Posted by: oliviajane16 | October 4, 2011

Is Oprah Winfrey Esther Summerson 2.0?

We talked about Esther’s role as mother to all except her own primarily 2 weeks ago in class but before we move on to Doyle I thought I’d just post a little something that’s been floating around in my head. The more we talked about Esther’s interesting life choices I couldn’t help but see a few similarities to another well-known mother figure without kids of her own.

First of all we discussed how Esther (with the exception of the last 6 pages) makes no mention of wanting kids of her own despite how easily she claims the role of caretaker to all those around her. Ms. Winfrey has also made the decision to not have children even though she started her talk show 25 years ago so that she could help as many people around her as possible.

Neither had stellar childhoods. While Esther grew up with the feeling that her godmother wished she hadn’t been born, Oprah was raised in rural poverty and was sent to live with several different family members because her mother either couldn’t or didn’t want to take care of her.

Marriage has never seemed a priority for either Esther or Oprah. Esther does harbor romantic feelings towards Woodcourt and intends to marry Jarndyce for a period of time, but romance is by no means the focus of her life. Ms. O and her long-term significant other, Stedman Graham, have technically been engaged since 1992 but have never gotten around to actually tying the knot despite societal expectations.

Just thought I’d share, especially given the rise in celebrity during the period in which Dickens wrote the novel and Ms. Winfrey’s current title of most influential celebrity in America.



  1. Olivia, excellant point. I absolutely agree. The main protagonist of Charles Dickens’s “Bleak House,” Esther Summerson, is oddly an Oprah-like character. When comparing them, I immediately thought about Oprah’s childhood. She has said in interviews that she actually does not know who her mother is, and that she came from nothing. Esther felt unloved and passed around, and did not see herself fitting into the traditional family unit. Although, she is seen as a warm loving person in multiple contexts throughout the novel. This reminded me of how selflessly Oprah gives away extravagant Christmas gifts to television viewers on her annual “Favorite Things” episode. Esther obviously didn’t have the means to do that, but she did offer up almost all the money to her name many times, even when she only had a few coins to live off of. I think Oprah operates in the same spirit. I wonder if she has read “Bleak House”?

  2. I would bet good money it was on her book club list 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: