Bleak House: Chapter 11

Chapter 11: “Our Dear Brother”

Summary: Turns out the law writer on opium has overdosed and is dead. No one knows anything about him, and, most importantly, who should pay for his funeral, so everyone involved has to go to court about it. Even a homeless boy, Jo with no last name, is made to testify. Then the man is buried in disgrace, and only Jo hangs around to pay last respects.

Reaction: I got excited when I discovered that there’d been a death. I was hoping for murder, but drug overdose is acceptable. What I found very interesting in this chapter was the complete change in voice and style of narration. It was like we were reading the trial notes, written in clipped, barely-sentences that made everything feel rushed and official, though behind it all absolutely nothing was being accomplished. My favorite part was the interview with Jo:

Name, Jo. Nothing else that he knows on. Don’t know that everybody has two names. Never heerd of sich a think. Don’t know that Jo is short for a longer name. Thinks it long enough for him. He don’t find no fault with it. Spell it? No. He can’t spell it.

Prediction: It’d be nice if Jo was in it some more. I have a soft spot for young kids with heart in terrible circumstances (doesn’t everyone?). The rest I could do without.

Why This Book Is a Classic: The writing style gives a real taste of what the time period is like. I could clearly hear their speech and I could really feel the over-abundance of formality of the court that was getting absolutely nothing accomplished.

Our Lesson: Even a death of someone no one knew at all can draw a crowd if nothing better is going on. It’s like a big party–but don’t look too interested in case you’re forced to go to court about it.


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