Esther Summerson (Hawdon)
Esther is the main character of the novel and is one of the two narrators. She is the chosen companion for Ada Clare, one of the newest wards in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case. Her character is very complex and she deals with much self-doubt and self-loathing throughout the novel. This behavior likely stems from the way in which her godmother treats her while Esther is under her care. This behavior is later exacerbated in the novel after Esther is disfigured due to smallpox. Much of the novel is experienced through Esther's eyes. [SA] It is also discovered that Esther is, in fact, the illegitimate child of Lady Dedlock and Captain Hawdon (Nemo).
"I hope it may not appear very unnatural or bad in me, that I then became heavily sorrowful to think I had ever been reared. That I felt as if I knew it would have been better and happier for many people, if indeed I had never breathed" (583).
John Jarndyce is the last living Jarndyce. His relatives were the one's who first instigated the case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce. He stands as the voice of reason throughout the novel and arguably most closely shares the sentiments of Dickens. He is level-headed and wealthy which is a rare combination within the novel. He uses his wealth to benefit others and truly seems to care about the less fortunate in the novel. He takes Ada, Richard and Esther under his wing and provides them with a place to live.
"Trust in nothing but Providence and your own efforts. Never separate the two, like the heathen wagoner. Constancy in love is a good thing; but it means nothing, and is nothing, without constancy in every kind of effort. If you had the abilities of all the great men, past and present, you could do nothing well, without sincerely meaning it, and setting about it" (213).
Richard is a cousin of John Jarndyce and one of the two newest wards. He is romantically linked to Ada Clare, an estranged cousin. The two later secretly marry. He quickly begins to fall victim to the greed and obsession surrounding the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case. His behavior is quite similar to that of Mr. Skimpole. [SA] Once the case of Jarndyce is solved, Richard dies as well since he was never able to have any passion as great as that for the case.
"Richard's energy was of such an impatient and fitful kind, that he would have liked nothing better than to have gone to Mr Kenge's office in that hour, and to have entered into articles with him on the spot" (272).
Esther becomes Ada’s companion after she is taken in by Mr. Jarndyce. Another ward of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Ada falls for her distant cousin Richard Carstone. [SA]Much later, the young couple chooses to get married in secret, and then have a child.
“…which even called my attention from Ada, who, startled and blushing, was so remarkably beautiful that she seemed to fix the wandering of the little old lady herself” (70).
Mr. Tulkinghorn is the secretive lawyer to the rich and wealthy. Like a black hole, he absorbs the secrets of the aristocrats. His presence always seems to intimidate his clients, especially Lady Dedlock. Taking note of the strange behavior exhibited by Lady Dedlock and the interest she takes in the mysterious "Nemo", Tulkinghorn tries to figure out the scandal before anyone else. [SA] He eventually solves the mystery - realizing that Lady Dedlock was involved with the now deceased law writer and Esther Summerson is their illegitimate child. [SA] He is later murdered for his constant intrusion into people's privacy.
"He is Sir Leicester Dedlock's lawyer; mechanically faithful without attachment, and very jealous of the profit, privilege, and reputation of being master of the mysteries of great houses...His calling is the acquisition of secrets, and the holding possession of such power as they give him, with no sharer or opponent in it" (851).
[DQ] Which character(s) could possibly be seen as younger versions of Tulkinghorn? What do the differences between these characters and Tulkinghorn suggest about the practice of law in 19th century Britain?
Jo is the poor orphaned boy of Tom-All-Alone's where he is a crossing sweeper. He is depicted as being honest and hardworking although his sickness plays an important role in the novel, severely disfiguring the main character - Esther. "Nemo" the law writer shows rare kindness to the homeless boy and helps him to the best of his ability. Jo's character is one that can be similarly found in many Dickens' novels and represents the wasted potential of English youth during this time.
"Name, Jo. Nothing else that he knows on. Don't know that everybody has two names. Never heerd of sich a think. Don't know that Jo is short for a longer name. Thinks it long enough for him. - He don't find no fault with it. Spell it? No. He can't spell it. No father, no mother, no friend. Never been to school. What's home? Knows a broom's a broom, and knows it's wicked to tell a lie" (177).
