So, it has been a while since we covered Bleak House by Charles Dickens, but while looking through the blog and seeing all these things about portraitures, reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and thinking about mirrors, it just made me exceptionally aware of the role of appearance in Bleak House. At first, I considered the female characters because they are the ones who vocalize the aspects of appearance when speaking to each other, such as Esther towards Ada Clare. Although, the narrator is guilty of this as well.
-Lady Dedlock: beautiful, haughty, MAJOR secret
-Ester: pretty, kind, loses her looks to illness
-Ada Clare: prettiest girl and Esther’s best friend (and Esther always makes some comment about her looks)
-Caddy: skinny, ink-covered, not the prettiest
…and the list goes on and on. So many of the female characters in this novel are defined by their physical descriptions, and the level of their beauty seems to correlate to the level of positive or negative emotion that they display. For example, Lady Dedlock is always considered beautiful and guarded, but she consistently hides her darker emotions and thought/memories. Caddy is not considered beautiful, and she lets her sadder and angrier emotions be seen much more than some of the other women.
The connection between appearance and mood/energy/outcome is so prevalent in this book, however, contrary to what I initially focused on, I realized I was excluding many other instances of this connection. The city even has this connection because it is so fog-filled, as well as secret-filled. This type of connection is in so many other works as well (i.e. the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the gaze of “A Flower Girl” in Doré’s London, etc.) Is it a method of foreshadowing?
Dickens, Charles, and Terry Eagleton. Bleak House. Ed. Nicola Bradbury. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.