Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House: Chapter 53 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mr. Bucket has eyes and ears everywhere and is guided by his senses in a great many things. He finds his way in and out of forbidden places and untrodden streets and is ever watchful and ever calculating. He has a wife, Mrs. Bucket, and a lodger, whom Mrs. Bucket spends a great deal of time with and which allows him the freedom to go about his job.
Mr. Bucket has informants and contacts everywhere so that he always knows what is going on in different parts of the city.
Themes
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Mr. Tulkinghorn has a very large funeral and the street around the court is crowded with carriages. Mr. Bucket occupies one of these carriages and observes, from this spot, his wife on the steps of Mr. Tulkinghorn’s house accompanied by the lodger. After the funeral, Mr. Bucket goes to see Sir Leicester and enters the house without any trouble because he is on familiar terms with the servants.
Victorians are known for their extravagant funerals, and there was a large consumer culture based on mourning rituals and commemoration of deceased loved ones during this period in Britain. Mr. Bucket watches everything because he is always searching for evidence and clues.
Themes
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Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
One servant gives Mr. Bucket a letter and Mr. Bucket thinks it amusing that, as a man who does not often write or receive letters, he has been sent so many in such a short amount of time. He opens it, reads the words “Lady Dedlock,” and is not surprised. Mr. Bucket enters the library and sees that Sir Leicester is not present. There are no letters addressed to Sir Leicester on the table, and Mr. Bucket considers that he will give him the news the next day.
It's likely that Mr. Bucket does not like to write letters because they are written evidence of his thoughts and actions. He has seen written evidence, like letters, used against people in court and avoid contact with the medium for this reason. The letters mention Lady Dedlock, further suggesting that she committed the murder.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mr. Bucket is summoned to the drawing room after dinner and finds Sir Leicester with Volumnia and another aged cousin. Mr. Bucket flirts a little with Volumnia and then listens gravely as Sir Leicester repeats his insistence that he will spare no cost to track down Mr. Tulkinghorn’s murderer. Volumnia and the cousin express their desperation to know who has made away with the dear lawyer, and Mr. Bucket insinuates that, although he has his suspicions, he cannot divulge anything at present.
Always in search of clues, Mr. Bucket tries to be on good terms with everyone he meets in case he ever needs information from them.
Themes
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Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
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Mr. Bucket continues that, sometimes, very odd secrets can be discovered in families, even very wealthy and prodigious ones, and Sir Leicester is quite indignant at this possibility. From here, Mr. Bucket goes to another part of the house and discourses with one of the servants. He flatters the man and asks him if Lady Dedlock dines out often. He asks the man what his father did and then tells him that his own father was a servant.
Mr. Bucket subtly tries to prepare Sir Leicester for the shock of Lady Dedlock’s secret—that she gave birth to an illegitimate child—which Mr. Bucket must soon reveal. Mr. Bucket wins the servant’s trust by suggesting that they have something in common. He is trying to work out when and why Lady Dedlock left the house on the night of the murder.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
While they talk, Lady Dedlock returns and sweeps past Mr. Bucket towards the stairs. She briefly asks him if there is any news on the murder but seems to pay little attention to his reply. Mr. Bucket asks the servant if Lady Dedlock enjoys walking, and the servant answers that she walks outside at night very often. Mr. Bucket asks if she was out on the night of the murder and the servant confirms that he let her out the garden gate.
The servant does not realize that he has given incriminating evidence against Lady Dedlock and thinks that he has just made friendly conversation with Mr. Bucket. The fact that Lady Dedlock left by the garden gate, not the front door, suggests she did not want to be seen.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon