Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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

Throughout Bleak House, houses represent the inner lives of the people who live in them. This was a trope which was common in both Victorian fiction and in the popular Gothic novels of the previous century, which influenced many 19th-century writers. For example, Mr. Jarndyce tells Esther that he has inherited Bleak House itself from Tom Jarndyce, and that the house was in a state of chaos and disrepair when it came to him. This reflects Tom Jarndyce’s madness, brought on by his involvement with Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The renovations and reparations which Mr. Jarndyce makes to the house reflects the restoration of order through Mr. Jarndyce’s calm, benevolent, and sensible personality. Mrs. Jellyby’s house too, reflects her inner life and is utterly neglected because her mind, and therefore her domestic activity, is used up elsewhere. Meanwhile, the new Bleak House, into which Esther and Mr. Woodcourt move is a beautiful den of flowers and growth, which represents the fruition and growth of their love and their pleasant future together.

Houses also take on their owners’ characteristics, in the form of ghosts or presences, which is demonstrated by Nemo’s room, which begins to feel haunted by the writer after his death there. Nemo’s room is a gloomy, decrepit room, which reflects the writer’s destitution and inner turmoil, and the horror and loneliness of his situation is conveyed to the reader through the description of the two windows which look into the bed and seem to be appalled by what they see. This is similarly demonstrated in the houses that belong to the Dedlocks, which take on the stiff, immovable, and yet outdated feel, of this seemingly immovable dynasty.

Houses Quotes in Bleak House

The Bleak House quotes below all refer to the symbol of Houses. 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 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:
Chapter 36 Quotes

‘I dread one person very much.’
‘An enemy?’
‘Not a friend. One who is too passionless to be either. He is Sir Leicester Dedlock’s lawyer; mechanically faithful without attachment, and very jealous of the profit, privilege, and reputation of being master of the mysteries of great houses.’

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 437
Explanation and Analysis:

‘I am resolved. I have long outbidden folly with folly, pride with pride, scorn with scorn, insolence with insolence, and have outlived many vanities with many more. I will outlive this danger, and outdie it, if I can. It has closed around me, almost as awfully as if these woods of Chesney Wold had closed around the house; but my course through it is the same. I have but one: I can have but one.’

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 437-438
Explanation and Analysis:

The way was paved here, like the terrace overhead, and my footsteps from being noiseless made an echoing sound upon the flags. Stopping to look at nothing, but seeing all I did see as I went, I was passing quickly on, and in a few moments should have passed the lighted window, when my echoing footsteps brought it suddenly into my mind that there was a dreadful truth in the legend of the Ghost’s Walk; that it was I, who was to bring calamity upon the stately house; and that my warning feet were haunting it even then.

Related Characters: Esther Summerson (speaker), Lady Dedlock, Sir Leicester Dedlock
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 440
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 54 Quotes

Heaven knows what he sees. The green, green woods of Chesney Wold, the noble house, the pictures of his forefathers, strangers defacing them, officers of police coarsely handling his most precious heirlooms, thousands of fingers pointing at him, thousands of faces sneering at him. But if such shadows flit before him to his bewilderment, there is one other shadow which he can name with something like distinctness even yet, and to which alone he addresses his tearing of his white hair, and his extended arms.

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 629-630
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Bleak House LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bleak House PDF

