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79 pages 2 hours read

Charles Dickens

Bleak House

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1853

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Symbols & Motifs

Bleak House

In the early stages of the novel, Bleak House—a large and foreboding property—is a symbol of worrying possibilities. Rather than optimistic, the characters are initially anxious about what awaits them inside the house. They are not necessarily there of their own volition; Richard and Ada have been sent there by the court, and Esther is there because she has been promised a job. Even for Jarndyce himself, the house has a dark past. The house came into his possession after a series of deaths brought about by his relations’ obsession with the legal case that bears his name. Its interior is labyrinthine, mirroring the convoluted legal system. However, Jarndyce has worked hard to turn the house from a foreboding symbol of death and obsession into what it becomes later in the novel. The arrival of the young wards is part of this symbolic reconstruction, an attempt to remove the inherent bleakness of Bleak House.

The immediate friendship between Richard, Ada, and Esther is consecrated by their shared arrival at Bleak House. They go through the emotional journey of reinterpreting the building’s symbolism; the dark and foreboding feeling is forgotten, replaced by the delight of being surrounded by so many friends.

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