Notes on Bleak House: “Bell Yard”

Image is from Wikimedia Commons

Mr Skimpole reflects on “how things lazily adapted themselves to purposes.” There’s no other way things can adapt. Let nature take its course. Principle of non-resistance. This is how Mr Skimpole lives his own life, never working or worrying.

Mr Gridley is naturally very angry at the way he’s been treated by the courts. A question of three hundred pounds has been turned into endless time and costs, and he lives now in ruin. If I were not angry I would lose my mind. He keeps fighting though it’s hopeless, and in this way preserves himself.

Anger is often seen as a failure to adapt, a failure to accept the situation, a futile railing against unchangeable circumstances. But here it’s presented as the natural way of things. Mr Gridley is going with the flow. “I am not polite,” he says. That’s just the way I am and I accept it.

It’s easy to see why things never change for Skimpole: he does not resist, does not strive, just enjoys sunshine and good company when it comes. But Gridley’s passivity – his acceptance of the anger the courts inspire in him – is harder to detect, clothed as it is in the ceaseless activity of his struggle against injustice. But his outward resistance fuels the legal machine, gives it just want it needs to go on, and even in his red-faced rage he lowers his furrowed brow and submits to its infernal authority.

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2 Responses to Notes on Bleak House: “Bell Yard”

  1. jamienauthor says:

    I always recall the BBC version of Bleak House back in 2005. It used a very modern, flashy method to cut between scenes which worked really well. And an incredible cast.
    I wonder if Dickens saw more of himself in Skimpole (what a great name!) than in Gridley?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lee says:

      Oh I never saw that show. I’ll have to look out for it!

      Dickens always manages to choose great names for his characters, doesn’t he? I’m not sure I can see any resemblance between Dickens himself and either of these characters, but if you had to pick one, you’d probably want to be Skimpole! He seems the happier of the two.

      Liked by 1 person

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