Summary of Chapter XXX: Esther’s Narrative
Allan Woodcourt’s mother comes to visit Bleak House after her son is gone to sea. She is constantly lecturing to Esther of her son’s Welsh lineage and how her son is limited in his choice of a wife, like the royal family. She asks Esther what she thinks of her son. Esther replies that Allan’s kindness to Miss Flite puts him above praise. The mother is pleased.
She explains that her son does have a fault, though. He pays attention to ladies but does not really mean anything by it. She asks Esther her future plans, and she says she is happy where she is. Mrs. Woodcourt predicts Esther will marry someone old and rich.
Esther does not know what to make of her, whether she is genuine, or cunning, but she is happy when she leaves.
Caddy comes to visit Esther a month before her marriage, and Esther and Ada help her sew her trousseau. Mr. Jarndyce buys her wedding dress. Esther helps Caddy clean up her home for a wedding breakfast, and that includes dressing the parents, and getting their co-operation. Mrs. Jellby is annoyed at being interrupted in her important work for Africa. Mr. Jellby is climbing out of debt by himself, and his one piece of advice to his daughter on her marriage is “Never have a Mission, my dear child” (p. 321).
Caddy’s wedding goes off perfectly with Esther and Ada and Mr. Jarndyce to help keep things in line. The Pardiggles come, and Mr. Quale, and a Miss Wisk, who does not believe women should be in the home. Caddy and Prince leave for their honeymoon. Esther asks Mr. Jarndyce if there is an east wind, and he says no, that wherever she is, there can be no east wind.
Commentary on Chapter XXX
It is obvious Mrs. Woodcourt’s sole purpose for the visit to Bleak House is to discourage the match between her son and Esther. Esther says she is confused by Mrs. Woodcourt’s motives, but they are clear to the reader. She hints that Esther is beneath Allan in rank, and that Allan was not serious in his attentions to Esther. It is obvious that her son must be in love with Esther if his mother is going to so much trouble to discourage her.
Esther thinks Mrs. Woodcourt a tiresome snob about Welsh pedigree and how important it is. She satirically notes: “I had my doubts of their caring so very much for Morgan and Kerrig in India and China” (p. 313). People of self-importance are only so in their own small circle.
Mrs. Woodcourt tries to put the idea in Esther’s head that she will marry an older man, twenty-five years her senior. This is an obvious reference to Mr. Jarndyce, and it seems the first inkling she has of such a prospect. She does not tell the reader her reaction except she is “uncomfortable” all night.
Caddy’s wedding is both comic and emotional, and the support given by Jarndyce and friends is the only real support she gets. The breakfast is peopled by guests who are not interested in any cause but their own. They have no human feeling or connection. Dickens is especially satirical about the feminist, Miss Wisk, who believes women should not be in the home, for in his eyes, the only refuge of society is in the family. Strong loving women are the true heroes of his novels.