Summary of Chapter XLVII: Jo’s Will
Woodcourt takes Jo to find a place for him. He seeks Miss Flite at Krook’s but the Smallweeds have evicted her. She now lives at Mrs. Blinder’s in Bell Yard in Gridley’s old room. Miss Flite says Mr. George will help, so they go to the shooting gallery.
Mr. George and Woodcourt hit it off, and Woodcourt tells him it is Inspector Bucket who is looking for the boy. Mr. George offers to take the boy explaining, “We are naturally in the vagabond way here, sir, both myself and Phil” (p. 485).
Phil takes Jo out to get a bath and new clothes, and when he returns, Jo is put to bed and nursed by Phil. Mr. George tells Woodcourt about Tulkinghorn and Bucket having a hold over him, and he is in danger of losing the gallery at any minute. He makes some threatening remark that if he could fight the man, “he’d go down, sir!” (p. 488).
Woodcourt brings Mr. Jarndyce to the gallery, who warns the whole thing must be kept quiet. Jo keeps speaking of Mr. Snagsby, so Woodcourt brings him to see Jo. Jo is glad to see him, and asks Mr. Snagsby if he could do one thing for him—to write very large so everyone can see that he is sorry he did it [make Esther sick], and that Mr. Woodcourt cried over it, and he hopes he can forgive him. He thinks if the writing is very large, he might be forgiven.
Jo asks to be buried with Nemo in the same beggar’s cemetery. Woodcourt, seeing Jo is almost gone asks him if he knows any prayers. He doesn’t, so Woodcourt has him repeat the Lord’s Prayer after him. Jo dies.
Commentary on Chapter XLVII
Jo the beggar is a connecting link in the story to the whole set of evil characters as well as the set of good characters. He is a sort of litmus test of the other characters’ pity and virtue. Esther, however, has paid a big price for her charity, and we learn from Jo’s confession that Woodcourt has cried over her disfigurement.
Jo feels so sorry and guilty he infected Esther with disease that his last wish is for Snagsby to write his repentance very large so he may be forgiven. He wants to be laid in the beggar’s graveyard next to his friend, Captain Hawdon. The last paragraph of the chapter is the famous social indictment that begins, “Dead, your Majesty . . . and dying thus around us every day” (p. 492).
Mr. George feels for Jo, as he is also a “vagabond” (485) pursued by Bucket and Tulkinghorn. He describes the sadistic cruelty of Tulkinghorn to Woodcourt, saying, “He is a slow-torturing kind of man” (p. 487). He tortures his victims—George, Lady Dedlock, Hortense and Jo—holding his power over them, prolonging their fear that at any minute they could be ruined or put in jail. The other important detail here is that George threatens Tulkinghorn verbally.