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Chapters I-III

Some critics say that Dickens had a love to describe places, houses, streets and other different objects very carefully and scrupulously. And actually this is what we can see in one of his most famous books "Bleak House”. At the very beginning of the story the author wants us to meet old London: the city where the whole action will take place. He renders marvelously the sights, and sounds and smells of London - the fog, the drizzle, the slime, the dust, the crowded or empty streets, picturing with equal authenticity the river, the water-side, the City, the law-courts, the West End, the suburbs.

But as I have already said the main "role” in the first three chapters is given to the fog: "Fog everywhere. Fog up the river… fog down the river… Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier‑brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners… fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little prentice boy on deck.” It seems that the author is taken up with London fog. And these short sentences help him to deliver the idea that fog is everywhere. The sentences are, so to say, chopped off so as if you glance anywhere casually, you’ll see nothing but fog…everywhere…in every corner…above all the houses…far and wide…

The chapters are full of different symbols and key-words that help the author to show the atmosphere of the place and that will probably help us to understand the author’s message. But now we learn only about London, a great but "dirty” (as the author points) city at one and the same time. We imagine quite a grey and gloomy city. We can see passers-by, ordinary gapers, people who are busy with something more or less important, people who just "inhabit” the city, but in fact not so many of them care about other people or about things that happen around them. While reading I got a mysterious feeling of that place. I guess in this book the author manages to bring the realistic and fantastic sides of life together.

(by Luck)



"…Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle…”, "…tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding ... adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud…”, "Fog everywhere.  Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.” 

These words open for us the world of the book "The Bleak House” by Ch. Dickens. Firstly, he decides to immerse readers in the atmosphere of his book. And only then through the description of this atmosphere he shows state of things in London.

How does Dickens create this special atmosphere? As we can see, the key words from the first three chapters are "mud”, "fog”, "drizzle”, "dust”, etc. They all are connected with something dark, gloomy, negative. But they describe not only the state of weather in the city, but show us this weather as a monster that has some mystical power to influence the life in the city. One of the main points in the description of the atmosphere in London is fog.

Fog can be called a generalized metaphor. Fog is shown as a living organism that influences the life of the city and citizens. It’s compared with the Court that can also be called a living organism. Fog is everywhere: in the streets, houses, shops, even in the lungs of citizens. The same situation is with the Court. This Court protects the Law, and the Law rules everything that happens in the city. It regulates all spheres of life. People can’t live avoiding fog and can’t live without paying attention to the Law.

Dickens names his first chapter "In Chancery”. Chancery means "Lord Chancellor’s Court”, but at the same time "in chancery” means "in a difficult situation with no way out”. This again proves the fact that the Court is the supreme power of the city and it’s the most terrible nightmare.

To bind the weather and the state of things in the city in one atmosphere and to make us immerse deeper in it the author uses different instruments, such as one-member sentences and loose attribution.

One-member sentences and absolute constructions are very useful and interesting instruments in the process of creating the necessary atmosphere. One-member sentences are easier for perception. To tell the truth, when I write something I very often use a chain of images. It helps to create necessary atmosphere without thinking about it. For example, you read a phrase "desert island” and imagine it very quickly, and you don’t need any additional information about this place, because you are already in the atmosphere of this desert island. One-member sentences help us to create a place, gives us a scheme of it. And loose attribution helps us to color this very place, because it gives us a set of universal characteristics with the help of which we can describe any object and phenomenon of this very place or space.

As far as we can see, the aim of the author is to show readers what is the Chancery for London. And to make this picture more colorful Dickens uses the description of weather in the city.

(by Seagull)

