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By Jeremy Hawthorn (auth.)

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For Edgar Johnson, in contrast to the early reviewers, the danger is not lack of plot but a threat that Dickens's 'intricate structures' may seem contrived and overmelodramatic. l38). One of the few recent critics of Bleak House who tempers praise of the novel with reservations about the plot comparable 29 30 CRITICSDEBATE to those of the early reviewers is Norman Friedman. 360). He does, however, suggest that this seeming paradox of an 'overdevelopment of texture and underdevelopment of structure' may be resolved by an analysis of symbolism which will demonstrate links between these two elements.

We see here that 'characterisation' cannot be separated from other aspects of the novel- in this instance, its concern to ana to mise society through patterned interplay between characters. Peter K. 44). Skim pole is obviously another example of such parasitism, and as such his significance in the novel is not purely personal or individual. And, if character and theme intermingle, so do character and environment, as Andrew Sanders points out: with the exception of Bleak House itself, 'all of the novel's settings share the dreadful mortality and hopelessness of the burial ground', and this 'deadness, and the moral and spiritual emptiness, is also shared by many of the characters'.

But, if this is a loss, we gain a new and perhaps more rewarding perspective onjohnjarndyce: we are more critical of his toleration ofSkimpole, more sadly aware that his inability to accept and thus to confront human evil is, itself, productive of evil. A second reading of the novel forces the consideration upon us thatjarndyce's kindness to Skimpole and ignoring of his faults leads directly to the death ofjo. Importantly, then, we are made to realise that Bleak House does not suggest that relatively indiscriminate benevolence is the cure for all ills.

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