Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House: Chapter 51 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After his promise to Esther, Mr. Woodcourt makes a point of often calling on Richard in London. Before his first visit, he must call on Mr. Vholes to get Richard’s home address and finds that the lawyer is interested to talk to him. Mr. Woodcourt tells him curtly that he only wants the address, but Mr. Vholes insists that Mr. Woodcourt remind Richard that he cannot keep making use of legal services if he does not have the money to pay.
Mr. Woodcourt is true to his word and tries to help Richard because he has promised Esther, showing that he is still a loyal friend to her. Mr. Vholes is only interested in Richard’s money, not in Richard’s personal life or deteriorating health.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
At last, Mr. Vholes reveals Richard’s address, and Mr. Woodcourt calls on the young man. Richard is very pleased to see him, but Mr. Woodcourt observes that his room is a mess and that he looks worn and distracted. He tells Mr. Woodcourt sadly that he cannot seem to do anything right and that he wishes he had his discipline.
Richard’s messy room reflects his crazed internal state. Mr. Woodcourt is the opposite of Richard; he is measured where Richard is passionate and disciplined where Richard is scattered.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Mr. Woodcourt commiserates with Richard and listens to his troubles. Richard tells him that he is not concerned for himself but that he is worried because Ada’s fortunes are bound up with his own. Mr. Woodcourt reports this to Esther and takes it as proof that, at heart, Richard is a good fellow.
Mr. Woodcourt is very compassionate with Richard and treats him as a friend and an equal, although he is, also, secretly, there as a doctor to check on Richard’s health. He does not patronize Richard or try to lecture him.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
One morning, Esther suggests that she and Ada visit Richard and is surprised to find Ada a little hesitant to do so. At last, she agrees, however, but she begins to cry as she dresses. On the walk there, Esther notices that Ada seems to know the way—though, Esther thinks, she has never been there before—and, when they arrive, Richard tells them that Mr. Woodcourt has just left.
Ada has clearly been to see Richard in secret as she is familiar with the way to his home.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
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Richard has been poring over his papers from Jarndyce and Jarndyce but is pleased to see Ada and Esther. He tells them that, with Mr. Vholes’ help, the case comes along well, and Esther thinks that his hopeful expression is transformed into something obsessive and horrible. He grows tired suddenly and sinks onto the couch. Ada kneels by his side and caresses him.
Richard’s obsession with Jarndyce and Jarndyce distorts everything and makes everything positive seem negative and horrible.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Ada begins to cry again and reveals to Esther that she and Richard have been married in secret. Esther sees that Ada has been hiding her wedding ring from her. Although she is delighted for the pair, who are clearly very much in love, she cannot help the strong feelings of foreboding in her chest. She keeps this to herself, however, and is bright and cheerful with the young lovers.
Ada is afraid that Esther will be angry with her and that she will lose her friend, however, she has decided that she cannot desert Richard. Esther is not angry, but she is very worried for both their sakes. She does not like to show this to them because she feels they have enough worries.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Ada intends to remain with Richard and not go back to Mr. Jarndyce’s house, and Esther agrees that this must be the case. She tries to part with them cheerfully, saying that she will return soon, but, on her way down the stairs, she bursts into miserable tears. She tells Charley when she arrives home and the pair walk out and stand for a time beneath Richard and Ada’s window. When Mr. Jarndyce arrives home, he sees that Esther is upset, and she tells him of the marriage, which he half expected. He tries to cheer Esther up, but she can see that he is worried, and she thinks that, for the first time, he doubts her ability to be everything he wants in a wife.
Ada can no longer see Mr. Jarndyce, whom Richard hates, but Mr. Jarndyce does not hold this against her and understands her decision. Esther is upset because Ada will no longer live with her but also because she fears that their marriage will end in tragedy.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon