Bleak House: Chapter 41

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Summary of Chapter XLI: In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Room

 

Lady Dedlock goes to Tulkinghorn’s room in the turret of Chesney Wold and asks why he has told her story to the company. He explains he wanted her to know he knew. She asks if she can save Rosa before it is known, for she expects him to expose her to the world. She also would like to sign anything that would be of help to her husband, for she intends to leave on that very night. She explains she does not ask to be spared, only to help the others.

 

Tulkinghorn says that he does not intend to expose her because it would mean the ruin of Sir Leicester and the family name. Her flight would only spread the truth. He wants them both to keep the secret. She will continue her lie, knowing he could expose her at any time. He says he would never expose her without giving her notice first. She gives in, goes to her room and walks up and down all night in pain, followed by the step on Ghost’s Walk.

 

Commentary on Chapter XLI

 

Tulkinghorn is a sadist who pretends he cares about the Dedlock name. He is completely triumphant to have such a beautiful and powerful lady under his thumb. More than once he is forced to admire her control, which is only outmatched by his own. Tulkinghorn’s control, however, is described as “self-repressed” (p. 436), while Lady Dedlock is a passionate woman who keeps “raging passions down” (p. 437). She asks for mercy in a dignified way, not for herself, but for her husband and Rosa. Her tragic nobility makes Tulkinghorn’s blackmail look cowardly. She once says that she has to go to the window because she can’t breathe. This is the same feeling Mr. George had in the presence of Tulkinghorn, for he has a suffocating influence. He does not like women, but he has conquered this one, and he is “sedately satisfied” (p. 436).

 

 

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