Home » JAS4QoL » JAS4QoL – Volume 1(4) (December, 2015) » The Meaning of READING in Bleak House

The Meaning of READING in Bleak House

IMAI Chizu

Department of Foreign Languages and Social and Cultural Science, Kyoto Pharmaceutical
University, Kyoto, Japan

Article first published online:December 27, 2015
Full Article (PDF)


Bleak House can be interpreted as Charles Dickens’s attempt to explore the meaning of ‘the act of reading’, which provides us with key clues for understanding the complicated and unfathomable world of this novel. Richard C. Anderson once wrote: ‘Reading is the process of constructing meaning from written texts. It is a complex skill requiring the coordination of a number of interrelated sources of information.’(1) (Here I would like to place special emphasis on the expr ession ‘written texts’.) By this widely agreed definition, it can be said that quite a lot of characters in Bleak House are certainly engaged in the act of reading throughout the novel. Strangely enough, the world of Bleak House is abundant with scattered fragments of various textual matters, including letters, litigation -related documents, and signboards, and the characters struggle to put those fragments together and find out meanings in order to solve mysteries around them. Unlike one undertaken for leisure, this type of reading poses an extreme challenge for them. Focusing on how their acts of reading proceed and end up in failure, this essay examines the intricate structures of the novel, through which the terrifying nature of the world Dickens depicts is revealed. In the centre of this novel is Dickens’s deep concern about the English society of his time.