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Bleak House (Modern Library Classics)


Bleak House (Modern Library Classics) Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. 1. Critics have long regarded Bleak House as Dickenss most formally complex novel, since it blends together a number of different genres: detective fiction, romance, melodrama, satire. Compare the way the novel conforms to each of these genres. Do you consider Bleak House more a mystery than a satire, or vice versa? In what ways does the novel transcend these categories altogether?

2. 2. Examine Dickenss use of irony in Bleak House. Which characters find themselves in ironic moments or situations? How might we read the Court of Chancerys obstruction of justice as the supreme irony of the book?

3. 3. Consider the narrators remark in Chapter XXXIX that “The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself.” How, precisely, does Chancery “make business for itself”? What instruments, rituals, and/or actors does it employ to create a great chain of inefficiency?

4. 4. Discuss Dickenss representation of charity in Bleak House. Are philanthropists generally portrayed in a favorable light? You might compare the work of Mrs. Jellyby, Mrs. Pardiggle, and Mr. Quale with the quieter charitable work of Esther. What type of charity do you think Dickens values?

5. 5. Do you think Bleak House is successful in its attempt to criticize the English legal system? If so, how do you reconcile the novels happy ending with Dickenss critique?

6. 6. Examine Dickenss use of mud and pollution imagery throughout Bleak House. What different meanings do images of mud, dirt, disease attach themselves to? Which characters become closely identified with pollution?

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

JRo, September 4, 2011 (view all comments by JRo)
Yes, "bleak" is in the title, and yes, you may associate Dickens with high school English, and yes, it's a long-haul read. Try it out anyhow. You'll find a murder mystery, portraits of addiction, a first-person narrative woven together with an omniscient third, charming and chilling eccentrics, and--lest I forget--spontaneous combustion. Dickens's first readers received his novels serially. Try setting the book aside for a few weeks between sections to heighten your anticipation.
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Kristen M, May 26, 2010 (view all comments by Kristen M)
If any book title seemed designed to detract readers from approaching a book, I believe it would have to be Bleak House. However, it turns out that Bleak House has some amazing characters, a mysterious plot and relatively little of Dickens' legendary long and tedious descriptions.

The first two chapters of this book are difficult to get through but you become completely engaged in the story in the third chapter when Esther begins her narration. As in all other Dickens stories, we receive his social commentary, discover kindness and dignity among the lower classes and shamefully bad behaviour by some who could afford to act better. I'm glad that I finally read this novel and would suggest it to anyone who enjoys Dickens and has a couple of weeks of free reading time.
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Product Details

Browne, H. K.
Gaitskill, Mary
Browne, H. K.
Dickens, Charles
Browne, H. K.
Modern Library
New York
Young women
Inheritance and succession
Legal stories
Domestic fiction
Guardian and ward
Illegitimate children
Literature-A to Z
Edition Number:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Modern Library Classics
Series Volume:
issue 8
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.1 x 5.15 x 1.3 in 1.4 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » World History » General

Bleak House (Modern Library Classics) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 928 pages Modern Library - English 9780375760051 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Dickens's most complex novel, mixing romance, mystery, comedy, and satire. In brilliant detail, Bleak House limns the suffering caused by the inefficiency of the law. Taken from the 1853 single-volume Bradbury and Evans edition, this edition includes newly commisioned notes and thirty-nine illustrations by H. K. Browne.
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