Bleak House: “The Letter and the Answer”

Chapter 44: “The Letter and the Answer”

Summary: Mr. Jarndyce reassures Esther not to feel guilty for her parents’ mistakes and decides the best course is to keep the secret. Then he tells her he has something to ask her in writing. After she has had a week to prepare herself for this letter, he sends it, and in it he asks her to marry him. She considers, but really knows her answer immediately. After burning the flowers she’d saved from Mr. Woodcourt, she answers that she will marry him.

Reaction: This was as romantic a chapter as Dickens has given us so far. And also a little uncomfortable because Mr. J is old. In fact, I remember thinking when he was first introduced, “Oh, well he can’t be interested in her romantically because he could be her father or even grandfather.” But I guess I was wrong. But he is a good man, so I guess if I don’t think about it too much I can be on board.

Prediction: I don’t think this Mr. Woodcourt thing is over and done with, though. Esther is too honorable to act on anything now that she will be with Mr. J, but she won’t be living happily ever after just yet; I’m only a little over halfway through this thing, after all.

Why This Book Is a Classic: Marriage age difference: unless you are Hugh Hefner, and ick, I hope you are not–these days you will not be marrying someone who could be your granddaughter. But love was weird back then, I guess.

Our Lesson: Love knows no boundary. Even vast age differences.


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