Bleak House: 35–“Esther’s Narrative”

Chapter 35: “Esther’s Narrative”

Summary: Esther is better from her illness but disfigured. She receives news updates from her friends but won’t let Ada see her. Richard doesn’t trust John anymore. The lawsuit is turning his heart black. Mrs. Flite tells Esther that a mysterious lady took Esther’s handkerchief from Jenny with the dead baby. She also tells Esther that Mr. Woodcourt was a hero when his ship capsized. Somehow this makes Esther relieved that he can’t be in love with her, so she doesn’t have to saddle him with her disfigurement. Now Esther is ready to spend some time resting at Boythorn’s place in Chesney Wold.

Reaction: I want to know how Esther is disfigured. Does she have a bunch of pox sores on her face? Or some kind of fever sores? Or did her cheeks and forehead swell? Did her skin change color? I want to know! Curse our modern medicine for making us ignorant of what Dickens was talking about! And…I knew she liked Woodcourt. It’s cute how she’s still trying to talk herself out of it–and that she only admitted it when she thought an actual relationship was impossible. So cute!

Prediction: Woodcourt won’t care about her supposed disfigurement, whatever it is. He looooves her. Shipwreck heroes don’t care about your looks. And…going back to Chesney Wold is the perfect opportunity for Esther to connect with her birth mother. And just now I have this vision of Esther somehow solving this Jarndyce v. Jarndyce thing with her sweetness and ability to make everyone love her. Somehow.

Why This Book Is a Classic: Believe it or not, sometimes it’s hard to think up something for this category. Let’s go back to classic illness. The classic illness that knocks one out for weeks-months? at a time is also horribly disfiguring. You don’t see that in the developed world too often.

Our Lesson: If you get one of those classic illnesses, let’s hope you know a good plastic surgeon.


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