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 59 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Esther and Mr. Bucket re-enter London in the early hours of the morning and travel down a series of poor, narrow streets. Esther still cannot understand Mr. Bucket’s reasoning, but she has no choice but to trust him, and he is very kind and considerate of her. Mr. Bucket often gets out to consult with passers by and other police officers and, eventually, the carriage stops, and he asks Esther to get out and walk.
Esther still does not understand Mr. Bucket’s reasoning and he has not told her what he suspects: that her mother has returned to London in Jenny’s place.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther recognizes the street and realizes they are in Chancery Lane. Mr. Bucket begins to lead her away when she hears Mr. Woodcourt call her name. He rushes over and, seeing that she is cold and wet, gives her his cloak. He explains that he has just been with Richard, who is very depressed, and asks if he can accompany them wherever they are going. Mr. Bucket enthusiastically agrees and leads them towards Mr. Snagsby’s house.
Mr. Woodcourt is very worried about Esther, once again showing that he still cares for her deeply.
Themes
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
When they arrive, Mr. Bucket goes inside and leaves Esther and Mr. Woodcourt in the street. A few moments later, he returns and invites them in. He asks Mr. Woodcourt if he will attend to a servant who has fallen into a fit and sits Esther down by the fire. Mrs. Snagsby glares at her. Mr. Snagsby imploringly tells his wife that he has no idea why these people are here and, at Mr. Bucket’s command, goes to help Mr. Woodcourt with Guster.
The servant is Guster, who is prone to seizures. Mrs. Snagsby still suspects Mr. Snagsby of being unfaithful and seems to think Esther is another one of his supposed mistresses.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Mr. Bucket then tells Mrs. Snagsby—who still peers menacingly at Esther—that she has made a mistake and that she should be ashamed to accuse her husband, who has done nothing wrong. He then sends Mrs. Snagsby out of the room and shows Esther a letter. Esther recognizes the handwriting—it is her mother’s. Esther reads the first part of the letter, which states that Lady Dedlock went to Bleak House to see if she could have one last glimpse of Esther and to avoid pursuit.
Once again, Mrs. Snagsby is quick to assume that her husband is having an affair. Mr. Bucket clears up Mrs. Snagsby’s mistake and explains that her husband has never been unfaithful to her.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Get the entire Bleak House LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bleak House PDF
The next part of the letter is still in Lady Dedlock’s hand, but the writing is shaky, as though she is tired. It says that Lady Dedlock wanders the streets and waits to die. She wishes to be forgiven for her sins but knows a place where she will lie down and surrender to death. The letter has come from Guster, whom Mr. Woodcourt has revived, and Mr. Bucket takes Esther in to speak with her.
Lady Dedlock has written this half of the letter later than the first, and her handwriting is shaky because she is tired from her long walk and grows steadily weaker. Lady Dedlock has given the letter to Guster because she knows that Mr. Snagsby knows Mr. Jarndyce and Mr. Bucket.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
At the sight of the poor, stunned girl, Esther begins to cry and begs Guster to tell her how she got the letter. Guster weakly explains that a woman dressed in poor clothes, but very “well spoken,” approached her and asked the way to the cemetery nearby. Guster felt very sorry for the woman, who looked exhausted, and showed her the way. Guster remembers that this is the place where Captain Hawdon was buried and grows upset until Mrs. Snagsby comforts her.
Esther feels sorry for Guster, who is very afraid, and cries because she is also afraid for her mother. Lady Dedlock’s looks are incongruous with her dress because she is a rich woman disguised as a poor woman. However, since Lady Dedlock is not from a wealthy family, she has, until now, essentially been a poor woman disguised as a rich woman in her identity as Lady Dedlock. Lady Dedlock has gone to Captain Hawdon’s grave to die, perhaps suggesting that she still loves him and wishes to be reunited with him in death. It also seems that going to die at the Captain’s grave is a way for Lady Dedlock to end things where they began: with her scandalous affair with the Captain, the root of all her troubles.
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 knows the place, and he, Esther, and Mr. Woodcourt rush into the street and head for the burial ground. Esther is nearly delirious with exhaustion and the narrow, filthy streets covered in slush and snow seem alien to her. Outside the gates of the cemetery, a woman lies on the ground, and Esther rushes to her and thinks that it is Jenny. Mr. Bucket tries to hold her back. He says that “they changed clothes at the cottage,” but Esther does not understand.
The burial ground is the spot that Jo showed Lady Dedlock when she came to him in disguise. Esther does not know that Jenny and her mother swapped clothes and that this is, in fact, Lady Dedlock.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther is horrified by the sight of Jenny, who helped her mother, lying senseless in the snow. Mr. Woodcourt looks pained as he holds her back and Mr. Bucket says that he should let her go. Esther runs to the woman and lifts her head. It is Lady Dedlock, who lies there dead, frozen in the snow.
Esther feels sorry for the woman, whom she assumes is Jenny, and rushes to help her. Mr. Woodcourt and Mr. Bucket know it is Lady Dedlock but do not hold Esther back because they know she must learn the truth for herself.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon