Bleak House: England's Social Institutions and Political Infrastructure

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Charles Dickens' Bleak House presents a damning portrait of England's social institutions and political infrastructure. The novel allows Dickens to express condemnation for the English court and judicial system; as the author purportedly stated prior to writing Bleak House, "The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself," (cited by Perdue). In addition to exposing the corruption of English common law, Dickens also draws attention to fractures in the very fabric of English society. Most of these fractures are related to social norms and ethics. Although Bleak House possesses a complicated, many-layered plot, one of the common threads remains the suffering of women and children. Esther Summerson is the novel's protagonist, is born into unfortunate circumstances. Already Dickens provides social commentary on English culture. Summerson has one of the most positive, uplifting names in the novel. Her heroine status and her name are not coincidental. The entire cast of characters in Bleak House is symbolic. In fact, "the whole tale is symbolic and crowded with symbols," ("Introductions"). Ester Summerson's name connotes a strong female figurehead (Esther, from the Bible) as well as the lush liveliness of summer in her surname. The connotations are only partly ironic. Summerson emerges as a strong female character, albeit one who struggles incessantly against some of the darker elements of British society. Moreover, Dickens is sure to use the dreary

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