Enlightened And The Revolutionary In Melville's Bartleby, The Scrivener

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The Enlightened and the Revolutionary in Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener Herman Melville, 19th century author of various short stories and novels, including Bartleby, the Scrivener, was born in the city of New York on August 1, 1819 (Hillway 29). Melville’s early years were one of familial prosperity from his father’s occupation and the close-knit nature of his family unit (Hillway 29-30). By the time he was 20, Herman was facing a bleak future without a steady job and lack of future career opportunities (Hillway 33). Most of his teenage years were spent seafaring as a whaler and then as a naval officer, both trying and backbreaking labors (Hillway 35-39). When he finally returned to his family home from seafaring, Herman told and retold…show more content…
The main theme of the Enlightenment movement was a branching forward of rational thought from a time of thought driven by superstition and religious dogma. Those who championed the Enlightenment ideal of rational thought and reason argued that humanity could “rely on their own authority” instead of “looking to priests and princes” to decide how they should morally act” (“Introduction-Enlightenment” 5). In Bartleby, the main voice of reason and rational thought is the narrator, identified as the Lawyer. He is a self-professed “safe” man who is “filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best” (Melville 871). His world view is simple, “unambiguous, and uncluttered by mysticism or imagination” (Gupta). When met with the enigma that is Bartleby and his dissent of the simple tasks of his employment, the Lawyer tries to reason with him. Every request is met with the phrase “I would prefer not to”, every argument for a reason why is met with silence (Melville 876). While the Lawyer is “stunned by what he considers to be the unreasonableness of Bartleby 's conduct”, this still does not deter him from reason (Gupta). He even goes so far as to implore Bartleby with the argument of “common usage and common sense” (Melville 877). However, in terms of Bartleby’s method, reason and rationality seem to fail the…show more content…
Dilgen, Regina. "The Original Occupy Wall Street: Melville 's "Bartleby, the Scrivener." Radical Teacher, no. 93, Spring2012, pp. 54-55. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=74255130&site=ehost-live. Doloff, Steven. "The Prudent Samaritan: Melville 's 'Bartleby, the Scrivener ' as Parody of Christ 's Parable to the Lawyer." Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 34, no. 3, Summer97, p. 357. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=2791867&site=ehost-live. Furlani, Andre. "Bartleby the Socratic." Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 34, no. 3, Summer97, p. 335. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=2791866&site=ehost-live. Gupta, R. K. " 'Bartleby ': Melville 's Critique of Reason." Short Stories for Students, edited by Kathleen Wilson, vol. 3, Gale, 1998. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1420016482/GLS?u=avlr&sid=GLS&xid=d2ccbf5e. Accessed 5 Mar. 2018. Originally published in Indian Journal of American Studies, vol. 4, no. 1-2, 1974, pp. 66-71. Hillway, Tyrus. "In Search of a Career." Herman Melville, Rev. ed., Twayne Publishers, 1979, pp. 29-43. Twayne 's United States Authors Series 37. Twayne 's Authors Series, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX1891900012/G-Twayne?u=avl_nsho&sid=G-Twayne&xid=2b01c9ae.

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