Charles Dickens, at the height of his creative powers in this great work, pursues two great themes: the murky institutional fog that darkens and cripples all of England, symbolized by the endless litigation of the Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce case in the High Court of Chancery (which is slowly devouring an inheritance in legal costs), and the familiar Dickensian concern with the capricious treatment and maltreatment of children as exemplified by the pitiful castoff Jo and the overindulged Harold Skimkpole.
Dickens' rich tapestry of a novel weaves together the fortunes and desires of several characters whose fates are tied to the case: Ada and Richard, two young orphans who stand to inherit and wish to marry when they do; the worthy John Jarndyce, their voluntary guardian while the case is pending; and Esther Summerson, Jarndyce's protegee, whose romance is complicated by torn loyalties and whose heritage is shrouded in mystery and scandal.
Bleak House takes the form of a compelling mystery, a romantic tangle of trails followed by three vivid sleuths: the opportunistic Guppy, the sinister Tulkinghorn, and the benevolent Bucket. Only through the skill of Dickens can artfully constructed mystery so intensify and illuminate stringent social commentary.
This portrait of London society is often regarded as Dickens' best.
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