Bartleby the Scrivener

The Dehumanization of Bartleby

The narrator and Bartleby - principle characters of Herman Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener - are opposite sides of the same coin. Their perspectives and connections to life seem to be similar. However, the narrator thrives in the post-revolutionary, post-industrial, capitalistic society. Bartleby, oppositely, wastes away in it. Bartleby's humanity is stripped away from him which eventually kills him. Bartleby is the byproduct of this new America; the narrator is the would-be product.

The choices of the narrator limit his perspective. He's unaware how figuratively and physically surrounded by walls he is. One of his windows has a view of "the white wall of the interiors of a spacious skylight shaft" (1088). This view being somewhat "deficient in what landscape painters call 'life'...the other end of [his] chambers offer...a unobstructed view of a lofty brick wall"(1088). He even calls this configuration a "huge square cistern" (1087) - a receptacle for holding rain, stagnant, or sewage water. He is walled-in and drowning in his life and yet cannot see it. This blind acceptance of capitalism, the new notions of work get paid and die, this "easy life" is...

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