In Bleak House, Charles Dickens’s tenacious criminal investigator, Inspector Bucket, is a London police detective who investigates a murder. Inspector Bucket and Poe’s amateur detective Auguste Dupin were the first professional criminal investigators in English literature.
This is part two of a two part series, and covers chapter 32 to the end of the book.
1. Birthright: In Chapter 35, Esther says it’s “not the custom in England to confer titles on men unless they consisted of the accumulation of some very large amount of money.” Miss Flite thinks Allan Woodcourt should receive a title for saving people after his boat is shipwrecked. Esther agrees he deserves it but says he won’t get it.
So let’s talk about privilege and birthright. “Privilege” might be defined as an advantage in life not enjoyed by all. “Birthright” might be defined as one’s rights from birth onward due to one’s inheritance—rights essentially conferred through an accident of birth. Bleak House is in many ways a story about birthrights. What are Jo’s, Charley’s, and Esther’s birthrights? What are the birthrights of Ada and Richard? What’s YOURS?
2. The Many Forms of Neglect and Charity. Mrs. Jellyby neglects her family while she corresponds about far-off Africa. Mrs. Pardiggle brings her family with her everywhere and takes their money to support her efforts closer to home, going about lecturing the poor. Mr. Skimpole’s object of charity is himself. He neglects his family while thinking everyone should support his being “free.” Mr. Turveydrop considers his deportment a gift to family and society. He’s an object of charity, as he contributes nothing, working his wife and son into illness so he can live in the way he pleases. Sir Leicester Dedlock considers hiring Rosa as Lady Dedlock’s servant to be a form of charity and patronage, as does Rosa herself. Yet Mr. Rouncewell finds this patronage insufficient for the wife of his son, and he proposes that she be sent to Europe to finish her education. Thoughts?
3. Mrs. Bagnet is “that rare sort of old girl that she receives Good to her arms without a hint that it might be Better; and catches light from any little spot of darkness near her.” Do you know people like Mrs. Bagnet? Are you yourself like Mrs. Bagnet?