Bartleby the Scrivener
Displacement By Society
"Strangely huddled at the base of the wall, his knees drawn up, and lying on his side, his head touching the cold stones, I saw the wasted Bartleby. I felt his hand, when a tingling shiver ran up my arm and down my spine to my feet" (1173).
Bartelby the Scrivener died of sadness, feeling trapped and utterly without place in the mechanized society that had sprouted around him. He fell victim to his own desire to resist the mindless adaptation that characters like the narrator achieved so seamlessly. Bartleby's death plainly points to Melville's disgruntled view of the modern world; a world where strength comes from weakness and pliability, and where the naturally weak overpower the strong. To define Bartleby the Scrivener in such simple terms, however, is to ignore some important, specific themes that Melville cleverly allegorizes with the characters in the story. To Melville, the modern authoritarian society so minutely divides a person's responsibilities, it reduces the scope of his ability to interact with himself, nature, and his community. This belief closely follows that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who judged modern mechanized society to be the downfall of humanity because it rendered individuals numb to...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 1937 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 10919 literature essays, 2722 sample college application essays, 756 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in