Essay about The Depths of Bartleby

Submitted By bd413
Words: 1040
Pages: 5

Many people have interpreted Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” as a representation of the difficulties he was experiencing personally as a writer after his previous publications. Others propose that it may exaggerate the conflict between absolutism and free will showing the power of irrationality. Some, such as Marcus Mordecai, believe the character of Bartleby is actually a psychological double for the nameless lawyer-narrator. Evidence within the story supports Mordecai’s version of Bartleby’s existence being a psychosomatic illness that the lawyer seems to be experiencing, possibly to remind him of the inadequacies of his dull job as a law-copyist. The Lawyer’s obsessive concern with Bartleby enables him to experience a glimpse of a man who has given up on everything, his job, his health, and most importantly himself. The narrator seems exhausted and ambitionless in his work as well, which parallels Bartleby’s insolence.
Bartleby’s character emerges from the lawyer’s conscious, allowing him to feel something different than his everyday routine. The character of Bartleby appears to help the lawyer cope with his tedious, boring, and monotonous job profession. He seems fed up with doing the same thing day in and day out, driving himself mad. He is a minor figure in comparison to Wall Street giants which supports his earlier description of himself as a “safe man” (Mellville 5).
As the story opens, the narrator describes Bartleby as an unusual but intriguing man, peaceful and delicately composed, a “motionless young man” whom appears at his office seeking employment (Mordecai 11). The lawyer finds Bartleby to be useful in his office, even beneficial when Nippers and Turkey were having an off-day. He assigns Bartleby the corner area but on his side of the folding doors so he would be but a whisper away. This coincides with Mordecai’s analysis. Keeping him out of sight but not far from voice symbolizes the lawyers “…compartmentalization of the unconscious forces which Bartleby represents” (Mordecai 366).
Bartleby shows a strong skill and a passion for his line of work. Without hesitation, he quickly and efficiently does what is asked of him showing a hunger for the documents and dedication to his work by running day and night lines. However, just as the narrator becomes dependent on Bartleby’s skill and compliance he shocks the lawyer as well as the audience by casually answering, “I would prefer not to” to any further requests of editing documents. This addresses a common problem in any society, in which commonly held assumptions of the general good are challenged by a man who does not wish to be governed by those assumptions (Liane 22).
While this infuriated the narrator he also feels a sense of compassion and accountability for him. Bartleby’s simplicity and relaxed attitude towards refusing the documents make it seemingly impossible for the lawyer to order Bartleby’s removal from the office. Eventually, the narrator becomes bothered by Bartleby’s obstinate responses and realizes that the point of Bartleby’s job is to relieve the stresses of his however; Bartleby has become more stress than his initial work load. The lawyer surrenders to the idea of Bartleby being a silent fixture in the office and admits he is most comfortable with Bartleby’s presence in the office. After he decides he will do no more work at all, even copying, he becomes a “…kind of parasite on the lawyer” (Marcus 366). He felt a sense of resentment but recalled a divine injunction he had heard, to love one another. Charity was also a belief of his and he had thought it to be a sort of safe guard to its possessor (Melville 31).
The lawyer noticed “…Bartleby did nothing but stand at his window in the dead-wall reverie” (Melville 25). This represents how the lawyer felt as if he had come to a dead end. His job had hit a plateau and left him feeling inferior to the motivated and wealthy he copied for. He had been suppressing his desire to have a…