Analysis Of Bartleby The Scrivener

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Herman Melville’s short story, “Bartleby the Scrivener” is a stunning critique and analysis of humanity that applied not only in the 1850’s, but today as well. Using symbols and allusions, Melville expresses his opinions on the importance of communication and compassion not only in personal relationships, but for humanity as a whole. In the disposition we learn that the location is Wall Street, a place where money rules and communication and charity hold no sway. The protagonists are lawyers working with court cases, disagreements and trials. To help illustrate the strict environment Melville uses the symbol of walls. In the opening pages of the story the narrator describes the view from his office as, “…an unobstructed view of a lofty brick…show more content…
We are introduced to Bartleby in medias res, which demonstrates this lack of communication; like entering into the middle of a conversation without orientation, we do not get a backstory of why is working at the law firm or where he came from. Bartleby is described throughout the text as a ghost or a cadaver, spectral and grey. Communication is fading as the walls are erected. Bartleby’s famous line, “I would prefer not to” is one example of this concept. He simply states that he would prefer not to do whatever is being asked of him, giving no explanation or expansion, which baffles the narrator. When asked why does not want to explain he replies with a cryptic, “Do you not see the reason for…show more content…
Turkey and Nippers flip-flop between meekness and rage, the narrator has moments of anger and exasperation, yet Bartleby never raises his voice and is always gentle, yet firm. The narrator comments on his compassion when Ginger Nut retrieves food for Bartleby. “The boy would leave the office…and reappear with a handful of ginger-nuts…receiving two of the cakes for his trouble” (37). In opposition to Bartleby’s gentleness, Melville implies the lack of kindness in humanity by the nature of the other characters and of the setting – yelling and fighting, people filing lawsuits and suing one another. Compassion is being bricked up behind the walls along with
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