Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bleak House Book Discussion

The library will host a discussion of Bleak House by Charles Dickens on Monday, March 19 at 7:00 PM. The discussion will be free and open to the public, and copies of the book are available to borrow from the library in advance.

Frequently named by critics as Dickens's best novel, Bleak House is his most complex in terms of plot and character and his most innovative in terms of narration. The novel is also one of the very in English literature to feature a professional detective as a character; Inspector Bucket participates in several investigations in the course of the book and in the latter part, conducts a murder inquiry. (The character was probably based on a real Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Charles Frederick Field.)

The lynchpin of the novel is the long-running lawsuit Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which provides the vehicle for Dickens's savage satire of England's Court of Chancery. At that time, Chancery had jurisdiction over questions involving wills, estates, guardianship, property, and other matters, and was notorious for its arcane rules and sluggish pace; in the novel, Chancery suits are depicted as blighting the lives of most litigants while their lawyers prosper and thrive. Only those who can turn their backs on the litigation, such as the admirable John Jarndyce, escape its baleful influence. The novel both reflected and contributed to popular dissatisfaction with the Chancery system, and some twenty years after its publication, Parliament enacted comprehensive reforms of the legal system.

Bleak House was also controversial in its time for its use of spontaneous human combustion as a plot device, though Dickens himself believed in the phenomenon and vigorously defended that belief.

The library's discussion series featuring the works of Dickens will conclude on April 16 with Great Expectations.

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