A Good Beginning is Half the Battle
First pages of any story or novel give the most profound expression of the author’s intention. Though it is not always possible to guess further development of the narration, the very thing that the initial chapters begin in such a way (and not some other) makes one wonder about the implied ideas of the author. "Smoke lowering down from chimney‑pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full‑grown snowflakes‑gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot‑hold at street‑corners”. These lines, found just in the beginning of the first chapter, lay a strong impression on the reader. Fog creeping not only into the cabooses of collier‑brigs, but also into the hearts and minds of those who follow these lines.
However, Dickens did not confine himself to mentioning just the weather. He used specific key-words that dispose the reader to the core of the conflict in the novel. "Lord High Chancellor” and "Chancery” represent a group of words which is juxtaposed to the group under the conventional name "fog” and "mud”. On one hand, this opposition conveys the concept of social injustice in the country. On the other hand, luxury and wealth are pictured bathing in the mire of dirty London streets. Human affairs are represented to be insignificant in comparison with the power of weather. Each has to endure the conditions no matter what position one holds. "…the Lord High Chancellor ought to be sitting here <…>, softly fenced in with crimson cloth and curtains, <…> where he can see nothing but fog.”
The text coloring is based mainly on metaphors and syntactical devices. "…a surface punctured all over, all day long, with falling rain…” Dickens resorted to the words which precisely convey the atmosphere of the picture under description. "A surface” is not simply wet, the raindrops do not merely fall on the ground, but they puncture the soil, reminding of painful injections that are able to cure the patient.
The text also abounds in symbols and token images. For instance, the surnames of some characters are symbolic to some extent. Lady Dedlock – Dedlock sounds like "dead lock”, - a lock which is hard to open. It can be compared with the personality of this lady – always proud of herself, arrogant and haughty, she is very difficult to deal with. Mr Tulkinghorn can be rendered as "talking horn”. In fact, he works in the court, therefore speaks a lot in public settling various suits and cases. Esther’s birthday may be interpreted as the symbol of fate – the girl knows nothing about the day she was bourn as well as about her family. Her birthday has some symbolic meaning because this must be the loveliest and happiest day in life of every child, but not in Ether’s life. All her grieves and the very inferiority complex go back to this day.
Details bring fantastic images into life. "The weather for many a day and night has been so wet that the trees seem wet through, and the soft loppings and prunings of the woodman's axe can make no crash or crackle as they fall. The deer, looking soaked, leave quagmires where they pass. The shot of a rifle loses its sharpness in the moist air, and its smoke moves in a tardy little cloud towards the green rise, coppice‑topped, that makes a background for the falling rain. The view from my Lady Dedlock's own windows is alternately a lead‑coloured view and a view in Indian ink.” As the reader may see, this paragraph contains lots of synonyms and epithets; indeed they form a chain: wet soaked moist cloud rain. With the help of the synonyms the author makes the reader feel the weather, feel soaked and miserable. The sense of the colour is rendered through unusual epithets: lead-coloured, Indian ink.
But perhaps the most peculiar thing in these descriptions is the syntax. Dickens combines short, simple sentences with enumerations which seem to be endless and abstruse to read. Some sentences do not contain finite verbs. ("Fog everywhere. Fog up the river…”) And this puts a special importance on the nouns, making these descriptions depressing for the reader.
(by MissJane)

Dickens is a real Master of Word

I’d like to focus on the literary analysis of the first three chapters of "Bleak house”. Having read only the beginning of the novel one easily understands that Dickens is a real Master of Word. The first chapters are full different literary devices that are worth analyzing. Of course, they make the text rather difficult to comprehend but they "transport” us into the atmosphere of the story.

Let’s begin our analysis with the key words. Key words are the words most frequently used in the narration. roughly speaking, it’s their aim to create the atmosphere. In "Bleak house” key words are "fog”, ‘mud”, "smoke”, "drizzle”, "mire”. They all have a negative connotation. Moreover, they all belong to the lexico-semantic field of "weather”, having a common seme "bad”, or "unpleasant”.

Let’s pass to literary devices. I’d like to begin with repetition. Its  widely used here. Why? That’s done again to create the atmosphere, to emphasize things. And there is one more thing. Very simple one actually. When you hear something for the first time you analyze it, get some idea and draw conclusions. But when you hear the same thing for the second time, you already know the main idea, that’s why you grasp for additional, implied information. And that’s the point. I suppose, Dickens uses repetition to draw the reader’s attention to really important facts, not to let the just skip some meaningful information.

Another device Dickens uses is syntactical parallelism. What does it consist in? It consists in using the same grammar construction in several neighbour-sentences. (It may be combined with repetition). Then I went on, thinking, thinking, thinking; and the fire went on, burning, burning, burning; and the candles went on flickering and guttering…Repetition together with parallelism create the atmosphere of great tension, despair and, at the same time, monotony. They "stretch” the time as well.

Let’s continue speaking about grammar. Short, "torn” sentences are also a common thing in "Bleak house”. I had youth and hope. I believe, beauty. It matters very little now. Neither of the three served, or saved me. I have the honour to attend Court regularly. With my documents. I expect a judgment. Shortly. On the Day of judgment. Dickens puts a comma after every meaningful phraseme. That’s done to make readers get all the sense of the question, with all details. Every shade of meaning deserves our attention. Every secondary part of a sentence becomes main.

