Narrative Authority in 'Bleak House'

Andrei Baltakmens


Bleak House deploys two narrative standpoints, but which one is authoritative in a novel concerned with mystery and investigation through the recovery and interpretation of multiple texts? This essay traces the development of Esther as an authorial narrator, and notes the scope, limitations and instability of the third-person “omniscient” narrator. As Esther matures as a narrator, the third-person voice moves from identification with Tulkinghorn to Inspector Bucket. Adjusting the balance between these narratives to highlight Esther’s role in observing and ordering events, I argue that Esther and Bucket unify the novel’s modes of perception, bringing the two narratives into a complementary relationship that combines the personal and institutional.

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