For me, the best part of this trio of chapters was the very first one, in spite of the unfortunate reuse of the title "Esther's Narrative". In previous sections, I was starting to find Ms. Summerson a tad bit annoying and precious, but this chapter jarred me right out of that. Her short tale of Mr. Woodcourt, and his dreadful mother, and her narration loses some of its previous confidence and complacency:
"Mr. Woodcourt seemed a little distressed by her prolixity, but he was too considerate to let her see it, and contrived delicately to bring the conversation round to making his acknowledgments to my guardian for his hospitality, and for the very happy hours--he called them the very happy hours--he had passed with us. The recollection of them, he said, would go with him wherever he went, and would be always treasured. And so we gave him our hands, one after another--at least, they did--and I did; and so he put his lips to Ada's hand--and to mine; and so he went away upon his long, long voyage!"
Given that Esther is reporting this in the past tense from some unknown future point in her life, I get the uneasy sense that she's reflecting back on an unrealized love. If that's the case, then my sympathy for her definitely increases, and it explains the tone of some of her narration, as if she's trying to review why she might or might not have been worthy of the Woodcourts. Add in the forlorn little nosegay, and my heart aches for her.
But being Esther, she moves right along to the ever-mysterious Lady Dedlock. I have to say I found Dickens' writing a bit heavy-handed here. I get it--Esther looks at Lady Dedlock and sees herself. But still, Lady Dedlock is in her own way a rather wonderfully creepy character.
And Jo! Is he going to keep popping up? Will no one take that poor child under a wing and give him a home?
What was your favorite part of this section?
Next week, chapters 20-22. Only two more weeks until we take a two-week break. This week's Edward Gorey illustration is the Jarndyce wardens and guardians taking shelter from the rain with Lady Dedlock.