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Bleak House

Charles Dickens

Summary and Analysis Chapter 9 - Signs and Tokens

Impractical, restless, and undirected, Richard Carstone is ill-prepared to obtain a position of any kind. To help him, Mr. Jarndyce writes to one of Richard's distant relatives, Sir Leicester Dedlock, but all prospects of help from him seem bleak. Esther, meanwhile, is convinced by unmistakable signs that Richard and Ada are in love.


Summary

Old Lawrence Boythorn (modeled very closely on one of Dickens' friends, the famous poet Walter Savage Landor) comes to Bleak House for a visit. He is an intense human being, a creature of extremes, but well-meaning and, in fact, lovable. A litigious person, he happens to be suing Sir Leicester, whom he dislikes; for Lady Dedlock, however, he has only affection and admiration.

In connection with Boythorn's legal action, Mr. Guppy arrives at Bleak House. While there, he shocks Esther by proposing to her. She rejects him firmly and he leaves greatly discouraged.

Analysis

The portrayal of Richard as unformed and somewhat irrational prepares us for his eventual failure. Boythorn contributes to the book's energy, humor, and variety in character. He also reinforces our tendency to be somewhat sympathetic toward Lady Dedlock despite her obvious limitations. Esther's response to Mr. Guppy's proposal of marriage confirms our impression of her good taste and sound judgment.