Analysis of: “Bartleby: The Walls of Wall-Street” The short story of “Bartleby: The Walls of Wall-Street” has many distinct layers of meaning. Author Herman Melville depicts the story of a mysterious character coming to work in the big world of Wall-Street. The short story is told by a wealthy lawyer hiring this mysterious man known as Bartleby. Throughout the story, Bartleby refuses certain tasks until finally refusing to eat in prison, ending his sorrowful life. Literary Criticism by James Wilson depicts how through this story, Melville unravels the unjust system of capitalism, where lower-class citizens get trapped, and upper-class citizens overlook the wronging they do. In Wilson’s critique, the imprisonment of the lower class and the polluted mindset of the upper-class, serve as major arguments of the writing. The author starts with prior criticism linking Bartleby to the narrator. The narrator is an elderly unambitious lawyer, who has seen many people come and go in Wall-Street over the years. He is established as a man that represent all of Wall-Street and it’s glory. He also is the subject of all the twisted mindsets of the upper-class. The whole story is told by his constant rationalization and justification of actions. When Bartleby is found sleeping in the office, he is quick to rationalize that he must not be the one accountable. Not only does he rationalize all these thoughts, but he also takes everything in terms of money and profit; anything and everything he deals with becomes a subject to this system. When taking Bartleby under his wing, he constantly made sure it would not hurt profits. This new system turns into the religion of Wall-Street posting “money as its only value, expediency and self-interest as its only morality” (Wilson 2). This religion became the distinct pollution to the minds of the upper class. Imprisonment over the lower-class would now be possible without ever seeing the true evil. Representation of this comes in the terms of Bartleby and his coworkers. The profit made in their positions is only enough for the workers to get by; they end up trapped in the lower-classes simply working to sustain life. In the story, this slave labor is compared to the slaves of Egypt. Just like the Egyptian’s hardship built the pyramids, multitudes of Bartlebys built what is now Wall-Street. And now the lawyers and wealthy men of Wall-Street are the new Pharos; sending down orders to their slaves with little feeling of pain or sorrow. Bartleby is not just a figure of himself, but of all humanity involved in his cause and lifestyle. The very last words making clear this argument is on page 65 when the narrator states “Ah, Bartleby! Ah Humanity!”. Going into further analysis as Wilson states, Bartleby does not just stand for humanity, but for the alienated man. He believes that this alienation comes from the dehumanizing effect of Wall Street, and more importantly the prison of his socio-economic system. To further analyze this concept; Bartleby is not only symbolic of alienation, but the lower-class of capitalism. Bartleby is trapped in this economic system, where the rich get richer, and the poor get even poorer. He and his co-workers do not realize it, but they are slaves to this system. The money given to them to sustain life traps them in a circle positioning them directly where they started. They earn enough money to only allow payment of taxes and to get by; not accumulating wealth and moving up classes. Essentially this creates a labor prison, a labor prison of the lower class which has been divided by a folding screen. The exact screen That got placed between Bartleby and the narrator “which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my[the narrator’s] sight, though not remove him from my voice” (Melville 28). On one side of this wall lay the extravagant lives of the rich, but on the other lay the misery and dredge of getting by on a day to day basis. This lower class slavery is directly compared to
I. Multiple choice: 1% x 30 = 30%
1. The novels and short stories of Henry James and Edith Wharton tended to focus on
(A) the tragic outcomes of impoverished characters living in industrialized urban wastelands.
(B) the ordeals of isolated characters living as survivalists in the sparsely populated hinterlands of the United States.
(C) the inner psychological lives of privileged upper-class characters.
(D) the exploits of characters with startling accomplishments and impressive…
Wed: 1:00pm – 1:50pm
Cover Up and Exposure
American culture cannot be described using just one word because of its complexity. Since the very beginning, the inhabitants of America have been extremely diverse in race, class, and culture; for example, the first people who came to Los Angeles were“ Indians, blacks, and variant admixtures of Spanish blood (47)” These pioneers“came from the poorest sections of Baja society…hoping for a better life at Spanish expense…
Seagull Reader: Stories, Poems, Plays edited by Joseph Kelly
Access to: FGC Library Databases: “Literature Resources” (GALE)
Materials: a small notebook, folder, or binder to keep approximately 10-12 journal entries (1-2 pages each); access to word processing and the internet.
Attendance: Attending all class sessions is a key element to your success in this course especially because I use a workshop format. During weeks of writing workshops you will not be required to attend all class sessions…