Bleak House: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: “In Chancery”

Summary: The story begins in London. It is foggy and yucky and miserable, and nowhere is more miserable than the courthouse, where the never-ending suit of Jarndyce V. Jarndyce is going on. It is a case no one knows anything about anymore or cares about, but it goes on nonetheless. There seem to be two children involved in it somehow, and they are orphans that will probably be sent to live with a cousin.

Reaction: Rich double fudge chocolate chunk cake with fudge icing and chocolate sauce (minus the sugar-high/crash) description! I was pretty much blown away and then swept up again. You’d think a classic like this would have been ripped off enough that these descriptions would have become cliche (like in A Christmas Carol–“dead as a doornail”), but I could feel and taste that fog and mud and everything, and when we reached the end of that passage and got to the courthouse and Dickens writes: “At the very heart of the fog sits the Lord High Chancellor” I was like, “Whoa, now that is pretty ominous,” and even if it hadn’t been spoiled by certain frigging introductions that I started reading and had to stop, I would have still known that this guy is not a good guy.

Prediction: I really hope to see more of these children, because I don’t care about this court case at all because, 1. Dickens doesn’t seem to want you to care about it, since none of the characters even care except for the annoying ones, and 2. It seems to be social commentary about a society that I am not a part of, so it is pretty hard to relate. And I expect to see a lot more characters because the list at the beginning of the book was like 4 pages long at least.

Why This Book Is a Classic: Epic, classic description. Not many modern, commercial books can get away with spending a few full pages on description like that, but this book can because it’s a classic.

Why a Modern Audience Might Like It: This might just be me, but I find that this description is so well done that even though it’s not what we’re used to reading if all we do is read YA (me) or NYT Bestsellers (not me–can’t stand most of them unless they are YA NYT Bestsellers and actually good), anyway…even though it’s not what we’re used to reading, the description in this chapter is really, really good in an enjoyable way and not just in a literary way.

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