Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In his office, during the long vacation, Mr. Guppy is extremely bored. He lounges restlessly about Kenge and Carboy’s and grows jealous of Richard, who is also there over the holiday but who has been given use of Kenge’s private office. Mr. Guppy thinks that Richard believes himself too good for the place and is convinced that Richard is trying to steal his job. He is pleased that Richard occupies himself with Jarndyce and Jarndyce because Mr. Guppy feels this is a legal dead end.
Mr. Guppy is obsessed with his own social position and resents Richard because Richard is a ward of the court and, therefore, Mr. Guppy thinks that Mr. Kenge grants him special favors. Mr. Guppy is arrogant and jealous of Richard and assumes that Richard wants to be like him. This makes Mr. Guppy bitter and makes him pleased to see Richard fail. He does not try to help Richard with the case because he views him as his competition.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Mr. Guppy’s colleague Bart Smallweed enters the office. He is only 15 but seems never to have been a child. He admires Mr. Guppy and copies him in everything. However, when it comes to personal lives, Bart often offers counsel to Mr. Guppy. Mr. Guppy leans out of the window to cool himself down and sees his friend Mr. Jobling below.
Proximity to the law and the legal profession has warped Bart and crushed all the youth and hope out of him while he was still a child. Chancery law has this negative, stifling effect on almost all the characters who get close to it.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Mr. Jobling shouts up to Mr. Guppy that he is hungry and Mr. Guppy shouts back that, if he will wait, they can dine together. The group retire to a local inn where Bart Smallweed fancies the middle-aged waitress. He is a strange, wizened little man, who seems to have been surrounded all his life by legal proceedings.
It is comical that Bart pursues the waitress because she is so much older than him. At the same time, however, while Bart is externally still a young man, there doesn’t seem to be an ounce of youth left in him, and therefore he may be more suited to an older woman.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
They order three meals and Mr. Jobling, who has a downtrodden appearance, eats heartily. He has fallen on hard times, been fired, and borrowed money from a bad source. Mr. Guppy suggests that Mr. Jobling should go to Mr. Snagsby for writing work and to Krook to rent a room, as he knows that Krook is looking for a lodger. Mr. Guppy says that he can put a good word in with Krook, who, he says, is a mysterious character. Mr. Guppy cannot work out if Krook is rich or poor, or what he did for money in his youth.
Mr. Jobling has gone into debt and has lost money on the interest. Mr. Guppy involves himself in everyone’s business because he likes to feel like a man who is in the know and who has a certain level of social influence. In that vein, since he likes to know everything about everyone, it is irritating to Mr. Guppy that he cannot figure Krook out.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
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Mr. Jobling gratefully thanks Mr. Guppy and accepts his offer. Mr. Guppy tells Mr. Jobling that Krook’s previous lodger died in the room but Mr. Jobling seems unconcerned by this. Bart Smallweed goes ahead to Krook’s to see if he is in, while Mr. Guppy pays the bill. Bart returns and says that Krook is asleep, and the men set out to wake him up.
Mr. Guppy has suggested that Mr. Jobling should rent Nemo’s old room, possibly to make sure he has an ally in the building who could perhaps give him access to Krook’s supply of legal documents or find out juicy tidbits of information.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Bart Smallweed leaves them, and Mr. Guppy and Mr. Jobling go on to Krook’s shop. They find Krook asleep in the shop, with a gin bottle beside him, reeking of alcohol. It takes them some time to wake the old man up and, when they do, Mr. Guppy offers to run to a nearby inn and have the gin bottle refilled. Krook willingly agrees and Mr. Guppy hurries out. When he returns, he introduces Krook to Mr. Jobling and explains Jobling’s circumstances to the old man.
Mr. Guppy refills Krook’s gin to ingratiate himself with the old man and make him more likely to rent to Mr. Jobling. Mr. Guppy is eager to see Mr. Jobling situated in Krook’s, Once again, it seems that this arrangement will give him an insight into Krook and, potentially, the law papers he has in his shop.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Krook shows Mr. Guppy and Mr. Jobling the room—Mr. Jobling assumes the false name, Mr. Weevle, to disguise himself and listens to Krook’s tales about the shop’s connection with famous legal disputes such as Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Mr. Jobling moves in the next day and decorates the dingy room to his liking. He pins a series of portraits on the wall which represent “Great British Beauties.” Mr. Jobling becomes very popular with the neighbors in Cook’s Court and is an excellent lodger. Mrs. Piper, who lives nearby, even remarks to her neighbor that he may inherit Krook’s fortune.
Mr. Jobling, who is also a social climber, makes an effort to flatter Krook and does favors for the old man in the hopes that he may receive something from him—either an inheritance or access to important or influential documents that are hidden in his shop.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon