79 pages 2 hours read

Charles Dickens

Bleak House

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1853

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Character Analysis

Esther Summerson

Esther is the protagonist of Bleak House. She also narrates a large part of the novel from a first-person perspective. Esther’s narration reflects her character. At all times, she is modest, respectful, and self-deprecating. When remembering her childhood, she insists that she was not a clever youngster. She reiterates this throughout the novel, even as she demonstrates her superior emotional intelligence and common sense. Esther is keenly aware of her low status in society as a child born out of wedlock—a “disgrace” that her aunt, who raised her, impressed upon her—and she strives to ensure that no one could ever accuse her of having ideas above her station, assessing her own flaws and mistakes as objectively as she can.

In actuality, Esther tends to overestimate her failings, meaning that readers must look between the lines to get an accurate picture of her character. Furthermore, while Esther is a considerate narrator, she is not always forthcoming. Ironically, Esther is frank about this narrative sleight-of-hand: She tells the audience when she is withholding the identity of a character or the exact nature of an action. Doing so heightens the narrative tension around certain plot points, but it also indicates Esther’s modesty.