OK Here we go!
Bleak House is vast, complex and creates a feeling of chaos, so it might be useful to start with one specific area which has received a great deal of attention and branch out from that hub.
The most striking feature of Bleak House is its use of a dual narrative structure. This has caused considerable controversy. Some take the view that it is this structure that makes the book great and others, like E.M.Forster, feel that it is the book’s most serious flaw.
Briefly the two voices are as follows:
1. First, there is the omniscient narrator who easily switches between characters and scenes. The tone tends to emphasize cynicism, anger. and indignation. The ON writes in the present tense. This voice seems concerned with the malignant effect on the vulnerable by the actions of societal power structures and power manipulators.
2. The other is the first person limited narrator, Esther. She tends to be more gentle and specifically compassionate in her attitudes and relationships with those who suffer; she apparently personifies Dickens’ ideals of femininity and is more optimistic than the ON. Esther writes in the past tense--apparently from a journal.
As I read through the novel some exploration routes opened for me. I’ll share some of these with you and you can ignore, comment upon or branch out from them as the spirit strikes!
What did you think of the narrative structure? Is it relevant at all? Did it contribute to your enjoyment of the novel?
Do you think that Dickens has successfully managed to play these two voices off against each other?
Do the voices help illuminate Dickens’ world, his themes and character portrayal?
Is Esther really a believable and engaging character?
What do you think of that awful Skimpole? He was evidently based on Leigh Hunt. I detested him. One of the most engaging characters for me was Detective Bucket--also based on a real individual. I think that both tie into the power structures of the novel in different ways.
And what of that strange ending? Is Esther saying that life simply goes on? That there is no finality? After all, she and John Jarndyce can only salvage things; they have no permanent answer to the problems presented in the novel
Last edited by fantasyfan; 07-18-2011 at 06:45 AM.