Bleak House by Charles Dickens: Chapter 4 Telescopic Philanthropy

Analysis of Chapter 4 Telescopic Philanthropy

Now, they are stop by  Mrs. Jellyby’s place.

“Jellyby”–it sounds like “Jelly Bean”. I am not sure if it is a pun but it turns the serious lady into a funny and ridiculous character. The ridiculousness is strengthen by the description of the messy and neglected state of her household.

The Philanthropy of Mrs. Jellyby is a kind of hypocrisy without a doubt. Actually the word “Philanthropy ” is almost equal to “Hypocrisy” nowadays. No one like to be called a philanthropist.

But Dickens didn’t say that. What he has done is drawing a whole picture and let the reader to decide and judge.

1, The miserable and neglected condition of the house–eg.”the curtain to my window was fastened up with a fork”; “stair-carpets…were so torn as to be absolute traps”;

2, Quality of food is low–“we had a fine cod-fish, a piece of roast beef, a dish of cutlets, and a pudding; an excellent dinner, if it had had any cooking to speak of, but it was almost raw.”

3, Kids are not attended or cared, generally ignored or neglected like a whole bunch of mice. They suffer from hunger and cold–“Peepy ..was so cold that his teeth were chattering as if he had cut them all.”

4, Husband, ie the Mr. Jellyby lives under the shadow of his wife, is undervalued and imposed in the household more like a piece of old furniture. He is “merged in the more shinny qualities of his wife” by Mr. Kenge and a “Nonentity” by Richard.

5, Miss Jellyby is employed as a tool, a mean, a worker than Mrs. Jellyby’s daughter. She has grown up without love and it is not strange that she is moody and ill-tempered. The uselessness of Africa business is confirmed by her speech of “I wish Africa was dead.” and “It was as bad as public house.”.

6, Mr.Quale as Mrs.Jellyby’s friend and supporter, is even more disgusted than Mrs. Jellyby herself. I think he flatters Mrs J because he wants to get some benefit from the Africa business and Mrs J needs him as a proof of her high value, just as the growing number of letters are proof of her popularity and selflessness. The admirers, are like the followers in today’s social media and letters are the “Likes” poster wish to receive. It is a mini Vanity Fair.

7,Esther, as the opposite of these people are naturally adored and loved because she is “unpretending”. Her unpretending nature reflects the pretending of Mrs J,  like the magic mirror reflect the ugliness of the Queen.



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