Symbolism In Bartleby The Scrivener

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Throughout “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Melville highlights important concepts regarding life, and he does this through the story of a lawyer and his copyist, Bartleby. These include the value of relationships and the morals of businesses. Melville is able to portray these through a single quote said by the lawyer after he discovered Bartleby had been staying in his office building over the weekend. “Miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed” (140) highlights the isolation of Bartleby, but it reveals more than just his reclusion from society; it represents a significant revelation for the narrator. Throughout the story, the lawyer battles an internal conflict as he tries to understand Bartleby’s reclusive personality, but his eyes are finally opened to the solitude that consumes his copyist. This cause him to have yet another realization – despite his best efforts, he cannot solve Bartleby’s problems. This is ironic since, as a lawyer, his job is to protect people and help resolve their issues. When he is confronted with the idea that he cannot bring Bartleby peace, the lawyer’s feelings toward him change from pity to fear. This brings the lawyer to his next statement – “his poverty is great” (140). On face value, poverty may appear to be referring to a lack of money, but in this quote, it actually symbolizes Bartleby’s lack of friends. Therefore, it highlights the importance of friendship, a theme which becomes apparent through examining Bartleby’s life.
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