character. And in part our attitudes seem odd – we might spend a huge amount of time reading, but we don’t like to wallow in a book, we want it done, out of the way and a new book in its place (even when it is book 2 or 3 or 27 of a series). We have short attention spans and demand a constant change. It is often difficult to slow down to a Victorian pace and savor the words on the page, to take to a book like a large meal instead of a snack.
But it often fun to try.
And I hope you did enjoy this little taste of moving at a horse carriage pace instead of the speed of light of the Internet pace.
Here are my posts for this challenge:
Here are Yvette’s posts for this challenge:
Yvette’s Bleak House Challenge A-Z – Yvette gives 26 take-aways from the novel in this great post!
Yvette’s Challenge Opening Remind (Besides a reminder, Yvette is keeping track of the challenge on this post)
Here are all of the pre-challenge and reminder posts (some contain good material for discussion!):
Yvette’s opening post
My opening post
Yvette’s reminder post (includes other material)
My Reminder Post
My Month Countdown Post (London Fog…)
My Last Reminder (Lady Dedlock)
Yvette’s Challenge Opening Reminder
And here are your posts (I’ll add links taken from ones I find on both my posts and Yvette’s posts):
First in: derrickjknight – ‘Bleak House’ Comes To The End
Retirement Reflections – What’s on Your Bookshelf? (June Edition, leading off with Bleak House)
Marsha Ingrao – Always Write – Too Early to Have Coffee Today (Coffee share post with a few Bleak House paragraphs)