Reading & Writing Bleak House

Mr. Jobling's Appetite

Mar 11, 2012 by Elizabeth M Tallmadge in God

I found chapter 20 very amusing. In this chapter we are introduced to a new character Mr. Jobling.  Mr. Guppy and Mr. Smallweed take Mr. Jobling to a restaurant. Dicken’s adds some humor to this scene by how Mr. Jobling eats. Mr. Joblings appetite is described as, “His appetite is so vigorous, that it suggests spare living for some little time back” (321).  When Mr. Jobling takes another helping Mr. Guppy replies,“ ‘You are a man again, Tony!’ ‘Well, not quite, yet,’ says Mr. Jobling. ‘Say just born’ ” (321). By the time Mr. Jobling finishes dessert he says, “ ‘I am grown up, now, Guppy. I have arrived at maturity’ ” (322). Even though we know Mr. Jobling is a grown man he is so starved that it is like he is dead and then after eating he has been born again. It is also horrific that he can eat that much food.

            I think that the reason Mr. Guppy takes him out to eat may have been to get Mr. Jobling in a goof mood so that he would agree to look into Mr. Krook, which he does. I am curious to know why Mr. Guppy really wants him to look into Mr. Kook, he only says, “ ‘and it’s seldom I can’t make a man out, more or less’ (325).  He does not go into detail why he really wants MR. Jobling to look into Krook’s. It is creepy that Mr. Jobling should live in the same room that the previous lawyer died in. It is also very mysterious that the room is referred to as, “where the two eyes in the shutters stare at him in his sleep, as if they were full of wonder “(330). This imagery seems important yet I do not now what to make of it yet. 


I also found the mention of food interesting in this chapter, and the one following. Jobling and Guppy order an obscene amount of rich food (marrow pudding sounds horrible!), and the end of their discussion is punctuated by a list of everything they ate and how much it costs. There was also an underlying idea of portraying a certain class in eating habits. Jobling is said to eat quickly, telling us he's been down on his luck lately. He also asked Guppy to borrow money for lunch, after which Guppy decides to take him out. Guppy tries to hide his true feelings (paranoia towards his "adversary") by indulging Jobling. True, he's taking the opportunity to not give him a job, but he's still spending money to make Jobling feel comfortable. Later, at the Smallweed's for tea, Judy "scrapes the butter on the loaf with every precaution against waste," (336). She and her family live in wealth but take great care not to indulge in luxuries like toys for children and too much butter. The Smallweeds are obsessed with money, but rather than spend it they hoard it and take it very seriously. This seems pretty unhealthy, especially as the grandkids are damaged permanently. People in this book (at least the silly ones) are either desperate to keep money or to seem like they have it. (sidenote: Guppy in chapter 20 seems almost like a serial killer waiting for his opportunity to snap and kill everyone. I was frightened.)

Posted by Lucy Arnerich-Hatch on March 11, 2012 at 10:39 PM EDT #

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