Monday, March 17, 2008

Bleak House: Chapter 1

I started reading Bleak House last night. I only read the first chapter, but it was a good start. The first chapter is all about Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a case which has been dragging on forever and ever. Just as the High Court of Chancery is at the very heart of the fog in the city, so this case leaves all who are affiliated with it in the fog of its complication and despair.

This paragraph in particular caught my attention:
Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.

I have no idea where Dickens is going with the Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit, but I can tell you where my mind goes with it. Sin. It reminds me of sin. It is twisted and complicated, just like sin. The longer it goes on, the more it consumes. People fall into it, often without knowing why or how. Entire generations are born into it and die out of it, their whole lives defined and tormented by it. Sin is an ugly thing.

Like I said, I have no idea where Dickens is going with this suit. But I'm guessing that, like God did with sin, Dickens is going to provide resolution to the suit. He's going to provide redemption for those who are caught up in it. Now I just have to read on to see how.