79 pages 2 hours read

Charles Dickens

Bleak House

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1853

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Chapters 21-30

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 21 Summary: “The Smallweed Family”

Bart Smallweed, Guppy’s coworker, is from a family in which the children always act mature beyond their years. Conversely, his grandmother is now so old that she is in a “childish state.” His grandfather has retained his mental capacity, though his body is failing him. Throughout his life, Bart’s great-grandfather obsessed over money, even though he eventually lost most of his savings. The Smallweed family motto is to be “always early to go out and late to marry” (303)—advice that Bart’s grandfather followed by taking a job in a scrivener’s office at a young age. These days, he sits in a chair in the corner of the room; he supposedly keeps his own considerable savings hidden in a drawer behind his legs. Laughter is rare in the Smallweed house, and the grandparents often bicker.

Judy is Bart‘s twin sister; their parents died many years ago, so they live with their grandparents. Neither she nor her brother played many games as children. Judy is rude to Charley (Neckett), the maid, while Bart’s grandfather praises him for making someone else pay for his lunch. Judy and Bart drink tea with their grandparents. Soon, Judy will become a florist. Bart plans to use some of his grandfather’s savings to go into the legal profession.