Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Bleak House can help.
Jo is a poor, homeless boy who sweeps the streets around the Chancery court and receives a few coins from passersby for this work. Jo is an orphan and knows nothing about his parents. He has had no education and has survived on the streets for as long as he can remember. Jo becomes involved in the Dedlock mystery when Lady Dedlock visits Jo and pays him to show her Captain Hawdon’s grave. Lady Dedlock knows that Jo knew Captain Hawdon because he is asked to give evidence at the inquest into the Captain’s death; however, Jo knows nothing about his death and only knows that Captain Hawdon, otherwise known as Nemo, gave him coins sometimes. Jo relies entirely on meager acts of charity to live. He is a good-natured boy and helps a poor woman, Liz, get medicine when she is ill. Although he is kind, however, Jo is considered repugnant by many of the characters because he is so poor, has no way to wash or take care of himself, and is riddled with disease because of the unsanitary conditions he lives in. Jo eventually dies of smallpox when George takes him in. The law stationer Mr. Snagsby who feels sorry for Jo and often gives him money. Mrs. Snagsby, who witnesses this, becomes convinced that Jo is Mr. Snagsby’s illegitimate child, but this is not the case. Dickens uses Jo’s poverty and the manner of his death to reflect the real-life squalor and poverty that was rife in city slums during the Victorian period.

Jo Quotes in Bleak House

The Bleak House quotes below are all either spoken by Jo or refer to Jo. 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 16 Quotes

What connection can there be, between the place in Lincolnshire, the house in town, the Mercury in powder, and the whereabouts of Jo the outlaw with the broom, who had that distant ray of light upon him when he swept the churchyard step? What connection can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of this world, who, from opposite sides of great gulfs, have, nevertheless, been very curiously brought together! Jo sweeps his crossing all day long, unconscious of the link, if any link there be. He sums up his mental condition, when asked a question, by replying that he ‘don’t know nothink.’

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Lady Dedlock, Sir Leicester Dedlock
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

Now, these tumbling tenements contain, by night, a swarm of misery. As, on the ruined human wretch, vermin parasites appear, so these ruined shelters have bred a crowd of foul existence that crawls in and out of gaps in walls and boards; and coils itself to sleep, in maggot numbers, where the rain drips in; and comes and goes, fetching and carrying fever, and sowing more evil in its every footprint than Lord Coodle, and Sir Thomas Doodle, and the Duke of Foodle, and all the fine gentlemen in office, down to Zoodle, shall set right in five hundred years—though born expressly to do it.

Related Characters: Jo
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 35 Quotes

What should I have suffered, if I had had to write to him, and tell him that the poor face he had known as mine was quite gone from me, and that I freely released him from his bondage to one whom he had never seen!

Related Characters: Esther Summerson (speaker), Mr. Jarndyce, Jo, Mr. Woodcourt
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 429
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Bleak House LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bleak House PDF

