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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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Bleak House!