Introduction: Characters

I wonder how your feet are feeling, following our whirlwind tour of the places of this great novel? Mr Dickens is known to walk vast distances around the city, sometimes up to thirty miles, and at night too! But not everyone has his energy—indeed I myself am glad to rest a little.

As you may have noticed, the places we have visited are full of people. Indeed, it is difficult to extricate the place from the people and vice versa, so closely identified with human activity are the locations of Bleak House.

But we shall try! It is said that Mr Dickens created England through the characters he described. His novels are full of vivid and interesting major and minor characters, who play different roles, reveal different themes, and function in different ways in his novels. And indeed, Bleak House has dozens of characters, ranging from the closely observed main characters, such as myself, Lady Dedlock, and Jo the crossing sweeper, to minor characters who show the variety of society in the city and beyond.

Some of his characters offer comic relief. Some are villains. Some make us weep in sympathy. Some are protagonists, some are antagonists. Some are supporting casts. Some merely provide background details. Some deserve more attention than others, especially if we are to make our way through the novel without becoming lost in a blur and cacophony of voices (a fog?).

Approaching Characters in Bleak House.


Again, so as to be practical in engaging with the characters of Bleak House, we must start somewhere, and I have decided that the most logical starting place is to think in terms of the themes and ideas that these characters represent. Accordingly, I introduce some characters, then discuss them in terms of their role in the novel, and the themes they illuminate.

We will begin with poor Jo, whom I have already mentioned in connection with Tom-All-Alone’s, as a representative of the poverty pervading the city, then proceed to Lady Dedlock, a representative not of wealth, but of shame and women’s life, then we will discuss myself!

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