Jo Character Timeline in Bleak House

The timeline below shows where the character Jo appears in Bleak House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 11
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
The boy, Jo, is summoned but cannot tell the jury anything about himself—he is an orphan with no... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...and “corruption” linger around the graves like a spirit. Only one figure approaches the grave: Jo, the street sweeper. (full context)
Chapter 16
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...“the family gout,” which he has proudly inherited from his Dedlock ancestors. Meanwhile, in London, Jo languishes in a poverty-stricken slum known as “Tom-all-Alone’s.” There is little connection between this world... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
The houses in Tom-all-Alone’s are so dilapidated that they frequently collapse. Jo does not know where the street got its name because Jo knows very little about... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...she has the bearing of a rich woman. She walks quickly to the crossing, where Jo stays, and beckons him to follow her. Once out of sight, the woman asks Jo... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Jo agrees and the woman tells him to lead her there and to stop in front... (full context)
Chapter 19
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...and stammeringly tells Mr. Snagsby that he is needed in the shop. Mr. Snagsby finds Jo in the shop, in tears because he has been asked to “move on” by a... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Jo insists desperately that he has nowhere to “move on” to, and the policeman says that... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...conversation. He greets Mr. Snagsby and tells him that he thought he’d better intervene on Jo’s behalf. The policeman knows that Jo lives in Tom-all-Alone’s—a notoriously criminal area—and wants to know... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
The constable is skeptical about Jo’s story but leaves him with Mr. Snagsby. Jo’s story has piqued Mr. Guppy’s interest, and... (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
...himself to Mrs. Chadband. Mr. Chadband then begins to soliloquize on the spiritual nature of Jo, who is very confused by the whole thing, and lectures Jo about his amazing potential.... (full context)
Chapter 22
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mr. Tulkinghorn offers Mr. Snagsby a glass of wine, and Mr. Snagsby repeats Jo’s statement for Mr. Tulkinghorn. When he is finished, Mr. Snagsby is startled to find that... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...keep little excursion to himself. There is a dispute over some inheritance, he says, that Jo may know something about. Mr. Snagsby agrees to keep quiet and the two men set... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...from one of Mr. Bucket’s many informants—who emerge now and then from dark street corners—that Jo (who is also known as “the Tough subject”) has gone to a doctor to fetch... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
While they wait for Jo, Liz tells Jenny that, although she loves the child, she sometimes wishes it would die.... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
When they arrive and take Jo upstairs, he suddenly recoils and announces that “the lady” is there. A woman, veiled and... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mr. Bucket pays Jo and sends him away. When he has gone, the woman lifts her veil—it is Mademoiselle... (full context)
Chapter 25
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
The next evening, Jo arrives for his lesson from Mr. Chadband. Mrs. Snagsby is convinced that Jo is Mr.... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Jo, who has nearly fallen asleep during Mr. Chadband’s lecture, is finally allowed to leave. He... (full context)
Chapter 31
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
...a transformation. The little house is just as dingy and foul as she remembers, and Jo lies ill in the corner, where Jenny tends to him. Esther approaches and speaks to... (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
Jenny tries to calm Jo and tells him that this lady is a friend. Jo admits that Esther is not... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Jenny tells Esther that Liz has gone out to see if anyone will take Jo in; he cannot stay with her because of her violent husband. Liz returns and says... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther keeps her distance, but beckons Jo towards Mr. Jarndyce’s house so that he will not lie down to die in the... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mr. Jarndyce complains resentfully that if Jo were a prisoner, he would have a bed for the night and be treated for... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...him what he would suggest. Mr. Skimpole casually reels off a homemade remedy for fever. Jo is sent to the loft and Mr. Skimpole entertains them for the rest of the... (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... (full context)
Chapter 46
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...woman replies that he has been kind to her. The woman explains that the boy, Jo, has been ill and was staying at her house until a young lady very kindly... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...where he has come from and why he left the lady’s house in the night. Jo says that he does not know where he comes from but that he hangs around... (full context)
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Jo says he was put in hospital but, when he was released, he was told to... (full context)
Chapter 47
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Mr. Woodcourt buys Jo breakfast, but the boy is very weak and cannot eat much. Mr. Woodcourt is determined... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
George is pleased to see Miss Flite and listens gravely to Jo’s story. Mr. Woodcourt tells him that Jo needs a place to stay but that he... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mr. Woodcourt tells George that Jo will likely die, and George solemnly assures the doctor that the boy will be cared... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
After this brief conversation, Mr. Woodcourt decides to take Jo to see Mr. Snagsby, because Jo has mentioned the name so frequently. Mr. Snagsby is... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Jo lies in bed very ill. Phil and George take good care of him, many people... (full context)
Chapter 49
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...children wash the dishes and George arrives. He is very pale and tells them that Jo has died. George gives Mrs. Bagnet her present and he and Mr. Bagnet light their... (full context)
Chapter 57
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...if she remembers seeing a man on the road on the night that she took Jo in. Esther says yes and wonders how Mr. Bucket knows about Jo. Mr. Bucket tells... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...Mr. Skimpole and the policeman explains that he bribed Mr. Skimpole to lead him to Jo that night when Jo was taken. Esther is furious with Mr. Skimpole and Mr. Bucket... (full context)
Chapter 61
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...disappointed to hear that he accepted a bribe from Mr. Bucket on the night that Jo was taken from the house and Mr. Skimpole is amazed at the suggestion and feigns... (full context)