Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House: Chapter 58 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It has been publicly put about that Lady Dedlock has gone to Chesney Wold but, already, rumors fly all over London and discuss Lady Dedlock’s treachery and the scandal which has attached itself to the Dedlock name. Sir Leicester, who is still in a great deal of pain and struggles to be understood when he talks, lies beside the window and watches the snow fall in the street. Mrs. Rouncewell stays with him and Sir Leicester looks up eagerly whenever there is a noise in the house and asks that the fires be lit for when Lady Dedlock arrives home. Mrs. Rouncewell sadly obeys his requests.
The Dedlock household has tried to prevent gossip and scandal but the word has gotten out and everyone is talking about Lady Dedlock’s secret. Sir Leicester is in denial about the danger his wife is in and, although she is alone in the snow outside and on the run from the police, he expects her home at any minute because he does not want to think the worst.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
George waits in the room below, and his mother, Mrs. Rouncewell, goes to him every now and then and expresses her concern. She fears that Lady Dedlock is dead and that the Dedlock name is on the verge of collapse. She has heard the step on the Ghost’s Walk louder than ever and fears the prophecy has come true. George hopes that his mother is wrong but agrees that Lady Dedlock’s rooms have a terribly gloomy look as he helps her spruce them up in case of the Lady’s return.
Having learned his lesson about keeping his family at arm’s length, George will not leave his mother again and accompanies her home to Chesney Wold. The Ghost’s Walk signals the end of the Dedlock line, which will collapse with Sir Leicester’s physical decline and Lady Dedlock’s ruin. Both George and his mother suspect that Lady Dedlock will die.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Volumnia sits with Sir Leicester when Mrs. Rouncewell is absent but is easily bored with her duty as caregiver. When Mrs. Rouncewell returns, Volumnia begins to talk about George—she adores a soldier—and Mrs. Rouncewell explains to Sir Leicester that her son has been found. Sir Leicester is overjoyed and asks George to be brought to him. Sir Leicester is very pleased to see the trooper, whom he knew as a young man at Chesney Wold. George is very kind to him and stays by his bedside while Sir Leicester rests.
Volumnia is very shallow and thoughtless; she cares more about flirting with George than she does caring for the ailing relative who supports her financially. Sir Leicester is pleased that George has come home because it gives him hope that missing people—like his wife—can be found.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Later that afternoon, Sir Leicester tells Volumnia that, if he grows worse and loses his powers of speech or movement, that she must make it known that his feelings towards Lady Dedlock have not changed and that he still holds her in the highest regard. As it grows dark, he begins to grow restless and upset and snaps at Volumnia for lighting a candle when it is not yet dark, although night has clearly fallen. Mrs. Rouncewell and now George stay by his bedside and, at last, gently persuade him to light some candles.
Sir Leicester does not want people to think that he does not forgive Lady Dedlock. Sir Leicester does not want to face the fact that night approaches and Lady Dedlock is still missing. She will have to survive a night in the snow alone.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
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George keeps watch all through the night and Volumnia stalks the halls, wondering forlornly what will happen to her inheritance if Sir Leicester dies. At last, she allows George to escort her to bed, and George himself sits up and watches the grey dawn approach with a great sense of foreboding.
Volumnia is selfish and only thinks about her own inheritance and status. As a noble, aging woman, she would have no way of earning a living and to lose her patronage from Sir Leicester would be a significant blow to her lifestyle.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon