Bleak House: Chapter 52

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Summary of Chapter LII: Obstinacy

 

Mr. Woodcourt visits Bleak House to tell about the murder of Tulkinghorn and the arrest of Mr. George. None of them believe he is guilty, but circumstantial evidence is against him, since he was at the scene of the crime.

 

Woodcourt, Esther and Mr. Jarndyce visit Mr. George in prison. He refuses to have a lawyer defend him or accept any help. He says it is enough for him that these friends believe in his innocence. Mr. Jarndyce explains, “The mere truth won’t do” (p. 533). Mr. George says, “I don’t take kindly to the breed” (p. 534). He wants his own innocence to exonerate him. He blames himself for taking to his vagabond life in youth.

 

Just then, the Bagnets arrive with food for their friend, and Mrs. Bagnet chides Mr. George for his “self-willed” ways (p. 536). Esther likes her “friendly indignation” (p. 536). Esther tells Mr. George that the mystery needs to be cleared up and the real murderer found, for the sake of everyone. Mr. George looks at Esther and says that it reminds him, a woman like Esther dressed in black was coming down the stairs of Tulkinghorn’s place and passed him that night. Esther shudders.

 

Outside the prison, Mrs. Bagnet says Mr. George is in a bad way, and there is only one person who can talk to him, his mother. She is going to go down to Lincolnshire to find her.

 

Commentary on Chapter LII

 

Mr. Jarndyce describes Mr. George as “open-hearted and compassionate,” with “the might of a giant” and “the gentleness of a child” (p. 531). Esther sees he is a “mere trooper with a blunt broadsword kind of a mind” (p. 535). He is simple and lovable, and his friends stand by him. Esther feels that she has a personal interest in the murderer being found, and yet, when Mr. George describes the woman in black, she fears her mother may be involved.

 

Mrs. Bagnet comes into the prison bringing fresh air. She is a Mary Poppins kind of a figure, who runs things, and everyone is glad, for she sets things straight. When Mr. Jarndyce says that someone should go with Mrs. Bagnet to Lincolnshire, Mr. Bagnet says no, she came half way around the world by herself “with the same grey cloak. And same umbrella. Whatever the old girl says, do” (pp. 538-39).

 

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