Home » Blog » Jarndyce and Jarndyce case in Bleak House , a critique of law system

Jarndyce and Jarndyce case in Bleak House , a critique of law system

Jarndyce and Jarndyce is a lawsuit in Charles Dickens’s book Bleak House. The scenario unfolds in the Chancery court of England. The case serves as the main focus of the novel. The legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce concerns a substantial inheritance and an unknown heir due to various wills and trusts involving several beneficiaries. The legal conflict persisted for many generations leading up to the story’s events. Dickens criticized the Chancery court system for being ineffective. The case represents the ineffectiveness and dishonesty of the court of Chancery. It has been going on for such a long time that it has turned into an obsession for certain individuals who are waiting for a conclusion that never arrives. 

Jarndyce and Jarndyce illustrates the functioning of laws and courts in 19th century England. Dickens gives us a visual representation of piles of legal papers in the Chancery court. These stacks of documents symbolize the intricacy of the situation. The situation primarily benefits the legal system and its employees by providing financial gain, creating a societal issue that traps individuals like Richard with no way out. The characters in the novel are impacted by Jarndyce and Jarndyce in unique ways. Richard, who is particularly susceptible to the situation, is battling against it. Richard’s life is dominated by the case. He encounters a range of experiences such as staying as a guest of Mr. Jarndyce, meeting Ada, and eventually falling in love with her. He holds onto the unrealistic belief that he will crack the case and make a fortune. He thinks that getting ready for a career or mastering financial management is waste of time.

The Lord chancellor holds the highest position in the legal profession. He has low vision, both literally and metaphorically. He is seated in a hazy atmosphere, gazing at a lantern that is not lit. Mr. Tulkinghorn, a lawyer with a clearer but still suspicious nature, is on a mission to find evidence against Lady Dedlock. He uses cunning and manipulative strategies. His primary focus is on maintaining the reputation of the Dedlock family. Nevertheless, he detests the richness of his clients and is motivated by a desire for power. 
The court of Chancery in Britain was mainly concerned with settling disputes concerning inheritance. Dickens suggests that the Chancery court system is not successful in providing justice efficiently. The legal case has been going on for many years without any favorable resolution. Despite the eventual resolution, money is still used up on lawyers’ fees. Therefore, despite individuals owned money, they do not end up getting any money, and the court fails to bring about justice. 

Throughout the novel, Dickens’s disdain for the Chancery court is evident due to its association with decay. Jarndyce, a member of the Jarndyce family and the caregiver of Esther, Richard, and Ada who are the ‘wards’ in this situation, asserts that while the will originally made sense, the lawyers have manipulated it to a point where the original intentions of the case have been lost. Krook’s shop is located behind the courthouse, makes a mockery of the court system. Krook’s establishment is a messy, rag and bone shop managed by a man named Krook, known as the ‘Lord Chancellor’. The store is packed with musty legal documents that he is unable to read due to his illiteracy. Dickens utilized this shop to reflect the disorder and turmoil of the Chancery court.

The corrupt Chancery system encourages lawyers to extend court cases. lawyers are driven to prolong cases in order to increase their fees, even though it is their duty to pursue justice for their clients. The predatory tendency of certain lawyers is demonstrated by Mr. Vholes, who is the lawyer of Richard. Mr. Vholes pushes Richard to keep spending more money on the lawsuit, pushing him closer to bankruptcy rather than working in his best interests. Mr. Vholes purposefully lengthens and complicates the lawsuit in order to get financial advantage. Richard thinks he will win a large sum at the end of the case.

Even though the Chancery system has to be changed, most people are opposed to changing the legislation because they believe it would be unjust. Dickens demands for reform in the legal system of England because it does not provide justice to the poor people, but suck their blood like leeches. However, several upper sections of the society resist change in the system and want the system to be as it is.

Leave a Reply