Bleak House

Charles Dickens
  • Study Guide

Chapters 1–5

Summary Chapters 1–5

Outside, a mad old woman approaches the three young people and claims that a judgment concerning the Jarndyce case will come soon.

Summary: Chapter 4, “Telescopic Philanthropy”

Kenge tells Esther, Ada, and Richard that they will spend the night at the Jellybys’ house and says goodbye, leaving them to Mr. Guppy, the driver. At the Jellybys’, a child has his head stuck in a railing, and Esther helps him. Many dirty children are swarming through the house when Mrs. Jellyby introduces herself. Esther observes an older child, pale and quiet, sitting at a writing desk. Mrs. Jellyby tells them about her charity work in Africa and ignores her children. Caddy, the girl at the writing desk, is writing out a letter that Mrs. Jellyby dictates.

The Jellybys’ house is in utter disarray, and there is no hot water or heat. Dinner is chaotic. Priscilla, the cook, is drunk. A man named Mr. Quayle discusses Africa with Mrs. Jellyby, while Mr. Jellyby sits silently.

That night, Caddy appears at Esther’s door and professes her unhappiness at home. She says she wishes the whole family were dead.

Summary: Chapter 5, “A Morning Adventure”

Esther goes walking with Miss Jellyby after washing one of the children, Peepy. Miss Jellyby complains about Mr. Quayle. Richard and Ada join them. The old lady they’d seen days ago appears in front of them. She leads them to her house nearby and stops at a shop below, where a sign says “Krook, Rag and Bottle Warehouse” and “Krook, Dealer in Marine Stores.” There are many signs requesting things to be bought; nothing seems to be sold. Dirty bottles fill the windows. Esther recognizes the handwriting on some of the law books scattered around as being the same as papers from Kenge. An old man opens the door and greets them, saying they should come into the shop. The old woman identifies the man as her landlord, Krook. He seems insane. He knows a lot about the Jarndyce case and tells them how Tom Jarndyce shot himself. In the old woman’s room, she shows them her birdcages. She tells them that the other lodger is a law writer. Esther, Ada, Richard, and Miss Jellyby soon leave.

Soon, Esther, Ada, and Richard leave the Jellybys’ and continue on toward Bleak House.