Houses Symbol Timeline in Bleak House

The timeline below shows where the symbol Houses appears in Bleak House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...in fashionable circles, has returned to London after a brief stay in her husband’s country house in Lincolnshire. She has returned to the city to escape the constant rain and the... (full context)
Chapter 3
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
On the day after Miss Barbary’s funeral, the smart-looking man visits the house again and asks to see Esther. The man introduces himself as Mr. Kenge and seems... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...to Reading, and Mrs. Rachael coldly dismisses her. Mrs. Rachael remains behind in Miss Barbary’s house, which has been left to her. (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...letter informs her that she will be removed from the school and sent to the house of her guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, where she will become the companion of a young ward... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...tells them that they will be under the care of a Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House while they wait for the outcome of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Ada and Richard, it appears,... (full context)
Chapter 4
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
They are astonished to find that the house is filled with children, and that it is very dirty inside. The children are unwashed... (full context)
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...Caddy only knows how to write letters. Esther listens politely and Caddy says that the house is a disgrace. Esther can see that Caddy is very upset and allows her to... (full context)
Chapter 5
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
...out the rest of the word, which is “Jarndyce.” Krook then writes the words “Bleak House,” and Esther reads them to him. Krook seems pleased and leers at Esther as she... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...back to Mrs. Jellyby’s. From here, Esther, Richard, and Ada take a carriage to Bleak House. (full context)
Chapter 6
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Esther, Richard, and Ada make their way to Mr. Jarndyce’s house, but a passing coach stops their carriage, and the driver hands each orphan a note.... (full context)
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Mr. Jarndyce shows the young people to their rooms, and they find that the house is rambling and strangely proportioned, and that the furniture comes from all over the world... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...pay, and the man replies that he will go to prison or to “Coavinses,” a house for those in debt. (full context)
Chapter 7
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
In Lincolnshire, at Chesney Wold, the rain continues to fall. The house is quiet—Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock are in Paris—and the horses in the stables and... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
...room with his grandmother. Watt asks Mrs. Rouncewell about one of the maids in the house, who he thinks is extremely pretty, and Mrs. Rouncewell tells him that her name is... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
...Rosa enters the room and tells them that two men have come to view the house. Mrs. Rouncewell is indignant because the house is not currently open to visitors, but Rosa... (full context)
Chapter 8
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
The next morning, at Mr. Jarndyce’s house, Esther explores the grounds and begins her housekeeping duties. After breakfast—at which, she notes, Mr.... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Mr. Jarndyce explains that Tom Jarndyce was his uncle, and that the house once belonged to him. When Tom Jarndyce tried to solve the lawsuit himself, he gradually... (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
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Esther remarks on what a transformation Mr. Jarndyce has produced in Bleak House, and Mr. Jarndyce happily tells Esther that he has great faith in her ability as... (full context)
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Ada and Esther settle into their new life at Bleak House. They spend time with a circle of philanthropists—acquaintances of Mr. Jarndyce—and are amazed at the... (full context)
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
The house is on a very dirty street. Several poor people watch them as they pass and... (full context)
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
They set out the next morning. On the way, they pass a public house, in which they see the brickmaker, who is very drunk. When they arrive at the... (full context)
Chapter 9
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
Life continues at Bleak House and Esther notices that Richard grows restless. She also notices, however, that he and Ada... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
...that he earns a good salary at Kenge and Carboy, that he owns a little house in a pleasant spot in London, and that he would like to marry her. Esther... (full context)
Chapter 12
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Although the house is very crowded, Mr. Tulkinghorn’s room is always left unoccupied because he may arrive unannounced... (full context)
Chapter 13
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...remain behind in London, while Esther, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce are to return to Bleak House. After their dinner at the Badgers’, Ada takes Esther aside and tells her that she... (full context)
Chapter 15
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...the group. She gives Esther a key and directs her to the top of the house, which is split into several lodgings. On the stairs, a man stops them and asks... (full context)
Chapter 16
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... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...the painted Allegory, who points perpetually to the floor. A woman has just passed his house. She is dressed like a servant, but her face is covered, and she has the... (full context)
Chapter 18
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
On the coach on the way up to Mr. Boythorn’s house, Mr. Skimpole tells them that the landlord has confiscated all of his furniture because he... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...works at Chesney Wold and that he is engaged to Rosa, Lady Dedlock’s maid. The house is quaint and the garden is very pretty. The walkway over which Mr. Boythorn and... (full context)
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...a cold, furious scowl, takes off her shoes and begins to march back towards the house. Esther and Ada watch her go, confused. The groundskeeper laughs when he sees this and... (full context)
Chapter 19
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
In Mr. Snagsby’s house, they prepare to have guests. Mr. Chadband, a minister, and his wife, Mrs. Chadband, are... (full context)
Chapter 27
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Mrs. Bagnet laments that George never married as she leads him into the house; he is always such a wanderer, she complains. Mrs. Bagnet’s daughters, Quebec and Malta, rush... (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
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...Tulkinghorn becomes flustered. Mr. Tulkinghorn says that he never would have let George into his house if he had known of George’s connections with dangerous criminals. George is affronted and leaves... (full context)
Chapter 29
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