[DQ] What could Dickens be trying to achieve through the use of this form of narration seen in the quote above? What are some other instances in the novel where we see the line between third and first person narration blurred?
Mr. Harold Skimpole
A friend of Mr. Jarndyce's, Mr. Skimpole is a man with child-like qualities. Although usually being chased for debt payments, Mr. Skimpole is one of the happier characters in the novel. He turns out to be a rather dangerous force within the novel as he leads Richard into corruption as he instills him with an improper and careless outlook on debt, loans and money.
“But I know nothing about it, I assure you; for I am a mere child, and I lay no claim to it, and I don’t want it!” (294).
Sir Leicester Dedlock
A strong man, until it comes to his much younger wife. He is the master of Chesney Wold and would do anything in the world for Lady Dedlock. Mr. Dedlock allows himself to become pleased with his wife’s involvement with Jarndyce and Jarndyce, believing it will reflect well and distinguish his family name.
“…and is my Lady to understand;’ he brings her in thus specially, first as a point of gallantry, and next as a point of prudence, having great reliance on her sense” (452).
Undeniably a major player in the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce [SA] due to her illicit affair with Captain Nemo. [SA] She is the biological mother of Esther and kept the secret of her birth due to the belief that she died. After bringing the truth out in the open, she is uneasy about pursuing any sort of connection because of the fear of Sir Leicester’s reputation suffering.[SA] In the end she dies completely mortified with herself, and believes her husband would never forgive (when in fact he had).
"I must travel my dark road alone, and it will lead me where it will. From day to day, sometimes from hour to hour, I do not see the way before my guilty feet. This is the earthly punishment I have brought upon myself, I bear it, and I hid it".
A loud man, who is actually good-natured, he speaks only in superlatives. He’s a neighbor of Sir Leicester Dedlock, yet their relationship has been strained due to quarrels over property. Boythorn fell in love with Miss Barbary, Lady Dedlock's sister, who left him to take care of Esther.
“I saw him so often, in the course of the evening, which passed very pleasantly, contemplate Richard and Ada with an interest and satisfaction that made his fine face remarkably agreeable…” (146).
Mr. William Guppy
Guppy holds a job as a law clerk at Kenge and Carboy, a law firm at the Chancery. Eventually he falls completely in love with Esther, and dives into her past. After time, his love spurs him to ask her hand in marriage, she declines. [SA]Later he stumbles upon the discovery of Lady Dedlock being the mother of Esther. After Esther's disfiguring sickness, Guppy "coincidentally" loses interest in her.
“Is this the full purpose of the young man of the name of Guppy, or has he any other?... He is a match for my Lady there” (468).
Mr. Snagsby: a law writer who becomes wrapped up in all of Tulkinghorn and Bucket’s mysteries and secrets. He spends most of his time sneaking around and pays Jo to keep his mouth shut. His wife, Mrs. Snagsby, thinks she's on to him.
Miss Flite: Deemed insane, Miss Flite has an unhealthy obsession with Chancery. Her history with Chancery goes back to a case similar to Jarndyce and Jarndyce that ended with the fallout of her family. Her odd obsession fluctuates between comedic and tragic proportions.
Inspector Bucket: A man who was employed by Tulkinghorn to be search through Lady Dedlock's past. After Tulkinghorn was murdered, Bucket exposed Mademoiselle Hortense in the case.
Mr. George (Rouncewell): A man of mystery, [SA]Mr. George ends up being a prime suspect in the murder of Tulkinghorn, and that later reveals his true family lineage. In actuality he is the son of the Dedlock’s maid. In the time line of the book, he owns a shooting gallery. Aside from his work, he trains in the fighting arts. He was the student of Nemo, and trained Richard Carstone.
Caddy Jellyby: This young woman is the eldest of the Jellyby children and has a difficult relationship with her "charitable" mother. She feels neglected, but finally finds a friend in Esther. Through that friendship, her spirit is revived. She falls in love with Prince Turveydrop, whom she marries and has a child with.
