Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House: Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Richard comes to see Mr. Jarndyce and tells him of his plans to join the army. Mr. Jarndyce respects Richard’s decision but seems concerned. His concern is intensified when they hear that Richard has put in an application for his suit in Jarndyce and Jarndyce and has hired a legal agent to handle the case. He throws himself into his study for the army and begins to take combat lessons.
Mr. Jarndyce worries that once Richard is embroiled in the case, and has a personal stake in it (which he will if he is paying a lawyer to defend his interests), there will be no way back for Richard.
Themes
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Everything seems to be going well until, one evening, Richard comes to see Mr. Jarndyce in a rage. It transpires that Mr. Jarndyce has contacted Richard to ask him to temporarily break off his engagement with Ada. Richard is furious with him, but Mr. Jarndyce insists that since Richard is in debt, he should focus on his career first and then commit to Ada. Richard fires up that he does not rely on his earnings alone for his fortune. At this, Mr. Jarndyce is horrified and begs Richard not to rely on the court case for his future.
Richard takes Mr. Jarndyce’s advice personally and feels that his guardian is out to get him. Richard confirms Mr. Jarndyce’s worst fears—that he is banking on the lawsuit to make his fortune and that he does not intend to commit seriously to any career.
Themes
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Richard says that Mr. Jarndyce does not trust him, but Mr. Jarndyce insists that he acts with both Richard and Ada’s best interests in mind. Ada is shocked by proceedings but clearly trusts Mr. Jarndyce’s intentions. Ada rises and tries to comfort Richard. She promises that she will be faithful to him regardless of how long it takes him to make a success of himself and promises that he can rely on Mr. Jarndyce. Richard agrees, but he is reserved with Mr. Jarndyce after this.
Ada can see Mr. Jarndyce’s good intentions clearly, whereas Richard cannot because he has been blinded by his delusions. Ada tries to convince Richard that Mr. Jarndyce’s advice makes sense, suggesting that she is the far more levelheaded of the pair. Richard seems temporarily placated but clearly holds a grudge against his guardian.
Themes
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
One morning, in London, when Esther and Mr. Jarndyce have gone to visit Richard, they meet his combat instructor, George. Mr. Jarndyce asks George about his customers at the gallery, and George tells them that he once met a man named Gridley, who was worried that, if he was taught how to use a musket, he would use it on his enemies. George tells them that Gridley is in hiding now and that, he fears, he will soon collapse under the pressure of his court case.
Gridley, like Miss Flite and Richard, has gone mad through his obsession with a Chancery suit. He is close to violence but has the self-awareness to no longer trust himself. Gridley understands that he has allowed the court case to consume him and that it will soon destroy him as a result of his obsession.
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Richard’s preparations for the army are complete and he suggests that, before he leaves, they visit the court for news of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Esther goes with him, but Mr. Jarndyce refuses to come. Esther is struck by the contrast between the composed, bored looking lawyers and the tormented suitors, such as Gridley. Jarndyce and Jarndyce is brought before the court and the lawyers begin to laugh and joke about it. Esther glances at Richard and is shocked to see how haggard and drawn he looks as he listens.
Richard is so obsessed with the case that he cannot spend an afternoon in London without checking in at the court. His behavior is reminiscent of Miss Flite’s. Esther can see that the lawyers do not have any stake in the long, drawn-out lawsuits, and, in fact, gain from them, whereas the suitors stand to lose everything, including their sanity.
Themes
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Esther notices Mr. Guppy in the court and wishes to escape. As Richard leads her out, however, Mr. Guppy stops them and tells Esther that there is a woman to see her. It is her godmother’s servant, Mrs. Rachael, whose married name is now Mrs. Chadband. She greets Esther haughtily and then swoops away, leaving Esther with Richard.
It seems that Mr. Guppy spends time with Mrs. Chadband so that he can find out about Esther’s past and uncover her history. He also wishes to ingratiate himself with her as he has not yet let go of the idea that she may accept his proposal.
Themes
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Richard sees George in the crowd and calls him over. George asks them quietly if they know a mad old lady who sits in the court, and Esther directs him to Miss Flite. George says that Gridley is hidden at his gallery and has asked for the old woman. He tells them that Gridley is dying and, when Miss Flite is informed, she agrees to go with them.
Miss Flite and Gridley are connected by their madness and their presence in court. They have a close kinship because of this shared experience.
Themes
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Outside George’s gallery, they meet an old man who says that he is a doctor and that he has been sent for by George’s servant to treat Gridley. Phil opens the door and the doctor takes off his hat and reveals that he is really Mr. Bucket, who has come to arrest Gridley. He knows that Gridley is there because he looked in through the skylight of the gallery and saw him. He does not arrest Gridley right away, however, but allows him some time with Miss Flite.
Mr. Bucket is completely mercenary and will use any means to achieve his investigative ends. Mr. Bucket is one of first literary detectives of this type and inspired Arthur Conan Doyle in his creation of Sherlock Holmes. Mr. Bucket uses many techniques which are similar to Sherlock Holmes’s methods of deduction throughout the novel.
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George leads Miss Flite to Gridley’s bedside while the others wait. Mr. Jarndyce, who has heard about Gridley, arrives, and George takes them down to visit the sick man. Gridley lies on a couch and looks thin and wasted. Miss Flite sits near him and holds his hand, and he is pleased to see the others, though he is very weak. Gridley explains that he thought he could fight Chancery but that he was arrogant and has learned the hard way that he cannot win.
Gridley has wasted away under the strain that the Chancery suit has put on him. The constant suspense of waiting to see how the case will end has worn him down, and although he thought that he could take on the large, unjust system, he has learned that he has little power against such large institutions.
Themes
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Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Mr. Bucket tries to encourage Gridley, but he is close to death. Mr. Bucket seems genuinely concerned when Gridley is not roused and admits that he sees him as an “old acquaintance.” Miss Flite lets out a scream, and the others realize that Gridley has died. The sun sets, and as Richard leaves for the army, Esther’s heart feels heavy and sad.
Mr. Bucket has a strange type of affection for the people he arrests often, as though they are participants in a game and in which he is on one side and they are on the other. Gridley’s death hangs over Richard’s departure and foreshadows his own deadly fate in Chancery. It seems that the sun is metaphorically setting on Richard’s life, as his obsession with Jarndyce and Jarndyce is past the point of no return.
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