The house remains silent as Mr. Guppy goes downstairs to leave. In Lady Dedlock’s room, however, she... (full context)
Chapter 30
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...wedding, Esther and Ada go with her to Mrs. Jellyby’s and try to make the house, and Mrs. Jellyby herself, look presentable. Mr. Jellyby cries when he sees them and tearfully... (full context)
Chapter 31
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...Jenny and Liz have returned to London and that she met Jenny outside a physician’s house. She was there to buy medicine for an orphan boy who is ill. Esther is... (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
...walks there, she has the surreal feeling that she has undergone a transformation. The little house is just as dingy and foul as she remembers, and Jo lies ill in the... (full context)
Chapter 34
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...not paid. Astounded, George and Mr. Bagnet glance at one another and leave the Smallweed’s house as Mr. Smallweed calls for Judy to throw them out. (full context)
Chapter 35
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...delirium. Mr. Boythorn has written to insist that she must go and rest at his house when she is well enough to travel; he will be out of town for some... (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 the house to themselves. Esther is... (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
...legend of the Ghost’s Walk from Mr. Boythorn and though she is fascinated by the house, and by the Dedlock family history, she does not visit Chesney Wold because of 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
...her and says that she is. Lady Dedlock suggests that Charley go back to the house and that she should walk a while with Esther. (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...in the story who will bring ruin to the Dedlock line. She runs from the house, back through the grounds, shaken with horror and despair. (full context)
Chapter 37
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...informs them that Lady Dedlock has left, however, and that she has gone to her house in London. Not long after this, Charley appears again and tells Esther that she is... (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
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...he finds it very poetic. Esther leads Richard and Mr. Skimpole back to Mr. Boythorn’s house and shows Richard into the living room where Ada is seated. Ada is very pleased... (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 end of the suit, but Richard says that he cannot live “in an unfinished house.” Esther recalls Miss Flite’s words and the story of old Tom Jarndyce. Esther tries to... (full context)
Chapter 38
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther returns to Bleak House and immediately travels up to London to visit Caddy and Prince. Caddy tells Esther that... (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
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Esther takes Caddy with her to Mr. Guppy’s house and is invited in by Mrs. Guppy, his mother. Mr. Guppy is also present and... (full context)
Chapter 40
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...expects that the Dedlocks will assemble to discuss this calamity and she has prepared the house. In the sunset, the light shines in on the Dedlock portraits, which line the hall,... (full context)
Chapter 43
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
They visit Mr. Skimpole the next day and find him having breakfast. His house is very dirty and cluttered, but he eats lavishly. Mr. Jarndyce brings up the subject... (full context)
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...everything and everyone. Mr. Skimpole says that he will return with Mr. Jarndyce to his house. Mrs. Skimpole is ill, and an angry baker, whom Mr. Skimpole owes money to, is... (full context)
Chapter 45
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...and Ada walk around the garden, Esther notices Mr. Vholes on his way to the house. She keeps this from Ada because Ada hopes that Richard will soon grow bored of... (full context)
Chapter 46
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...The woman explains that the boy, Jo, has been ill and was staying at her house until a young lady very kindly took him home. Jo, however, ran away in the... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...moment, asks the boy 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... (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
Ada intends to remain with Richard and not go back to Mr. Jarndyce’s house, and Esther agrees that this must be the case. She tries to part with them... (full context)
Chapter 52
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...a strange coincidence. He thinks that he saw Esther the previous night outside Mr. Tulkinghorn’s house. Esther feels a chill at these words as she leaves the cell. (full context)
Chapter 53
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...these carriages and observes, from this spot, his wife on the steps of Mr. Tulkinghorn’s house accompanied by the lodger. After the funeral, Mr. Bucket goes to see Sir Leicester and... (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
...quite indignant at this possibility. From here, Mr. Bucket goes to another part of the house and discourses with one of the servants. He flatters the man and asks him if... (full context)
Chapter 56
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...Bucket rides to George’s gallery and finds the trooper has just returned from Mr. Jarndyce’s house. Mr. Bucket asks for the address and rushes off again for this destination. He rings... (full context)
Chapter 57
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...tells him that she met Lady Dedlock when she was a guest at Mr. Boythorn’s house. (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
The carriage stops at every public house along the way, and Mr. Bucket goes in and chats to the customers and to... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
As they approach the house, Mr. Bucket points at Mr. Skimpole’s room and asks if he is often a guest.... (full context)
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
...they can tell her anything about Lady Dedlock—who Mr. Bucket says has been at their house recently—and Liz gives Esther a look as though she wants to speak to her privately.... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
...yes. Lady Dedlock came to them to ask if the young lady was at Bleak House but left, after a short rest of about 20 minutes, when they said no. She... (full context)
Chapter 59
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 62
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...she timidly asks him if he still wishes to make her the “mistress of Bleak House,” and Mr. Jarndyce assures her that this is the case. They agree that in a... (full context)
Chapter 64
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
...at a hotel. Mr. Jarndyce tells her that he has come here to arrange a house, which belongs to him but which he plans to give to Mr. Woodcourt, who has... (full context)
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
The next day, Mr. Jarndyce takes Esther to see the house, and she thinks that it is beautiful and exactly to her taste. He takes her... (full context)
Chapter 66
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
...do not haunt Chesney Wold anymore. It is no longer a lively or a fashionable house and nothing much goes on within its walls, where Sir Leicester quietly lives out the... (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
Esther has been the “mistress of Bleak House” for seven years. Ada gives birth to a healthy baby, and the child helps her... (full context)