Bleak House Imagery of Bleakness

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The Imagery of Bleakness and Disease
in Charles Dickens’s “Bleak House”

Having been referred to as one of Dickens’s best novel, “Bleak House” is a novel which stands out, not only through its narrative technique, but also through the complex imagery the author conveys, managing somehow to relate this imagery to the real world, namely the XIXth century England. Thus, in spite of some instances of humorous, ironical scenes and a few comic characters, the novel reveals the sordidness and disease which seemed to prevail in England during those times.

From the opening sentence of the novel, the Court of Chancery is introduced, being associated with the symbols of fog and mud: "Never can there come a fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep,...holds, this day" The word “fog” appears thirteen times in one paragraph, and many times throughout the novel, the author conveying thus a bleak imagery, symbolic for the English society of the XIXth century.

Making use of a special narrative technique, Dickens chooses to have his story told by two different narrators, an omniscient third-person narrator and a first-person narrator, Esther Summerson, who is presenting her life from her own viewpoint. Unlike the generalizing, highly rhetorical voice which opens the novel, Esther’s voice begins hesitatingly, almost self-deprecating herself. This manner of presenting her story is highly relevant as it is seen as a result of her life as an orphan in the sordid house of a cruel, merciless aunt.

Thus, regarding the imagery of bleakness, Esther can be deemed to have passed through a series of symbolic “bleak houses” before she reaches the real Bleak House, which proves to be the least bleak of all. Consequently, it can be considered that the names of the two houses – “Bleak House”, is nothing more than Dickens’s irony which becomes obvious only in the end of the novel.

With regard to Esther’s evolution throughout the novel, the first and apparently worse...
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