The story centers around John Jarndyce, a kind-hearted wealthy gentleman entangled in a long, difficult, and hopeless lawsuit over a disputed will, and his young wards: Ester, Richard, and Ada. Richard and Ada are his cousins, and Ester is an illegitimate child he took interest in and helped to educate. The three of them are about 18 when they meet for the first time to live all together in Bleak House, John Jarndyce's residence. They get along very well, the young ladies almost instantly become best friends. Richard and Ada are also involved in the lawsuit that seems to overshadow their whole life. Their cousin John wants to help them to get on in life and, most importantly, teach them not to rely on the case ever getting resolved and making their fortune.
Richard eventually does exactly the opposite. He falls in love with Ada; Ada returns his feelings and they get engaged. Richard tries his hand at different professions, studying to become a doctor, a lawyer, and then going to the army; none of those occupations interests him enough to become fully dedicated to. Little by little, he begins to hope for the disputed will to be settled and have him and Ada provided for. He studies the case, haunts the court, and squanders his money on lawyers. John Jarndyce tries to talk him out of it, but Richard thinks that his cousin only wants him out of the case because, as it turns out, they've got some conflicting interests. He begins to see John as an enemy. Ada, still loyal to Richard, secretly marries him. She watches him growing more and more obsessed with the case and hopes to get him out of it.
This report prepared by Laura Southcombe
Following _Martin Chuzzlewit_ and followed by _Hard Times_, this is one of Dickens's early great novels of social analysis and protest. The suit of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce has been a joke in the courts because it had dragged on for decades. John Jarndyce, kind-hearted owner of the ironically-titled Bleak House, takes care of his two young cousins Richard Carstone and Ada Clare, and a ward named Esther Summerson. The complicated plot with dozens of characters involves adultery, blackmail, murder, and plenty of fog and mud to characterize the turgid moral atmosphere. Individuals and small acts of goodness shine out like rays of light in this murky world.
This report prepared by David Loftus