Summary and Analysis
Chapter 36 - Chesney Wold
One day while Esther and Charley Neckett are in the park at Chesney Wold, Lady Dedlock appears, carrying the handkerchief she recently took from Jenny's cottage. She reveals herself as Esther's mother and asks the young woman to forgive her and keep her secret. She gives Esther a letter which is to be read and then destroyed; she also alerts Esther to the fact that Tulkinghorn is suspicious. Esther reads the letter, burns it, and then goes for a walk. Along the Ghost's Walk, she listens to the echoes of her own footsteps and realizes that her fate seems to be to bring "calamity upon the stately house" of Dedlock. The next afternoon, Ada arrives and both girls are overjoyed to be reunited.
Joyful-tearful reunions are prevalent in Dickens' novels, and in this chapter there are two such. Today many readers find such scenes "overdone," "sentimental," or "unrealistic." But they pleased many readers in Victorian England, and Dickens sincerely believed that the expression of such sentiment, whether in fiction or in real life, served the useful purpose of promoting moral idealism and regard for others. The plot advances somewhat as Esther realizes who she is and becomes aware of her mother's — and her own — difficult situation.