Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House: Chapter 45 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A few days later, as Esther and Ada walk around the garden, Esther notices Mr. Vholes on his way to the house. She keeps this from Ada because Ada hopes that Richard will soon grow bored of Chancery affairs. Esther goes to Mr. Jarndyce’s office and finds Mr. Vholes there. He has come to tell Mr. Jarndyce that Richard is severely in debt and to ask Mr. Jarndyce to pay his legal fees. Mr. Vholes explains that he has his father and children to support.
Esther does not wish to disappoint Ada by letting her know that Richard is still involved with his lawyer. Mr. Vholes has exploited Richard’s hopes and convinced him to go into debt. He now expects Mr. Jarndyce to pay this debt for Richard all the while convincing Richard to see Mr. Jarndyce as his enemy.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mr. Jarndyce explains that he does not think Richard will allow him to pay his fees, and Mr. Vholes accepts this. Mr. Jarndyce asks Esther to write to Richard, however, to see if Richard will accept his help. Mr. Vholes does not want anyone to think that he has tried to exploit Richard and that he has not appealed to Mr. Jarndyce for help—after all, he has his reputation to think of. He wants this meeting to be confidential, and Esther agrees not to tell Richard.
Mr. Vholes wishes to maintain his respectable reputation by attempting to get Richard out of debt. It is a half-hearted attempt, however, as Mr. Vholes has encouraged Richard to believe that Mr. Jarndyce is an enemy and, therefore, Richard is unlikely to accept his guardian’s help or advice.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Ada, Esther, Charley, and Mr. Jarndyce take rooms in London, and Esther and Charley drive out to the coast at Deal to visit Richard’s barracks. Esther finds Richard in his room, which is very messy. He is pleased to see her but seems in very low spirits about his profession; he is heavily in debt and about to leave the army. He will return to London with Esther. She begs him to quit Jarndyce and Jarndyce instead, but Richard says he cannot give up on that too, as it is the only thing he has ever pursued constantly.
Richard is still a soldier and lives in the army camp on the coast. Richard’s room reflects him internal state of chaos and confusion. Richard feels like a failure because he has abandoned three professions. This makes him cling on even more to the idea that he can solve the Chancery case to redeem himself and make his fortune.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther gives Richard a letter from Ada which begs him to accept her small inheritance to pay his debts. Richard breaks down when he reads this and tells Esther that he longs to die. Esther tries to comfort him, but Richard immediately begins to talk of Mr. Vholes and the assurance that the lawyer has given him that his suit gets on well. Esther leaves Richard with a heavy heart.
Richard is ashamed that Ada has had to use her money to support him. As her fiancé, Richard feels that he is financially responsible for them both. Again, rather than put Richard off Chancery, it only increases his determination to resolve the suit and prove himself.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
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Esther and Charley walk around the port that afternoon and come across a boat which has just moored. Esther sees Mr. Woodcourt among the party and hurries back to her hotel. Mr. Woodcourt is booked to stay there, however, and Esther hears him arrive. She sends a note to his room and invites him to come and see her. He arrives at once and, Esther thinks, is shocked by the scars on her face.
Esther does not want Mr. Woodcourt to see her scarred face and initially tries to hide from him. She is embarrassed because she loves him and thinks he used to love her. When she finds that he is in the same hotel as her, though, she feels that it would be unkind not to see him.
Themes
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther talks to Mr. Woodcourt about his travels and tells him how Miss Flite gets on. She notices that Mr. Woodcourt seems very uncomfortable with her and puts this down to her changed appearance. She feels quite relaxed, however, and feels that she comforts him. Richard arrives for the journey home while they are talking, and Mr. Woodcourt is surprised to see the change in him, too.
Mr. Woodcourt is very kind and genuinely remembers and cares about his patients, like Miss Flite. Esther think he is uncomfortable because he pities her for losing her beauty.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mr. Woodcourt tells them that he will not return to sea and seems to understand that Richard is also in professional difficulty. Richard hurries off to put his luggage in the carriage. Mr. Woodcourt expresses his concerns to Esther and says that Richard has a strange, singular expression on his face. Esther asks Mr. Woodcourt if he is going to London, and he says that he is. She asks him if he will sometimes look in on Richard, and Mr. Woodcourt promises to do so.
Mr. Woodcourt is genuinely concerned about Esther and commiserates with him, although he can clearly see that Richard is in a far worse state than him.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon