Bartleby The Scrivener Symbolism Essay

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Herman Melville’s short story “Bartelby, the Scrivener” is a tale that compels readers to decipher between what is meant to be a generous deed and what reflects egocentric and selfish behaviors. The main character, an elderly lawyer, proves to be an “eminently safe man” by creating walls between himself and the rest of humanity and by holding onto a fear of public critique and rejection. This lawyer performs charitable conduct toward Bartleby to acquire self-approval and an honorable conscience. The lawyer begins the story as materialistic and out of touch man and ends it in the same manner. Through the use of symbolism and characterization, Melville makes apparent the idea that the lawyer is charitable to Bartleby not because it benefits mankind but in an attempt to achieve his own humanity and self-gratification at a higher level. In “Bartelby, the Scrivener”, the physical and emotional “walls” put up by the lawyer symbolize a safety net for his own ego. Physically, walls surround the office that the lawyer and his workers inhabit. More specifically, the lawyer himself was isolated from his employees by folding doors that divided his workspace into two parts; one that was home to the lawyer and one that was home to the…show more content…
The main character of Melville’s story demonstrates the inability to change from the “eminently safe” man he had been characterized as in the beginning. Through the use of symbolism and characterization, readers are able to culminate the reading of this story with the notion that the intentions of the lawyer have been and will continue to be due to his own self-interest and not for the sake of those who are in need of
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