Bleak House: Chapter 19

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Summary of Chapter XIX: Moving On

 

In the long summer vacation of four months, the Courts of Law and Equity are shut up and everyone on vacation. At Mr. Snagsby’s house, they are getting ready for company, with Guster the maid dropping things and causing a clatter. Mr. Chadband, the minister, and his wife, have come to tea. Chadband speaks in a booming prophetic voice, an Apostle, full of clichés. They are interrupted by a constable who holds the street boy, Jo, claiming he has money on him, and they suspect him of stealing. Jo has given Snagsby as a reference. The constable tells him he has to “move on.” Mr. Guppy comes in and hears Jo’s testimony that he was given the coin by a mysterious lady. Snagsby says the boy is innocent. Snagsby invites Guppy to tea where he hears Mrs. Chadband (Mrs. Rachel), tell about her former life as a housekeeper for Miss Barbary and the child Esther Summerson. Guppy perks up at the name of his beloved. Chadband uses the boy Jo as a subject to sermonize upon for his dark ignorance, and Jo wants nothing more than to “move on.”

Commentary on Chapter XIX

The obnoxious Guppy is everywhere, getting bits and pieces of stories, pieces of one big puzzle. He hears Jo’s story about Lady Dedlock’s visit to the slums and the story of Esther’s childhood. As we will see in the next chapter, he continues to make connections with people and places that have to do with a central mystery tying in to the Jarndyce case. Chadband is another parody of self-important religious people, who like Mrs. Pardiggle, make useless statements about the poor. The title of the chapter comes from the constable’s warning to street people to “move on” and not loiter. The narrator makes a comment that it is ironic for the poor to have to move on, while Parliament does not. Poor Jo says, “I’ve always been a-moving and a-moving on, ever since I was born” (p. 202). Jo is one of the homeless of London. Chadband tells him he is in darkness because he is in sin.

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