Bleak House

by Andrea Elizabeth

During the drive to the S. Tx borderland we listened to some of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. I’m mostly enjoying the parts about Lady Dedlock as they seem realistically cause and effect. Esther is a little too perfect, as most of Dickens’ heroines are. At least he talks about her not having “real” reactions to things, since she’s not really been allowed to. But the scathing critiques of the missionary mothers and the deportment father are painful for me to hear. He goes on and on about how completely ridiculous, harsh, or neglectful of their kids they are, and how their kids either secretly hate them or stupidly believe in them. I don’t doubt in the least that such relationships exist, but the descriptions are too one-sided, the cause is not explained, and are too angry and intent on embarrassment. To present the other side, it seems that Dickens himself suffered under an irresponsible parent, and I wonder if his father escaped blame by being overbearingly charming and irresponsibly generous. One way to deal with the anger in such a relationship is to make them look bad in public through fictionalized accounts. If this is wrong to do, I think the merciful thing would be to quote the Scripture about fathers provoking their children to anger and woe to them that make children stumble. Lord have mercy.

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