Bleak House: Chapter 35

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Summary of Chapter XXXV: Esther’s Narrative

 

Dickens intercuts between stories and now returns to Esther’s recovery. Eventually, her vision returns, and she is grateful. She notices, however, that the mirrors have all been taken away, and then she understands that she is disfigured from the smallpox. She is able to deal with it when her guardian visits her and loves her as before. She sees it makes no difference to him, and she again thinks that she loves him like a father.

 

Richard, however, has taken a dislike to Mr. Jarndyce, seeing him as an enemy. Esther decides she needs to get stronger before letting Ada see her, so she is offered the use of Mr. Boythorn’s house, next to Chesney Wold. Esther thinks, “The old conspiracy to make me happy! Everybody seemed to be in it” (p. 375). She realizes that her childhood prayer for love has been fulfilled.

 

Miss Flite comes to visit and tells her story to Esther. All Miss Flite’s family became tragic victims of the lawsuit, and she is the last. She brings Esther a newspaper article about Allan Woodcourt who was in a shipwreck and became a hero by rescuing others. Esther feels happy that there had been no declaration before he left, for now she is changed. Miss Flite tells how a lady in a veil went to Jenny’s cottage to inquire after Esther’s health and took away the handkerchief that Esther gave to cover the dead baby.

 

Commentary on Chapter XXXV

 

This chapter advances Esther’s personal story, interweaving it with themes about the Jarndyce lawsuit, and Lady Dedlock’s pursuit of her past. Esther more and more is the apparent link in the stories.

 

Esther mentions that the illness was a dividing line in her life: “I seemed to have crossed a dark lake, and to have left all my experiences . . . on the healthy shore” (p. 370). This is a little death and resurrection. She is thankful for regaining her eyesight, but has to deal with the scarring, which comes to mean to her the end of any romance or marriage prospects. With Woodcourt’s elevation as a hero, Esther feels even less worthy to be his wife than before.

 

Still, Esther keeps her faith and finds that people still love her, and that means her one wish in life to find love, is rewarded by all her goodness. She still thinks of Mr. Jarndyce as a father. Esther thinks perhaps the veiled lady visiting Jenny’s cottage was Caddy, but it is obviously her own mother, Lady Dedlock. It is interesting that the high and mighty Lady Dedlock is forced to haunt the slums for news of her lost family members.

 

Mr. Jarndyce mourns over the division between him and Richard: “I would rather restore to poor Rick his proper nature, than be endowed with all the money that dead suitors, broken, heart and soul, upon the wheel of Chancery, have left unclaimed . . .” (p. 373). Miss Flite amplifies this theme by talking about the Mace and Seal of the Chancellor that draws the life out of people. Her father was thrown into debtor’s prison, her brother drank, her sister became a prostitute, and she is a lone mad old woman. She looked at “the Monster” suit (p. 378), and was hooked for life. She feels sorry for Richard’s decline and warns of his danger.

 

 

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