Free Essay About "Bartleby, The Scrivener" As A Fable Of Charity Vs. Despair

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Bartleby The Scrivener, Literature, People, Workplace, Society, Attorney, Criminal Justice, Character

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/02/23

Bartleby the Scrivener: A story of Wall Street is a story written by Herman Melville. The story puts an emphasis on its major character – Bartleby. Bartleby is a lonely man who tries to alienate himself from the rest of the world. The main character of the story disagrees with principles and ideas that predominate in the society he lives in. That is why he isolates himself from other people. Bartleby may be also called an anti-hero of the story who in his passive resistance stands in a sharp contrast to the rest of the society. He may be also called an antagonist of the story who antagonizes the imperfections of human beings and the world in general. It is also evident that Bartleby does not make any attempts to change something nor does he want to receive help from other people. That is why it is possible to say that the main themes of the story are the following: isolation and loneliness as well as refusal from any kind of charity and despair. Thus, the main character of the story is in great despair as he cannot change the reality which surrounds him.
It is worth mentioning that the narrator of the story despite Bartleby’s peculiarities sympathized with his employee. He could clearly see that Bartleby didn’t intend to offend him by his refusal to work, and that he didn’t act as a rebel. In contrast, he simply saw a lonely soul who was in despair and needed some help. He saw a man who suffered from the injustice and the imperfections of modern world. Bartleby’s refusal to complete any kind of work made the attorney turn his attention to the character of his scrivener. And after a few days of observation the attorney came to a sad conclusion and realized that Bartleby was the loneliest man he had ever seen. Thus, he noticed that Bartleby never went out for dinner or some other places. In fact, he was always in his office on the same place. Moreover, he didn’t have friends and never communicated with his coworkers. The author also noticed that Bartleby was talking only when he was asked a certain question. He was always by himself. Quite soon the attorney found out another evidence of Bartleby’s loneliness and isolation. Thus, he noticed that his scrivener never left his office and even made home from it. Therefore, after analyzing the new information that the narrator learnt about Bartleby, he understood that he was not a rebel at all. Thus, he claimed that Bartleby “means no mischief; it is plain he intends no insolence; his aspect sufficiently evinces that his eccentricities are involuntary” (Melville 11). At this rate the attorney decided to help Bartleby. He knew that others employers were not so indulgent that he was, and that is why at first he preferred not to dismiss Bartleby. On the contrary, he hoped to make friends with him and in such a way to help this lonely man. Therefore, when he asked Bartleby to do some papers for him and as usual received a negative answer, he tried to speak openly to his employee. He asked Bartleby why he didn’t want to implement this or that task, what drove his decision. The narrator asked Bartleby what worried him and what he wanted to do with his future life. But all his attempts to help his employee failed as the antagonist preferred to stay with himself and not to explain any of his decisions. It seems that he didn’t accept any kind of charity.
Considering the way the narrator of the story behaved with Bartleby, it is possible to say that he was a true Christiane – a person who believed that any man needs love and care. He had a kind hard and instead of exploiting he tried to help Bartleby. Thus, thinking about Bartleby he said that his first emotions “had been those of pure melancholy and sincerest pity” (Melville 15). That is why he desperately tried to help him. Sophie Hannah in her article states that the attorney viewed Bartleby differently in comparison to his coworkers. According to her, the narrator viewed Bartleby “not as a nightmare employee, but as a man who hurt no one, insulted no one, attacked no one” (Hannah). In fact, the situation in which the narrator appeared became comic and tragic at the same time. Thus, he allowed Bartleby not to do additional tasks and then not to work at all. At the same time he understood that the society in which he lived would not approve such an act of charity. The narrator was also a lonely man who lived by the principles which were imposed on him by the society. He knew that people would never understand how it is possible not to fire employee who refuses to perform his work and to talk at all. They would never understand a person who constantly repeats “I would prefer not to” (Melville 8). That is why when the attorney failed to help Bartleby he had no other choice but to dismiss him.
Speaking about Bartleby himself, it should be noted that he is one of the most complicated characters in the story. He condemns the society in which he lives as well as its major principles and values. Thus, he criticizes the society, where people are treated only as tool machines and are useful only till they are worn out. He criticizes the people who never communicate with each other, and are only preoccupied with themselves and their work. Therefore, it is possible to mention that Bartleby leaved among people who didn’t show interest in each other’s lives, and who were hiding behind the walls. It is evident that Bartleby refuses to be the part of the society which does not value people. Nevertheless, the main character of the story does not take any action in order to improve the existing situation. He doesn’t even try to do something and remains passive. Thus, the narrator of the story mentions that “Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance” (Melville 11). But Bartleby remained helpless. The only way he could show his dissatisfaction was his countless refusals. Therefore, in her work “The Specter of Wall Street: “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and the Language of Commodities” Naomi C. Reed claims that “Bartleby’s critique of labor and capitalism is registered through his varied refusals” (Reed 255). Indeed, Bartleby not only refuses to implement his job as a copyist. He went far beyond that. Thus, he refused to leave his office when he was dismissed. He simply stayed there and stared at the window. The whole situation turned into absurd and the narrator himself had to leave the office as he couldn’t influence on Bartleby. Being put into the prison, Bartleby didn’t stop as well and refused to eat, and in such a way starved to death. It is important to note that Bartleby’s refusals were motivated not by defense or rebellion, but by despair. At the same time, feeling oneself lost and not finding his place in the world, Bartleby was too proud to receive the attorney’s help. In fact, he rejected any kind of charity. That is mainly why he didn’t react on the narrator’s attempts to help him. Probably, Bartleby simply didn’t see any way out of the situation in which he appeared. He felt himself lost and helpless, so that is why when he was offered a help he “preferred not to” receive it.
It should be also noted that Melville managed to reveal the society in which people are too busy to care about anyone except from themselves. He described the society where people leave behind the walls and are not interested in each other’s lives. Even in the narrator’s office people never communicate with each other about their interests or hobbies. It is unclear if they have families or nor, as they don’t talk about such issues. Working at the same place, they are still strangers to each other. Therefore, depicting such situation Melville criticizes the society where people are treated as passive machines, which are thrown away when they are broken. Although in his work the main character refused to receive any kind of help, the author didn’t say that Bartleby had no need in it. On the contrary, he shows that it is mainly such hopeless people as Bartleby that desperately need help. Melville managed to explain the importance of charity for those who are in despair.

Works cited

Melville, Herman. Bartleby the Scrivener: A story of Wall Street. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. http: //
Hannah, Sophie. Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville, book of a lifetime: A gripping, puzzling novella. The independent. 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2015
Reed, Naomi. The Specter of Wall Street : “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and the Language of Commodities. WordPress at LPS. n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015

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WePapers. (2021, February, 23) Free Essay About "Bartleby, The Scrivener" As A Fable Of Charity Vs. Despair. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
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Free Essay About "Bartleby, The Scrivener" As A Fable Of Charity Vs. Despair. Free Essay Examples - Published Feb 23, 2021. Accessed March 22, 2023.

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