Bartleby the Scrivener

Themes

Bartleby the Scrivener explores the theme of isolation in American life and the workplace through actual physical and mental loneliness. Although all of the characters at the office are related by being co-workers, Bartleby is the only one whose name is known to us and seems serious, as the rest of characters have odd nicknames, such as "Nippers" or "Turkey", this excludes him from being normal in the workplace. Bartleby's former job was at the "Dead Letter Office" that received mail with nowhere to go, representing the isolation of communication that Bartleby had at both places of work, being that he was given a separate work area for himself at the lawyer's office. Bartleby never leaves the office, but repeats what he does all day long, copying, staring, and repeating his famous words of "I would prefer not to", leading readers to have another image of the repetition that leads to isolation on Wall Street and the American workplace.[16]

Rebellion and rejection are also expressed themes in this story. Bartleby refuses to conform to the normal ways of the people around him and instead, simply just doesn't complete his tasks requested by his boss. He does not make any request for changes in the workplace, but just continues to be passive to the work happening around him.[16] Just as public rejects changes from a normal routine, this rebellious style by Bartleby causes his co-workers to reject him as he is not behaving the same as the rest of the work place environment. The narrator tries multiple tactics to get Bartleby to conform to the standards of the workplace, and ultimately realizes that Bartleby's mental state is not that of normal society. Although the narrator sees Bartleby as a harmless person, the narrator refuses to engage in the same peculiar rhythm that Bartleby is stuck in.[17]


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