So, if you want to understand Dickens analyze every word, every unit. There’s nothing superfluous in his works. Every word is thought over and thoroughly chosen.

(By Asya)

Three chapters. Three shades of grey colour. Three LondonS.

Chapter 1. Anthracite grey.
"Fog everywhere”, "Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights”, "Never can there come fog too thick”, "Thus, in the midst of the mud and at the heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery”, "Leaving this address ringing in the rafters of the roof, the very little counsel drops, and the fog knows him no more”.
Too much for for one city, don't you think? It seems that there is nothing more in England than this omnipresent fog. Imagine it – milky fog fulling the empty London streets, people hiding themselves in it. The fog seems to be a certain personification of a mysterious witness who watches all the people in the Chancery, who knows everything about its dirty affairs and who can even be regarded as a powerful judge for all the judges and lawyers of Chancery. Fog as a symbol of hidden and almost lost truth. But there's certainly something else on these narrow London streets. Dirt, mud, mire, marches – these words are repeated and repeated in the 1st chapter. The image of the bog symbolises not only the dirt of people's souls who are implicated in the court affairs, but an insuperable forces which suck down all these people into the depth of this swamp of sins and vices.
Gloomy London.

Chapter 2. Silver grey.
"An exhausted composure, a worn-out placidity, an equanimity of fatigue not to be ruffled by interest or satisfaction, are the trophies of her victory. She is perfectly well-bred”, "It is a slow, expensive, British, constitutional kind of thing”, "Across the hall, and up the stairs, and along the passages, and through the rooms, which are very brilliant in the season and very dismal out of it...”.
What comes to your mind when you are reading these line? It is a life of high society, with its pompous beauty and familiar honour. Aquamarine-blooded aristocrats with melancholy dignity in their eyes, their thin fingers touching antiques... Still pride and centuries-old fortune.
Refined London.

Chapter 3. Light grey.
"Then I went on, thinking, thinking, thinking; and the fire went on, burning, burning, burning...”
Repetitions, repetitions, repetitions... what is there in these words? Despair of a lonely girl and at the same time her hope. Her godmother's death and life at a first-rate establishment, her guardian and a strange men she met in the cab – the flow of events is passing by, the speed of the action is not so high, but we witness how six years have gone. And what is waiting for the young lady? Notwithstanding the distressing events, she anticipates better life. The town she now lives in seems to be as gloomy as the town from the first chapter. But at the same time, there is much more light in it.
Promising London.

(by Rina)

Usually the first chapters of every book are the beginning and emotional introduction into the whole masterpiece. The first chapters of "The Bleak House” represent us the suit Jarndyce vs Jarndyce – the greatest suit about fortune left by will to many heirs. The detailed description of London and everything that is in there amazes. Dickens gets us acquainted with the main character – Esther Summerson and through her eyes we see the world of that time. She is an orphan and according to the plot Mr. Jarndyce who’s become her guardian let her get education and bring her to London. Esther is a very sensitive person, and the author connects her somehow with the impact of British surroundings.

It seems also that a great deal of the book would be dedicated to the court system of Great Britain. Or to be more precise to its groundlessness. Dickens being a satiric and a profound lover of irony depicts the Chancery in the first chapters. We see how he speaks ironically of judges and the process of legal proceedings. What seems more attracting is that the message will be developed throughout the book. The court system as a part of Britain seems to be the setting and the background of the whole plot.

What is waiting for us in the book? Certainly I can say that it would be a social satire and as any of this kind a very intellectual one and concerning very important social problems of the time. If you want to point out a problem, play a joke on it. The more sophisticated the joke is the more serious the problem is. 


Charles Dickens is one of the most popular English novelist who is well known all over the world. Dickens was succeeded in creating many memorable, larger-than-life characters that we can smell, hear, sympathize with, or laugh at.
His novel "Bleak House” takes place in London on a foggy smoggy day. Mr Tangle speaks with the Lord Chancellor. In gloomy London atmosphere all appears blurred and disconnected. Some critics say that Dickens had a love for the fantastic in places, houses, objects and names. He renders marvellously the sights, and sounds and smells of London - the fog, the drizzle, the slime, the dust, the crowded or empty streets, picturing with equal authenticity the river, the water-side, the City, the law-courts, the West End, the suburbs. In the first Chapter we can see many key-words and phrases which completely characterise the whole atmosphere of this novel. "Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls deified among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great and dirty city.” The dirty smutty fog is a metaphor for the fogged proceedings of the Chancery Cort. More over there are many absolute constructions and repetitions in it. All these phrases help us to see, smell, feel, touch which bring the fantastic image into life.
(By Tanya)

Charles Dickens is a master of a word. Some critics say that Dickens had a love for the fantastic places, houses, objects and names. His novels seem more like a collection of separate scenes than a single novel.

