The Bagnets’ son, Woolwich, entertains them with the fife. Bucket continues to be congenial and warm, livening up the evening immensely, and George begins to like him. When George eventually gets up to leave, Bucket gets up to leave with him. Before going, Bucket asks Mr. Bagnet the price of a violoncello and says he’ll return tomorrow to look at a few.

George and Bucket walk down the street with their arms linked. Suddenly, Bucket roughly pushes George into a public house and arrests him. George is flabbergasted. Bucket says he is arrested for the murder of Tulkinghorn, which happened last night. George is horrified to realize that he was there last night. Bucket says he knows George was often there, that they often quarreled, and that one time Tulkinghorn called George a “threatening, murderous, dangerous” man. Bucket says Sir Leicester is offering a reward to anyone who finds the murderer. He puts handcuffs on George and leads him away.

Summary: Chapter 50, “Esther’s Narrative”

Esther gets a letter from Caddy, who now has a rather strange-looking baby and is in poor health. Caddy says that good things always happen to her when she’s with Esther. Esther begins visiting Caddy in London every day. Mr. Jarndyce says they should live in London for a while so that she can visit more easily. He suggests that Woodcourt become Caddy’s doctor, and Esther agrees. She finally tells Ada she’s going to marry Mr. Jarndyce.

Esther spends a great deal of time with Caddy, who insists to everyone that she is getting better even though she is very sick. She actually does begin to get better, however, when Woodcourt becomes her doctor. Esther sees Woodcourt very often and is certain that he still pities her.

She begins to notice a change in Ada and suspects that she’s upset about Esther’s plans to marry Mr. Jarndyce.

As Caddy recovers, Mr. Jarndyce talks to Esther about how wonderful Woodcourt is and how he wishes he could make Woodcourt rich. He speculates that Woodcourt may take another trip and suspects that Woodcourt has been disappointed in some way.

One night, Ada begins crying and tells Esther she doesn’t know how she can speak to her and Mr. Jarndyce. Esther, thinking this is because of their impending marriage, assures Ada of their affection for her and their happily planned future. She notices that Ada falls asleep with one hand under her pillow.

Analysis: Chapters 46–50

In Bleak House, Dickens gives his characters unusual names that evoke aspects of their personality or role in the novel. For example, Esther’s last name, Summerson, evokes images of warmth and happiness, both of which aptly describe Esther’s interactions with all those around her. Ada Clare is indeed “clear” in her affections for Richard Carstone, who, like his surname suggests, is stony and obstinate. Allan Woodcourt “would” indeed “court” Esther. Mr. Snagsby often finds himself getting “snagged” in other people’s messes. The “lock” in the Dedlock name suggests the secret that Lady Dedlock has kept for so long, and her little-referred-to first name, Honoria, suggests the core of goodness that exists despite her guilt over her past transgressions. Skimpole, as his name clearly denotes, “skimps” on money and gets it from others. Inspector Bucket is a repository of facts and knowledge, as a bucket is a repository of water. And little Jo is as insignificant in the larger world, just as his diminutive two-letter name would suggest. Other names are associated with sounds or rhyming words in an equally evocative manner. Tulkinghorn, for instance, evokes the sneaky word “skulk,” which Tulkinghorn indeed does as he gathers secrets. The “horn” of his name also suggests his desire or intention to reveal those secrets. Far from being cloying or pedantic, the names Dickens uses add texture and humor to the novel and reveal the close attention Dickens pays to every aspect of a character, however minor.

Lady Dedlock dismisses Rosa to protect her from any future disgrace, not because she’s unhappy with her. Rosa has served as a kind of daughter for Lady Dedlock. The kindness and affection with which she treats Rosa is much different from the haughty, cold manner in which she treats Mademoiselle Hortense, revealing that she views Rosa quite differently, as more than just a maid or attendant. Lady Dedlock, not given to warmth or physicality, at one point puts her hand on Rosa’s shoulder, which enrages Mademoiselle Hortense, who was never touched at all. This demonstrative gesture suggests the maternal instincts buried deep within Lady Dedlock, which become clear when she emotionally embraces Esther and reveals their relationship. Even though dismissing Rosa seems to be cruel, it’s actually the kindest thing Lady Dedlock can do. If Rosa is tainted by Lady Dedlock’s secret, her chances for a good marriage to the boy she loves will be ruined. Lady Dedlock could never help, protect, or nurture her own daughter, and she is perhaps trying to compensate for her past failures by protecting Rosa.

Jo’s death is a truly bleak moment, and the narrator takes the time to moralize about the injustice of his death. So few people ever treated Jo with kindness, who was forced to spend his life moving on from one place to the next, never welcome anywhere. The few times when he is welcomed end only in trouble or death. Krook’s lodger, for example, one of the people who treated Jo kindly, dies. When Jo is protected in the Bleak House stable, he is taken away in the middle of the night and forced back out on the street. At George’s Shooting Gallery he finds a safe place from the all-knowing, all-seeing man who he believes is chasing him, but here his sickness overtakes him. When he dies, the narrator grandly proclaims his death to the world: “Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. . . . Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day.” Sarcasm in evident in these lines: if we are born with compassion, it makes no sense for us to let children die on the street. The narrator sweeps all of us up in his final statement by using the inclusive “us,” implicating us in Jo’s death, as though we could have taken steps to stop it ourselves.