Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 6 | Words: 1561
Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Bartleby the Scrivener Analysis Essay Example

The story under analysis is written by an outstanding American writer Henry Melville and is called Bartleby the Scrivener. The main problem of the story is an unequal fight of a single person with the society. The result is determined and is not positive for a single man that has his humanity only as weapon. The most unfair is the fact that those people who lost their humanity for the sake of the society’s will are living without any problems and do not have depression, they are happy with their lives and are glad to have the fate as it is.

Bartleby the Scrivener Character Analysis

The title of the story presents a social code since the author mentions not only the name of the main character, but also his profession, which makes him inscribed in the social structure. From the title of the work it becomes possible to address the issue of the power of society over the individual, set in the story. In this novel the social role of the person and its function go in front of the person’s name.

Man becomes a little particle in a huge mechanism, loses its individuality and lives with a devalued personality. It is possible to draw parallels between this text and other literature examples where authors raise the issue of the city and the little man. Announcing the theme of his work, referring to the fact that no one did not write about the copyist of law papers, the author uses the epithets like all scriveners are strange people (Melville 51). But the most bizarre of them is Bartleby.

These adjectives are used as features and are not self-sufficient. They have to explain what is so curious about these scriveners and what is so strange about Bartleby. The author, therefore, creates a sense of mystery, puzzle, which haunts the reader during the entire work. Thus, the function of the first two paragraphs is to attract the reader’s attention.

The author focuses on the fact that the story is the discourse of reality, and not the discourse of fiction. To do this, he uses a chronological code by saying for the last thirty years. Also in the first sentence the narrator says that he is no longer a young man thus emphasizing his experience and wisdom.

Mentioning all the previous facts, the intention was to draw a parallel between them and the way they disclose the problem of power which is raised in the novel. It is necessary to pay attention to the way narrator tells about his profession. The reader gets an impression of a person that became a master of his life. He is ruled by his own service, decisions, duties and norms that are prescribed in his company. It is interesting that in this case the person considers himself as a master, waiting for others to fulfill his orders.

The narrator’s autobiography demonstrates a huge dependence on public opinion. This looks like a manifestation of the power of speech. “All who know me consider me an eminently safe man. I will freely add that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor’s good opinion”. Such manifestations depending on the judgment of another person can be found throughout the narrative. It’s worth remembering a scene of a crowd of people excitedly discussing the election. This is the moment which shows that a person can be extremely influenced by the words of others.

A thoughtful reading of the story helps to understand that Bartleby could remain in the office despite anything. Narrator treated him generously, he pitied the boy. As regards his dependence on other people’s opinions, Bartleby did not fit into the framework that society has set for the employees. The chief of the office would have to explain to each visitor, why Bartleby violated the invented rules and why he did not obey the narrator, and the latter did not know the answer to this question.

After the general description of the narrator’s life story and the setting, the reader sees a tiny room on the second floor, which is surrounded by walls on all sides. Walls become a symbol of manifestations of power over man. A person is imprisoned in a certain framework; the city tells him a certain pattern of behavior, a wall limits his freedom. These two elements give a chance to make a conclusion that this story contains a cultural code that includes a big city and people.

Faced with a description of other scriveners working in the office, the reader is surprised to discover that they do not have names; they only have nicknames, which they invented. Turkey and Nippers have lost their names and slowly begin to lose their humanity. For example, the narrator compares Turkey to a horse, and calls Nippers a hiss for the sounds he produced. The main thing for them is the work in which they see the meaning of life.

Turkey spends all his money on red ink and shares it with people in power. Nippers was periodically visited by the idea that he was like a slave, but nothing changed, he could not change anything. The owner of a firm speaking about his subordinates expresses the reasons that estimate the benefits they bring to it like he is speaking not about people, but things. Bartleby becomes a symbol of humanity to the reader because he is the only one who has a name and his own way of thinking (Melville 57). Turkey and Nippers are people who have no their own thoughts and are ready to complete all the orders given to them. Despite Bartleby’s mysterious inexpressiveness, he is a person of a great will that has a strong power that strikes even the head of the office.

Bartleby is different and nobody knows anything about him. The only thing that is clear is that he is strange. His appearance is described as a young man and that he was positive judging by it. The narrator notes that Bartleby was desperately unhappy.

Thus, he draws attention of the reader to this character, without specifying the reason for such state of his. Instead, the owner of the office immediately goes to his questions that refer to his preparation and possibilities assessing the benefits that a new employee can bring to the company.

Finally, the story begins to unfold basic chain of action. The head of the company gets a refuse from Bartleby on his order. This episode is repeated several times. Here comes the turning point for the narrator and he suddenly realizes that his power of speech does not extend to all of its employees, and there is one that is not willing to complete his orders without question. The resistance to the law and to a general rule is something completely unimaginable for him.

Here comes a contrast between powerful words of a man who is given the right to order society, and the man who feels his inner freedom – Bartleby. The most interesting are the words of the scrivener when he says that he would prefer which means that he has a right of choice. Moreover, he has freedom, the right to choose and that is why these words are fascinating Bartleby and begin to rule over other people. The reaction of the head of the company is shocking because he identifies freedom and choice with madness in his mind.

Bartleby the Scrivener Summary

By way of conclusion, it is possible to mention that the problem of power, set in this story, includes several components: the power of the city, company’s power, power of words, and the power as a manifestation of power, the application of rights granted by society. The main character of the story becomes a real hero because he, the small clerk and law-scrivener, a moody, homeless young man, announces something like a boycott to the society in which he lives. He refuses to work and leave the office building where he served, refuses to be dismissed for non-attendance, and explain his actions.

The owner of the office, on behalf of which the story is told, is not only a significant member of the American bourgeois society, but also a professional conservator of his principles. In his views on life, he comes to the norms of the bourgeois order which is granted and stable. He finds an opposition in the image of little man who refuses to be like the rest of the workers. But he does not take the dispute to the conditions of his opponent. He did not raise any legal counter arguments, but simply said that he prefers to stay on positions occupied by him.

However, this struggle is not fair and a single person cannot fight the whole system. It is impossible to crash the society and the general norms by being unique and having personal point of view. Bartleby tried but paid for this with his own life. Bartleby is strong in comparison with Turkey and Nippers but he is the only one against the huge power and this fight was foredoomed for him.

The problem of the little man is very popular and sad because of the tragic side of people who try to be different and have their personal point of view and different way of thinking.

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