Bleak House

by: Charles Dickens

Mr. Jarndyce

John Jarndyce is a good-hearted man who, for all his kindness, has a difficult time expressing his emotions. Whenever he is agitated or suspects that unpleasant news is on the horizon, he complains that the wind is coming from the east rather than acknowledging the issue directly. As Esther, Ada, and Richard catch on to his use of the phrase, the east wind becomes a kind of shorthand for anything that is upsetting or unpleasant. Mr. Jarndyce is likewise unable to acknowledge gratitude, immediately telling Esther, Ada, and Richard after first meeting them that he’ll run away if they try to thank him. When Esther does thank him for taking her in, she does so timidly, and Mr. Jarndyce quickly changes the subject. All this is not to say that Mr. Jarndyce ignores or overlooks problems when they arise. When he does need to gripe, he uses the “Growlery” at Bleak House for just this purpose. One exception to his generally suppressed feelings is his stance on the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit. On this, he holds forth willingly, making no attempt to hide his hatred of it or his firm decision to have nothing to do with it.

Mr. Jarndyce is a trustworthy, devoted guardian to Esther, Ada, and Richard and has a large circle of friends, but in many ways he is lonely, repaid for his devotion by being left alone at Bleak House. Mr. Jarndyce wants only the best for Ada and Richard, but his initial support of the match weakens as Richard becomes obsessed with the Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit. The two marry secretly, however, and Ada moves out. Mr. Jarndyce proposes to Esther in a letter, revealing that he had always planned to make her the “mistress of Bleak House,” but he ultimately gives her up so that she can find greater romantic happiness with Mr. Woodcourt. At the end of the novel, the house he buys for Esther and Mr. Woodcourt, which he names Bleak House, is a richer, livelier home than the original Bleak House. Even though Mr. Jarndyce is no longer alone at the end of the novel—widowed Ada and her child move back in—the house has lost some of the warmth it once had, especially with the sadness Ada brings with her.