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Dickens and the names in Bleak House
Ron Katz

I am seduced by the names in Dickens’ Bleak House and particularly by the name of the heroine, Lady Dedlock. Dickens was a master at describing character though the use of colourful names, and Lady Dedlock is a prime example. An aristocrat, frozen in the manners of her class, she lives with the knowledge that she’s fostered an illegitimate child through a liaison with a lower-class seducer. Unable to admit her “guilt”, forced to conceal it from her very proper (and very rich) husband, she falls victim to a blackmailer who digs out her secret and threatens to expose her. She can neither move backward, nor forward: she can’t pay off the blackmailer, a clever lawyer named Vholes (another appropriate name), nor can she, until compelled to, recognize her child. Prey to smouldering passions and loyalty to her class, she is essentially paralyzed (deadlocked); hence, the name, which tells all. Another of my favourite characters in the book: Grandpa Smallweed. The name alone gives him away.