Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Charley Character Analysis

Charley is the daughter of Neckett, the elder sister of Emma and Tom, and the maid of Esther Summerson. Charley is orphaned when her father dies, and she is left to care for her siblings. She works as a maid for Judy Smallweed in order to support them. Charley and her siblings share a filthy room in Mrs. Blinder’s house and there is no one to care for them during the day when she is out at work. Although the children are innocent, people are reluctant to help them because their father was a debt collector, which was an unpopular profession. The children’s only friend is Gridley, who lives in their same building. Charley and her siblings are rescued from this dire situation when Mr. Jarndyce learns of their situation from Mr. Skimpole, whom their father unsuccessfully tried to arrest for debt. He employs Charley as Esther’s maid, who Esther agrees to tutor, and provides an education for Tom and Emma. Charley grows up to be a happy and industrious young woman because of this. She is a dedicated servant to Esther and becomes her close friend as she grows up and leaves her service.

Charley Quotes in Bleak House

The Bleak House quotes below are all either spoken by Charley or refer to Charley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Wordsworth edition of Bleak House published in 1993.
Chapter 15 Quotes

We were looking at one another, and at these two children, when there came into the room a very little girl, childish in figure but shrewd and older-looking in the face—pretty-faced too—wearing a womanly sort of bonnet much too large for her, and drying her bare arms on a womanly sort of apron. Her fingers were white and wrinkled with washing, and the soap-suds were yet smoking which she wiped off her arms. But for this, she might have been a child, playing at washing, and imitating a poor working-woman with a quick observation of the truth.

Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Bleak House LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bleak House PDF

Charley Character Timeline in Bleak House

The timeline below shows where the character Charley appears in Bleak House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...them who has left them here, and they say that they live with their sister Charley, who goes out to work washing clothes. Charley arrives just at this moment; she is... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Charley explains that their mother died when Emma, the baby, was born. She locks her siblings... (full context)
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
...on what these men could have been in a different life. The little group sees Charley off to work and then leaves the house themselves. (full context)
Chapter 21
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...Mr. Smallweed asks who the serving girl is, and Judy says that her name is Charley. Mr. Smallweed complains that she eats too much, and Judy snaps at Charley to be... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
When they have finished tea, Judy calls in Charley and allows her to eat the table scraps. A man named George arrives and asks... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...George pretends to believe this but really, he is skeptical of the old man’s motives. Charley brings George his drink, and he thinks she is far too pretty to belong to... (full context)
Chapter 23
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
When Esther goes to her room, she finds Charley there. Charley explains that she has been hired by Mr. Jarndyce to be Esther’s maid.... (full context)
Chapter 31
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
One evening, when Esther has finished Charley’s lessons for the night, Charley asks her if she knows a brickmaker’s wife named Jenny.... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
It is a wet, blustery night and already dark when Charley and Esther set out to Jenny’s. As Esther walks there, she has the surreal feeling... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...that Esther is not the lady that he fears, but that she looks like her. Charley, who is used to caring for her brother and sister, immediately begins to tend to... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...as soon as she arrives. Rather than turn Jo out on the street, Esther and Charley lead him away with them. He seems afraid of Esther though and is reluctant to... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
They search for Jo but can find no trace of him. A few nights later, Charley feels cold and tells Esther that she thinks she has a fever. Esther immediately locks... (full context)
Chapter 35
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther lies sick and delirious with fever for several weeks. Charley takes care of her, and Ada is strictly kept out of the room. Esther dreams... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...tea, Esther looks around her room and finds things are a little different. She asks Charley what has changed, and Charley is reluctant to tell her. Finally, Esther realizes that the... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther asks if the woman’s name was Jenny, and Miss Flite confirms that it was. Charley tells Esther that Jenny has often come to the house to speak to her. Jenny... (full context)
Chapter 36
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther and Charley travel together to Mr. Boythorn’s house in Lincolnshire. Mr. Boythorn is away, so they have... (full context)
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...with all romantic notions and to remember him fondly. Ada plans to join Esther and Charley in a few days, and Esther wants to be fully recovered before her friend arrives.... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
The villagers are friendly with Esther, and she and Charley find that they are never short of company. Esther’s favorite place to walk takes her... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...towards her with a face full of concern. Esther is so startled that she calls Charley, and, when she does this, Lady Dedlock immediately stops and regains her haughty composure. She... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
When Charley has left them, Lady Dedlock sits down beside Esther and Esther is amazed when Lady... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Esther walks home slowly, stunned by her ordeal, and hides her tears from Charley. She tells her maid that she will go to bed early and, once in her... (full context)
Chapter 37
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...for Lady Dedlock’s secret. However, Ada is very curious about the mistress of Chesney Wold. Charley informs them that Lady Dedlock has left, however, and that she has gone to her... (full context)
Chapter 44
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...he will write her a letter, and that when she is ready, she must send Charley to fetch it. (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
A few nights later, Esther sends Charley to Mr. Jarndyce’s room, and the girl returns with the note. Esther thinks back over... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...him in his study. He tells her that he has waited for her letter from Charley, but Esther says she has come to answer him in person and kisses him. (full context)
Chapter 45
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Ada, Esther, Charley, and Mr. Jarndyce take rooms in London, and Esther and Charley drive out to the... (full context)
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther and Charley walk around the port that afternoon and come across a boat which has just moored.... (full context)
Chapter 51
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
...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... (full context)
Chapter 67
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
...accepts. Esther has two little girls, and her daughters are great friends with Ada’s son. Charley marries a miller who lives nearby, and her little sister Emma becomes Esther’s maid. Tom,... (full context)