Bleak House Fridays – Week One

As I mentioned in my starting post here, I’m participating in a read-along for Charles Dickens’s Bleak House which is being hosted by Wallace at Unputdownables.  As I may have mentioned before, I very much have this love-hate relationship going with Dickens at present.  I read Great Expectations in college, and I really enjoyed that book.  In 2010, I attempted to tackle my second Dickens book, David Copperfield.  Unfortunately, I made it about a third of the way through the book, and for some reason I simply put it down, and I haven’t picked it back up yet.  I’m hoping this read-along for Bleak House will get me more into the love side of my relationship with Dickens, and will inspire me to read more of his works.

This week I read up to Chapter 6 of Bleak House, are a good introduction to the story.  A good first sign, was I didn’t have any urge of putting the book down and not picking it back up.  The first two paragraphs of the book really established the whole outlook of the story, as far as I’m concerned, and it definitely gave me some insight as to how Dickens may have felt about court during the 1850s in London.  The second paragraph really sealed the deal for me, and I quote:

Fog everywhere.  Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.  Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights.  Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats.  Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ‘prentice boy on deck.  Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all around them ,as if they were up in a  balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

What an interesting introduction to the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit that’s been going on for several years.  It definitely casts a negative light on if the lawsuit will be settled anytime soon.  Other than an inheritance at stake, I really have no clue as to why there’s a lawsuit, but I’m certainly hoping to discover more about that as I continue reading Bleak House.  I certainly hope that I’ll discover more about it, but it’s one of those things that really intrigues me.  By this point in time, there can’t be any money left, it’s all been consumed by legal fees, so I’d be very interested to see what the whole dispute was originally about.  But I can certainly tell it’s something that’s kept somewhat track of by, not only those involved in the lawsuit, but observers as well.

The deep descriptions didn’t stop with the first few paragraphs, I’ve noticed, in these first few chapters, that Dickens leaves very few descriptive details out.  I can definitely appreciate it because it definitely sets the tone and gives you a complete picture of the setting.

There were some characters introduced that I found rather interesting.  The first being Esther Summerson.  I really felt quite sorry for her, not knowing who her parents were, and then to have her caretaker die and then for Mr. Jarndyce to take her in as a ward.  I thought Esther would be left to fend for herself until it was revealed that Mr. Jarndyce would take her in.  It just seemed odd to me the way she had been previously treated, and then, while she was being educated, she was cared for very well and has become a caretaker for Ada, as she’s introduced a couple of chapters later in the book.

I was rather appalled when Esther and company ended up at the Jellybys en route to Bleak House to join Mr. Jarndyce.  Just the description of the living conditions, and especially how Mrs. Jellyby seems more interested in Africa than her whole family.  I was also able to discern that the Jellybys aren’t too well off, and the house is very unkempt.  Esther picked up on these details, and I got the impression that she was rather disgusted, but that could simply be me.

Finally, I found the first several chapters were quickly read, and I hope it continues to be so.  I’m also really getting into the story, and I hope that remains the case as I participate in this read-along.  If you’ve read Bleak House, I’d love to hear your impressions of the novel!


About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!

2 Responses to “Bleak House Fridays – Week One”

  1. I loved this week’s section. Now I’m so excited to read more!!


  1. My March Reading Plans | Beltwayliterature - March 4, 2012

    […] House.  I’ve enjoyed the story so far, and as I mentioned in my first post here, I’m enjoying the nice, long, and detailed descriptions that Dickens has been using so far in […]

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