Bleak House: Chapter 14

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Summary of Chapter XIV: Deportment

 

Richard leaves for his new career, and Esther is a go-between with letters and news. Richard says hopefully, “If the suit should make us rich,” reasoning that “the longer it goes on . . . the nearer to a settlement” (p. 138-39).

 

Esther, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce call on the Jellybys, but Mrs. Jellyby is always out, and the children lost. Caddy brings the youngest child Peepy to their lodging for a visit. When Mr. Jarndyce sees how the child is dressed, he announces the wind is in the east and leaves the room. Caddy pours out her troubles—the family is close to bankruptcy, and she is going to run away to be married. Caddy drags the young ladies to see her fiancé, a dancing teacher called Prince Turveydrop. She decided she had to educate herself and when she took dancing lessons, the teacher fell in love with her.

 

To prepare for married life, Caddy has been practicing at Miss Flite’s room. She goes to Krook’s shop every morning and cleans the old lady’s room and makes her breakfast. The old woman is very happy with this company and has nicknamed Caddy “Fitz-Jarndyce.”

 

At the dance academy, they meet Prince, a very nice hardworking man who supports his pretentious father, who does nothing but exhibit his Deportment and wear expensive clothes so he can be admired.

 

Mr. Jarndyce joins the girls at Miss Flite’s and admires her birds. He has secretly been leaving money for her weekly, and Caddy has been purchasing her groceries with it and doing housekeeping. Mr. Krook is very interested in Mr. Jarndyce and attaches himself to him in a suspicious way. The Jarndyce party leaves with Mr. Woodcourt, who says that Krook isn’t necessarily crazy, just distrustful and under the influence of gin.

 

Commentary on Chapter XIV

 

A parallel exists between the Jellyby family and the Turveydrops. Both have selfish parents who neglect their children and work them to death. Caddy and Prince are therefore suited for they try to escape the same harsh conditions, though it is plain that Mr. Turveydrop will expect his daughter-in-law to wait on him. Mr. Turveydrop complains that the country has degenerated, for it no longer appreciates deportment, with all the democratic “levelling” going on (p. 147). He is used to being admired for his correct look and manners, acting the part of a gentleman, and like Harold Skimpole, letting others support him.

 

Miss Flite is finally being attended to by many kind friends. Jarndyce quietly leaves her money, Caddy does her shopping and housekeeping, Mr. Woodcourt attends her as a physician. Mr. Krook joins the party and tells the secret symbolic names of Miss Flite’s birds: Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Ruin, Despair, Madness, Death, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach. These she will let go at the Judgment.

 

Krook is much taken with John Jarndyce and follows him as though he could be another martyr, like Tom Jarndyce. Krook has “the slyness of an old white fox” (p.153) and is predatory, like his cat. Richard Carstone is still talking about when they all get rich, an ominous note.

 

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