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Esther Summerson's Biblical Judgment: Queen Esther and the Fallen Woman in Bleak House

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/04/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Religion and Literature
Issue number3
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In criticism to date, the intertextual link between Esther Summerson and the biblical Queen Esther has been explained as one that invokes “womanly virtue”. By drawing on the meanings that had accumulated around the name “Esther” in the Victorian period, this article argues instead for Queen Esther’s significance as a sexual transgressor. Manifested in the protagonist’s illegitimacy, sexual transgression makes Esther Summerson a quilting point for layers of biblical allusion to the fallen woman and judgment within Bleak House. Linked to John 8’s woman caught in adultery and the novel’s repeated invocation of apocalyptic judgment, attention to Queen Esther reveals the novel’s negotiation of different kinds of judgment to avert condemnation of the fallen woman whilst underlining the need for the denunciation of social ills.