Bleak House: “Bell Yard”

Chapter 15: “Bell Yard”

Summary: Esther and co. are still in London. Man-child Skimpole comes for a visit and they all go see some orphans of a criminal, Coavinses. While there, they meet Gridley, who has his own inheritance suit going on in Chancery.

Reaction: There’s some more poverty to see–3 young children now taking care of themselves. I wonder what they’re going to do with these children now that they’ve found them?

Prediction: I can’t see them actually taking the children under their care. The pattern in this book seems to be meet an interesting character, spend some time together to form an opinion, move on, perhaps revisit them at a later point. Gridley, though, might adopt them.

Why This Book Is a Classic: Orphans. Of course orphans still appear in modern books all the time too (especially YA because the author can do more with the characters if the controlling parents aren’t in the picture). But in this one the orphans are taking care of themselves and other adults know about it and let it go on instead of making them social services’ problem.

Our Lesson: This is more of an English lesson, I think–but we see many contradictions here–childish, couldn’t-care-less Skimpole is compared to over-the-top, opinionated Boythorn (interesting that “boy” is in his name). Also the comparison between Jarndyce, who has a suit for thousands of pounds and is approaching it with a kind of mild annoyance, and Gridley, who has a suit for a few hundred pounds and is approaching it with fierce anger.


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