Esther’s Narrative Transformation in Dickens’ Bleak House

Elissa Myers


Critics have often dismissed Esther Summerson, one of the narrators of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, as being insipid, nothing more or less than a straightforward model of Victorian womanhood. However, these critics tend to overlook Esther’s  clever maintenance of narrative technique, sustained through the constant tension between what Esther reveals and what she keeps secret. Esther begins the narrative by maintaining constant frankness, and insists that she is always candid so as not to sacrifice narrative accuracy. Indeed, Esther is very faithful in her reportage, even down to reporting personal feelings that she might not otherwise wish to reveal. However, she is not initially always candid about her thoughts about others, but holds back considerably due to her extreme tact, a feminine virtue in the Victorian era. Esther’s brush with smallpox may be seen as the source of her change as a character, and also as a narrator.


Bleak House; Dickens; Esther

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