Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Bleak House can help.

Bleak House: Chapter 55 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mrs. Bagnet and Mrs. Rouncewell sit in a carriage together and travel through a landscape of half constructed railway lines, towards the prison where George is held. Mrs. Rouncewell is overcome with gratitude and begins to cry. She tells Mrs. Bagnet that George never came home because he felt ashamed of himself and his low rank in the army.
This passage reveals that Mrs. Rouncewell is George’s mother—once again, the novel’s characters are surprisingly interconnected. Mrs. Rouncewell understands why George never contacted her and forgives him for this.
Themes
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mrs. Bagnet explains that George is a good friend but that he is often in low spirits. He came to them a couple of nights before and was particularly unhappy. When Mrs. Bagnet asked him what was wrong, he said that he had seen a woman who reminded him of his mother and that this woman kept the house at Chesney Wold. Mrs. Bagnet knew right away that this was George’s mother.
Earlier in the novel, George and Mrs. Rouncewell were both in Mr. Tulkinghorn’s office. Although he didn’t seem to know that this was his mother, he was reminded of her.
Themes
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mrs. Bagnet hopes Mrs. Rouncewell can persuade George to get a lawyer, and Mrs. Rouncewell says that Sir Leicester will help prove George’s innocence. Every now and then, Mrs. Rouncewell murmurs a distressed “my Lady” under her breath. They arrive at George’s cell and find him writing at his desk. He does not see them at first, but when he does look up, he recognizes his mother, falls on his knees, and weeps before her.
Mrs. Rouncewell knows that Sir Leicester will be loyal to her and will furnish her son with the best of lawyers. She obviously knows something of Lady Dedlock’s dislike of Mr. Tulkinghorn and fears that Lady Dedlock may have something to do with the murder.
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
Mrs. Rouncewell embraces her son, and George begs her forgiveness. Mrs. Rouncewell says that there is nothing to forgive and George explains that he has lived a careless, rootless life and has been too ashamed to write to her. He regretted losing touch with his mother, but he was in debt and did not wish to drag her into the situation, and so he kept to himself.
George has tried to do the honorable thing but has been too proud to reach out to his mother. He is forgiven for this now because Mrs. Rouncewell knows his intentions have always been good.
Themes
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Get the entire Bleak House LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bleak House PDF
George thanks Mrs. Bagnet profusely for bringing his mother to him and agrees to get a lawyer. He says that his mother should speak with Mr. Jarndyce, who has promised to find him one for him, and Mrs. Rouncewell says that they must send for Mr. Rouncewell, George’s brother. George begs her not to because, he says, he cannot face him; his brother is such a success and the opposite of George. He says, though, that he has drawn up a testimony for himself and hopes to be acquitted.
George now has a reason to fight for his innocence and his mother’s reappearance has spurred him on to do this. This suggests that people live for and are inspired by their friends and family and that having a social network is important. George is ashamed that he has not built a successful career for himself, like his brother, once again suggesting that he is a proud man.
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
Mrs. Bagnet prepares to leave, and Mrs. Rouncewell says that she must go to Sir Leicester’s townhouse and speak to Lady Dedlock. Mrs. Bagnet accompanies her and drops her at the front door. Mrs. Rouncewell finds Lady Dedlock in the library and pleads a word with her. Lady Dedlock listens, shocked, as Mrs. Rouncewell tells her that George is in prison for Mr. Tulkinghorn’s murder. Mrs. Rouncewell begs Lady Dedlock to reveal anything she knows about the murder; Lady Dedlock seems afraid and asks why she should know.
Mrs. Rouncewell clearly suspects that Lady Dedlock knows who killed Mr. Tulkinghorn or was even involved herself. Lady Dedlock’s fearful reaction suggests that she’s beginning to realize that people suspect her of the murder.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mrs. Rouncewell says that she has received a letter accusing Lady Dedlock. Although Mrs. Rouncewell does not believe it, she begs Lady Dedlock to reveal any secret she knows which could save George. Mrs. Rouncewell leaves, and Mr. Guppy is announced. He comes timidly into the room and nervously tells Lady Dedlock that the letters he thought were destroyed are, in fact, still in existence and have fallen into public hands. Mr. Guppy leaves the room but Lady Dedlock barely observes him.
Lady Dedlock discovers that she is being framed for Mr. Tulkinghorn’s murder and that the murderer (which readers know to be Mademoiselle Hortense) has sent out these incriminating letters. These are also the letters that Mr. Bucket received. Mr. Guppy tells Lady Dedlock what she already knows: her secret is out.
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
Lady Dedlock stands horrified and knows that her secret will soon be exposed. She thinks that she has often wished Mr. Tulkinghorn dead, but now that her wish has come true, her situation is more precarious than ever. She fears she will be hanged and collapses in anguish upon the floor. She quickly pens a letter, which says that she is innocent of the murder and apologizes to Sir Leicester. After this, she dresses in her winter clothes and rushes out into the snowy night.
While Mr. Tulkinghorn kept her secret, Lady Dedlock knew she was safe from everyone except the lawyer. Lady Dedlock does not know that she is no longer a suspect in the murder investigation and that Mademoiselle Hortense has been arrested.
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