So I did not entirely like this novel. Oh, I enjoyed it while I read it, but I found many aspects that I did not like.
I found Esther rather irritating. I thought her false modesty and silly “innocence” of why other people like her was extremely annoying; true humility and goodness do not focus on self at all. She spoils her character by speaking, and her character would have been better not displayed in first person. I thought her silly humility rather out of character for Dickens; I feel like he usually caricatures this type of person.
Mr. Jardyce annoyed me because he avoids issues instead of repairing them. I loathed Mr. Skimpole* and the way Mr. Jardyce aids his leech behavior is disgusting. Speaking of disgusting, how gross and selfish of Mr. Jardyce, who might almost be Esther’s grandfather, to propose to Esther?! I had wondered before I reached this point in the novel whether or not he had been in love with her mother.
I did not really feel sorry for Lady Dedlock. She is so selfish and proud. She had married into great wealth and made herself famous. She does not help Rosa, except to thwart Mr. Tulkinghorn, I think. I felt sorry for Captain Hawdon. I want to know why Hawdon and Lady Dedlock had not married. What happened? Whose fault was the separation? I kind of wondered/wished she had been the one who broke off the connection. Had her sister a hand in it? I did not think that Hawdon was the Willoughby type at all. Plus he had kept her letters. He had sent her letters of instruction. He helps poor Jo. If Lady Dedlock did not know that the baby survived, I wonder if Hawdon ever knows about the baby at all. What were those letters of instruction George Rouncewell delivers to Esther? George seems to be very loyal to Hawdon as if Hawdon deserves some help or has some merit. I do not like all these unfinished ties.
Ada Clare and Allan Woodcourt do not have enough character development. Except towards the end they have hardly even any personality. I liked what glimpses and shadows of Allan I saw until I received a chill at his reaction poor Jo.
Jo is probably my favorite character in point of unmixed favor. George Rouncewell comes next in that respect. Poor Jo. What cruelness and neglect and manipulation he endures at the hands of the evil and/or more noticeably selfish characters and the world in general. What cold “pity” and “aid” the “kind” characters extend to him! And this: “He wos wery good to me, he wos” . . . and his tears!
I felt the number of the characters more in this novel. Everything seemed less developed and every character either barely connected (the Jellybys)* or too connected. I know Dickens has random characters, but often they are harmless and/or turn out to be more important than first appears. Not so in this novel.
* All of these characters are typical Dickens caricatures or displays of certain types of troublesome people; I appreciated them for that because, as is usual, these descriptions of error and selfishness ring quite true.