Detection in Bleak House is not only a response to actual crime but, more expansively, a way of being-a response to pervasive and ingrained notions of guilt. This habitual detection arised both as an oppressive process of self-scrutiny in which characters police themselves and as a perphas delusory attempt to escape such entrapment by investigating and thus writing others. As the former, detection is internalized so that the individual embodies a system of regulation, being both the oppressive law and the guilty transgressor. At its most destructive, such self-regulation-the attempt to repress or hide one's criminal self-leads to self-obliteration, as in the examples of Nemo and Lady Dedlock. For the most part, however, the common anxieties of guilt and the desire for concealment are managed more effectively. Characters distance themselves from the fearful and private world of the self by indulging a distracting interest in the world of society and, particularly, by adopting the psychologically disfiguring roles of detectives. Instead of being constructed by their own guilt (and the investigations of others), the detectives assume authoritative and more comfortable positions on the right side of the law. Lacking (and dreading) a defining sense of themselves, these detectives compensate by attempting to read and write the objects of their detection; they attempt to nourish their own spiritual hunger by feeding upon the identities of others.
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