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Bleak House: Chapter 59

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Summary of Chapter LIX: Esther’s Narrative


At 3:00 a.m. Bucket and Esther reach London. Bucket gives Esther a pep talk, telling her she is amazingly courageous “You’re a pattern” he tells her. He warns her, “you won’t be alarmed whatever comes off, I know” (p. 607).


They come to Chancery Lane and run into Mr. Woodcourt, who has been sitting with Richard. He is ill. Woodcourt asks to go along. He is a comfort to Esther, and they speak of Ada and Richard. They all go to Snagsbys where everyone has been up all night, for Guster is having fits. Bucket asks Woodcourt to attend her, as he needs information from her when she calms down. Mrs. Snagsby is acting suspicious of everyone, especially Esther.


Bucket gives Mrs. Snagsby a lecture on jealousy and shows her what a mess she has made. Guster is in fits because Mrs. Snagsby has scolded her. Finally, Bucket gets a note from Guster that was left by Lady Dedlock when she rested there. It is meant to show she did not commit suicide, but it says she knows she will die in the streets “of terror and my conscience” (p. 612). She says there is nothing about her by which she can be recognized. She seeks a place she has long been thinking of.


Bucket gets Guster to admit Lady Dedlock asked directions to the pauper’s cemetery. Bucket, Woodcourt, and Esther walk to the cemetery and see a figure lying there with one arm around the gate. Esther cries, “Jenny!” Bucket says no—they changed clothes. Esther goes forward to find her mother dead, wearing Jenny’s clothes.


Commentary on Chapter LIX


Once more it is a pleasure to see Bucket in action and to see him set all these characters straight. He is the only one who can make Mrs. Snagsby ashamed. He finally figures out, too late, that the women had exchanged clothes, with Jenny being a decoy. In her last note, Lady Dedlock tries to excuse Jenny so she won’t be punished for helping her. Lady Dedlock’s terror of shame and criminal prosecution have hounded her to death. She herself had realized that Tulkinghorn’s hand from the grave was just as powerful as in life. She was so traumatized by the sight of her lover’s grave in this burying-ground when Jo showed it to her, that she wishes to join Hawdon here at last, a fitting place for the once proud lady cast down.


Woodcourt appearing suddenly is one of those coincidences of Victorian fiction that must be accepted. It seems to be setting the stage for some further revelation about their relationship. He has been more and more slipping into the fabric of her life, without her much noticing. Here Esther begs him to stay with her through the ordeal.


“Who will tell him?” We can only imagine the intrepid Bucket as the one who will tell Sir Leicester his wife is dead.




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