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Bleak House

Charles Dickens

Chapters 16–20

Chapters 11–15

Chapters 16–20, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary: Chapter 16, “Tom-all-Alone’s”

The narrator tells us that Sir Leicester has the gout in his legs, a malady all the men in his family have suffered from. The narrator ponders what connection there could be between Lady Dedlock and Sir Leicester, their homes, the young Jo, and many other people.

Jo lives in a place called Tom-all-Alone’s, where houses collapse. Tom Jarndyce may have once lived here, but Jo doesn’t know for sure.

The narrator tries to imagine what it’s like to be Jo, not really belonging anywhere and not knowing anything. Jo moves through the town, observing people and animals trying to get enough money to go back to Tom-all-Alone’s.

Mr. Tulkinghorn sits in his office doing work. On the street below, a woman walks by. The narrator implies she is on some secret errand. Determinedly, she seeks out Jo, who asks her for money. She ignores him and crosses the street, then beckons him over. She asks if she has read about the dead lodger in the newspaper because of the court case regarding him. She tries to get Jo to acknowledge that the dead man looks like him. Jo asks if she knew the dead man, and she grows defensive. The woman asks Jo to show her all the places he knows of relating to the death, including where the man was buried. He is to walk far ahead of her and not speak to her.

Jo leads the woman to Cook’s Court, Krook’s shop, and the burial ground. She gives him some a gold coin and hurries away.

The narrator tells us that Lady Dedlock goes to a dinner and several parties, while Sir Leicester stays home. Mrs. Rouncewell, the housekeeper, observes that the footsteps on the Ghost’s Walk are louder than they have ever been.

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