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 contrast....an 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...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 1433 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 10365 literature essays, 2629 sample college application essays, 518 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