Bleak House: Chapter 26

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Summary of Chapter XXVI: Sharpshooters

 

This is a friendly scene between Mr. George and the man from the gutter he rescued to be his assistant in his shooting gallery, Phil. George is an old military man, and so he is not repulsed by Phil who is pretty beat up. Phil is so deformed and off balance, he has to get around the room by dragging his shoulder around the outer wall.

 

George is kind to Phil and treats him as a companion. George tells about his childhood in the country, and how he knows every tree and flower. He praises his old mother and chastises himself as a runaway. Then he asks about Phil’s youth. He was eight when he hooked up with an old tinker and went traveling with him. After he died, he took over the business. His work in a forge and then a gas works made him crippled, and that’s when Mr. George found him and made him his partner. They run the gallery together.

 

Grandfather Smallweed shows up and mentions that his “friend in the city” has done business with a pupil of his—Richard Carstone. He rubs his hands, indicating another victim is in the works. Then he brings up Captain Hawdon, Mr. George’s friend, and says that he does not believe the Captain is really dead (he owes money), and his lawyer friend would like to see a piece of Hawdon’s handwriting, so he is willing to pay George for a letter. George says he doesn’t know, but slips a letter in his pocket in case he decides to sell it. He goes with Smallweed to see Tulkinghorn.

 

Commentary on Chapter XXVI

 

Every time Mr. George shows up, we like the old soldier better. He was the one who sheltered Gridley from the law, the one who trained Richard. In this chapter he speaks of his childhood, which later will be discovered as occurring around Chesney Wold, since this is George Rouncewell. His pity on poor Phil, his taking him in and treating him like a fellow human being endears him to the reader.

 

There are basically two types of people in Dickens’ monumental gallery of portraits: those who are full of love for their fellow creatures, and those who are selfish and pretentious. It is amazing to see a loving Esther or generous Mr. George in the same scene with grotesque animal-type people, like Smallweed, the spider, rejoicing in trapping others. His news about Richard shows the young man is not likely to escape, even in the army. We have the examples of other ruined military men, such as Captain Hawdon and Mr. George, who have been ensnared by the moneylenders.

 

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