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Monday, 27 February 2012

A Classics Challenge: February Prompt

The prompt for A Classics Challenge this month is 'character'. My text is Bleak House (reviewed here) and my chosen character is Mr John Jarndyce.

Mr Jarndyce is one of those characters who remains consistent in his goodness. In fact, though some characters doubt him, I don't think the reader ever does. This is probably because we see him primarily through the eyes of Esther Summerson and, since we trust her judgement and honesty, we trust him. Jarndyce is the epitome of a good man: secretly giving money to sustain people who need it, settling debts for irritating people like Harold Skimpole, wishing good will towards people like Richard Carstone who have started to doubt his integrity. His relationship with Esther is a highlight of the novel, and I admit to being a little upset when he sacrifices her to the younger doctor whom she loves. However, this act settles his placement as the unchanged and decent man in the novel. Several characters - Mr Smallweed and Mr Tulkinghorn for instance - are unchanged but comparatively few are unchanged for the better (another one that springs to mind is Mrs Rouncewell, Sir Leicester Dedlock's faithful housekeeper). In a novel populated with unsavoury characters, Mr Jarndyce is an unmovable rock.

I find him to be very believable, due to his consistency in personality and relationships with Esther, Ada, Richard and Harold Skimpole. However, I do accept that his inherent goodness could cause others to label him as one-dimensional. Still, I find that his odd little romance with Esther defies that categorisation and I persist in liking him, whatever anyone says. He's the kind of father/uncle figure that is prevalent in Victorian fiction but I haven't found a specimen that I like quite as much.

Mr Jarndyce was portrayed in the 2005 adaptation by Denis Lawson. I haven't yet watched this but I look forward to enjoying the character on screen as much as I did in the book.


Debbie said...

Wow. A mammoth book. I think I would read this book as it was originally intended-in twenty instalments. I like that idea, and with the range of characters, it does make it an appealing choice.

CharmedLassie said...

As I was going through I kept remembering the parts it was split into and wondering how a Victorian audience would've managed the suspense and keeping all the characters clear in their minds from one instalment to the next. I'd say that'd be a perfect way to read it!