Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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

In Bleak House, fog symbolizes confusion and illusion—in other words, the inability to see clearly. In the opening of the novel, London is wrapped in fog so thick that it enters people’s houses and even surrounds the court, the lawyers, and the Judge who sit inside the court of Chancery; which specializes in cases based on property and inheritance and around which much of the novel revolves. The court of Chancery is both wrapped in literal fog and surrounded by a haze of confusion and misunderstanding. This is epitomized by the court case Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which is in session during the fog. The case has dragged on over several generations and is a joke among the lawyers because of how complicated and incomprehensible it has become.

The fog is also present when Esther, Richard, and Ada are brought to London, foreshadowing their entanglement with Jarndyce and Jarndyce and the complications that this will bring about in their own lives. Richard and Ada are “wards” of the court in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which means that they expect to inherit property and must await the verdict. Throughout the novel, Richard’s hopes and ambitions become obscured by the Chancery case, which takes over his life, just as a fog clouds one’s field of vision, engulfing everything else in sight. Similarly, Esther’s identity and past are murky and are called into question when she is brought to London to act as a companion to Ada.

Fog Quotes in Bleak House

The Bleak House quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fog. 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 1 Quotes

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest, near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation: Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery. Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds, this day, in the sight of heaven and earth.

Related Characters: Lord Chancellor
Related Symbols: Fog
Page Number: 3-4
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Bleak House LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bleak House PDF

Fog Symbol Timeline in Bleak House

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fog appears in Bleak House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
It is autumn in London, and the city is wet, cold, and wrapped in fog. The Court of Chancery is in session and Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a famous lawsuit which... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
In the dingy, foggy courtroom, the Lord Chancellor listens to a lawyer named Mr. Tangle expound upon the case.... (full context)
Chapter 2
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
On this damp, foggy afternoon in London, one of the servants—who looks like “Mercury in powder”—shows a reserved-looking gentleman... (full context)
Chapter 3
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...in good spirits in a coach bound for London. She is startled by the thick fog when she arrives and remarks on this to the young legal clerk who greets her... (full context)