Formulaic eccentricity and centralized periphery in Bleak house
Tyler, Julie Elizabeth
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Charles Dickens's Bleak House is known for its interconnected abundance of characters and its dedication to characterizing "eccentrics." Placed within a wider Dickensian context of David Copperfield and Hard Times, and examined through the lens of narrative, four characters from the "eccentric" category reveal their creative insanity. This "mad artistry" is comparable to eccentricity in other Dickens novels, but is endemic to Bleak House, and has a unique bearing on the text despite, and as a result of, their peripheral positions to the narrative and plot. Their most obvious function is to provide individual evidence of Chancery's widespread damage. More importantly, these "mad artists" reveal the psychological motives of the self-effacing narrator Esther, whose autobiography, exaggerations of reality and meta-cognitive creation of creativity and obsession with obsessions are achievements in vicarious expression and re- inscription of self. Most importantly, these peripheral mad artists affect the forces at the center of the novel, and, in part, restore order to the chaos Esther must endure.