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Bleak House

Charles Dickens

Chapters 46–50

Chapters 41–45

Chapters 46–50, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary: Chapter 46, “Stop him!”

The narrator says that Tom-all-Alone’s is dark and menacing. In a sort of surreal meditation, he says that Tom is asleep, but that a lot of fuss has been made about him in Parliament, where people discuss how to get him off the street or what else to do with him. The narrator says that Tom gets revenge by contaminating everything around him.

Morning arrives. Mr. Woodcourt walks around Tom-all-Alone’s and sees a woman sitting on a stoop. He sees a bruise on her forehead and bandages it, then asks if her husband is a brickmaker because he believes brickmakers are violent. She says her husband will be looking for her. He asks if she has a baby, and she says no, although her friend Liz has one that she thinks of as her own.

Woodcourt moves on and soon sees a wretched young boy running toward him, whom he thinks he recognizes. A woman is running after the boy, yelling for someone to stop him. Woodcourt grabs him, thinking he has stolen the woman’s money. When the woman rushes up, she exclaims excitedly that she has finally found Jo. Jo admits that he once saw Woodcourt when he spoke about the dead lodger in front of the coroner. Woodcourt asks the woman if Jo robbed her, and she says no; rather, he has been very kind to her. She says that a woman took Jo home with her to care of him when he was sick, but that Jo ran away. She says that the woman then became sick herself and lost her beauty. Woodcourt is speechless.

When he recovers, he asks Jo why he left the house. Jo says he never knew a woman had been caring for him and that he would never have done anything to hurt her. He says someone took him away, but he won’t name the man, fearful that he’ll find out since he seems to be everywhere. Jo says this man gave him money and told him to “move on.” Woodcourt tells Jo he’ll find him a place to hide. Woodcourt and Jo set off.

Summary: Chapter 47, “Jo’s Will”

Woodcourt and Jo stop for breakfast, and Woodcourt puts his hand on Jo’s chest, telling him to breathe. He can’t breathe easily. Jo then tells Woodcourt about his recent adventures, including the story about the woman in the veil whom he led to the graveyard. They approach Krook’s old shop. Miss Flite isn’t there anymore; Judy Smallweed tells him she now lives with a Mrs. Blinder in Bell Yard. Woodcourt and Jo find her, and she greets Woodcourt happily. She tells Woodcourt that Jo can hide with “General George,” and she leads them to George’s Shooting Gallery. Woodcourt tells George that Jo needs a place to hide, since he fears a man who seems to be everywhere. Woodcourt tells George that the man hunting for Jo is Inspector Bucket. George responds that Jo is welcome to stay with him and Phil. Woodcourt warns George that Jo is ill and may not get better. George introduces Jo to Phil, saying that Phil once lived on the street too. George tells Woodcourt that he is certain that Bucket took Jo to Tulkinghorn when he scuttled him away from Bleak House. George asserts that Tulkinghorn is a bad person.

Woodcourt visits Mr. Snagsby. Snagsby, uneasy, tells Woodcourt to speak quietly so that Mrs. Snagsby doesn’t hear them. Snagsby says that although he’s never had a secret, he’s always getting involved in other people’s secrets. He says that someone has instructed him not to talk about Jo. But he agrees to visit Jo.

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