After reading three chapters of "Bleak house” I found a number of key-words there. The first is the word "mud”. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired the face of the earth. With the help of this word the novel began. The author wanted to make a specific atmosphere of all the novel, of London in order to make it real for the reader. Drizzle and for are the second and the third key-words that also helps us to imagine London of those times.

Different weather conditions in this novel are also symbols. What do they symbolize? Fog, mud, drizzle – that is not only a typical weather for London of those times and helpers for transmitting an unusual atmosphere of the whole novel for the reader. It is people’s relations that consists of humans indifference to each other and apathy.

Charles Dickens used a lot of one- member sentences in his novel. To my mind the usage of such constructions as one-member sentences is a good trope that makes a set of expressions in our mind. The author gives us a short explanation that is short but informative and capacious. To my mind it helps the reader to understand the atmosphere of the novel deeper. Just read these one-member sentences: "London.”, "Implacable November weather.”, "For everywhere”. Did you imagine the scene that those sentences described? Well, to conclude I must say that one-member sentences are a good instrument for describing things and I will enjoy reading "Bleak house” because of this fantastic and unusual style of the author.

(by Megastarosta)

The story begins on the raw November afternoon in London. The description of the city is negative coloured: gas, clouds, raw, dense, river, pollution, dirty, cruel, drizzle

These key words helps the author to show the real atmosphere of the city. If we stop the moment we feel the smell of dampness, drizzle, everything coloured in grey, the light is faint and absolutely cold. The city seems to have no heart and soul. But later we understand that only in such a scenery the High Court of Chancery must be introduced.

There are a number of different symbols under discussion which symbolize the uselessness of case conducting in court, the absence of goal and wishes of London citizens. Everyone is tired but only because he has nothing to do, no interests, no occupation, just artificial demonstrative majesty and stateliness. Such scenery is usually used when the author wants to introduce some tragic events, but there are not any. It is just everyday life of a coldhearted city. even surnames have negative content here (Deadlock).

In this text a number of different tropes are used: metaphors (the death of the sun, foggy glory round his head), contrasting pairs (great but dirty city), personifications (creeping fog), epithets (dense, dirty, cruel, haggard, unwilling) and comparisons (like an elephantine lizard), repetition (crust upon crust) The whole atmosphere, street scenery and colours represent the essence of people who live there, their indifference and apathy. The weather seems to take revenge upon city for its indifference and cruelty.

Dickens gives us not just narrative sentences. He doesn’t write, he draws. By using such constructions he gives us an opportunity to see everything with our own eyes. We feel that we are in street and fog is everywhere, we turn rights where fog lying out in the yards, we turn lefts where "fog creeping in cabooses of collier-brigs”. These sequence of pictures shows that everything is real, at arms length. 

Dickens singled out all the peculiarities of every object, name or phenomenon. The very magic of every moment.

(by Ayayulia)

      The first three chapters of the book are full of descriptios of the dirty, foggy London and represent themselves a kind of introductory description of the main characters and what's the book going to be about. We see here so many moments, where the author focuses on London fog, that it seems that he wants us to look a bit deeper into this very word. Fog does not mean only "a thick cloud of tiny water droplets which obscures or restricts visibility", but it underlines the atmosphere of the chapter, or maybe of the whole novel, which can be also characterized by words "dirty", "slow", "obscure", "vague", maybe a bit "depressive" and "despondent". 

     In the third chapter the main character, Esther Summerson apperes. Friendless and unloved, she is raised at Windsor by her "godmother" (actually, her aunt), Miss Barbary. After the aunt's death, Kenge (Jarndyce's attorney), takes Esther sent to an estate called Greenleaf. After six years at Greenleaf, she receives a letter from Kenge, saying she will be placed in a new home in five days. Esther leaves Greenleaf sadly but talks herself out of crying. At Kenge’s office, she meets a young girl - Ada Clare, and Ada’s cousin, Richard Carstone. All three young people are to be taken to Bleak House, where Mr. Jarndyce lives.

    The tempo of narration is rather slow, there is actually no action in the first three chapters.

(by alex_makh)


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