Krook: A rag and bottle merchant. Alongside his work, he collects various types of papers for enjoyment. In a twist, he is the landlord the building in which Miss Flite and Nemo live. It is also the place where Nemo dies. He dies from an odd case of spontaneous combustion, erupting into flames from nothing. Later, the piece of evidence solving Jarndyce and Jarndyce is found among his vast amounts of papers.
Allan Woodcourt: A wealthy and kind man, Mr. Woodcourt is a physician. He finds himself attracted to Esther, who feels the same feelings, but both mutually agree to back away due to Esther’s relationship with John Jarndyce. [SA]After Mr. Jarndyce releases Esther from his affections, Woodcourt and Esther marry and raise a happy family.
Mrs. and Mr. Jellyby: This couple has a very one sided relationship, with Mrs. Jellyby being the individual holding the power. Mrs. Jellyby has an obsession with charity towards a distant African tribe, yet fails to show any sort of emotion to her present family. Her familial neglect has turned her husband, Mr. Jellyby into a rather defeated man.
Grandfather Smallweed: Grandfather Smallweed can hardly be described as a sweet old man. On the contrary, he is one of the most loathsome characters in the novel. This man delights in emotional torture, and continues to exploit the monetary issues of Mr. George, eventually driving him into bankruptcy. In an ironic sense of fate, Tulkinghorn is the lawyer of this evil man.
Mrs. Smallweed: She acts as the wife of Grandfather Smallweed and is Krook’s sister.
Mr. Vholes: Mr. Vholes is a lawyer working for Chancery that takes on Richard Carstone as a client. After getting all of the money he possibly can out of him, Vholes drops Carstone as soon as Jarndyce and Jarndyce comes to an end.
Mr. Gridley: He is a man unwittingly drawn in by Jarndyce and Jarndyce. After threatening Mr. Tulkinghorn, Gridley is put under arrest by Inspector Bucket. Later, due to his declining health from the struggles with Chancery, he dies.
Captain Hawdon (Nemo): He is secretly [SA]Esther’s father. Once upon a time, he was the lover of Lady Dedlock, however, his original job given to the reader was a law writer. He also contains a third alter ego, called Captain Hawdon whom served in the British Army.
Mrs. Snagsby: Mrs. Snagsby is a paranoid woman. She is constantly eavesdropping and listening into multiple conversations. Some of her skewed listening leads to believing that her husband is the father of Jo.
Mademoiselle Hortense: Hortense originally seems like a completely normal young woman, only jealous of the attention Lady Dedlock is giving to Rosa. [SA]Much later though, another side of her is shown when she is exposed as Tulkinghorn’s killer, and frames Lady Dedlock.
Mr. and Mrs. Badger: Mrs. Badger is an overly talkative woman who insists on speaking about her previous husbands with unnecessary amounts of enthusiasm. Mr. Badger is a working doctor who kindly takes on Richard as an apprentice.
Phil Squod: An assistant to Mr. George at his Shooting Gallery.
Mr. Matthew Bagnet and Mrs. Bagnet: Though Mr. Bagnet specialized in the selling of musical instruments; and was kind enough to incur debts to help Mr. George, his wife Mrs. Bagnet does most of his talking for him.
Mrs. Woodcourt: The widowed mother of Allan Woodcourt.
Mrs. Pardiggle: Mrs. Pardiggle has a large problem of wanting to do massive quantities of good for the world, without realizing how incredibly unhelpful she is. On top of her odd giving nature, she insists that all the money her children make be paid to charities as well.
Rosa: Rosa acts as a lady maid to Lady Dedlock. A young woman to be her protégée, Rosa falls in love with Rouncewell.
Guster: She is the niece of the Snagsby's and acts as a servant to them. Guster is prone to having fits.
Necket: Neckett acts as a debt collector for the Coavinses business firm, and referred to as such by Harold Skimpole.
Volumnia: She is a distant cousin of Sir Leicester Dedlock. She has a knack for being a drama queen.