1. 3. Herman Melville. Bartleby The Scrivener (II). The story (2014)Apunte Inglés
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1. 3. HERMAN MELVILLE. BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENER (II)
The narrator is very careful about every word or adjective he uses. When he says he’s a “rather elderly”,
he means that he’s old-fashioned, as a conservative man (law, order, principles, etc.).
There are symbologies at the different parts of the building that he describes, like the white color of the walls.
When it comes to character descriptions, he emphasizes the way some of them change during the day.
Turkey always says the catch-phrase “with submissions, sir”. He’s very efficient during the morning.
Everybody is really controlled. There’s a kind of fraternal connection between Bartleby and the narrator.
There are references to claustrophobic life, like being buried alike. There’s dehumanization of characters that are forced to live in a damaging environment. Because of this, the narrator decides to leave the city at one point and goes to New Jersey. Also, in prison they have a garden, but the rest are all walls.
It is difficult to know which Bartleby objective was. Perhaps he was an ascetic. We could assimilate the narrator to non-governmental organizations that want to be so perfect that make situations worse. He is the “good Samaritan” who helps others because he wants to feel good about himself. But has he ever wondered if some of this people want to be safe or even bothered? He wants the perfect worker and, if things had been right, Bartleby would’ve been this perfect worker. However, Bartleby becomes like the anarchist in the story.
Binary oppositions in the story - The narrator is a human character / Bartleby is a metaphor - The narrator is sociologically explicable / Bartleby is no more sociologically explicable than Ahab - Ahab’s obsession disturbs and contaminates the rest of the crew / Bartleby anticipates the characters of Kafka - The realistic character (narrator) has dynamic dimensions / Bartleby is a “fixed” character –as rigidily fixed as a corpse. An allegorical character, a “type”, without a past and without and without social measurements. Characters who “are not of woman born” - Narrator is the natural “survivor” who adapts easily to society / Bartleby is the “isolato”. The idea of isolation is very important throughout the story.
- Bartleby as silent, motionless, pale, cadaverous. Negativism and withdrawal / Bartleby as a mechanically industrious, mild and seemingly respectable (But then: “I have given up copying”) - The narrator’s responses begin to be mixed with anguish and sympathy / Bartleby’s characteristics begin to be associated with total withdrawal and extinction - Narrator: vision of orthodox optimism and institutionalized belonging / Bartleby: vision of existential absurdity, vision of the outcast stranger - Narrator: the capitalist boss who exploits those who work for him, denying full human existences and identity / Bartleby is the nay-sayer who refuses to copy the law-and-order of the narrator’s world any longer - Stoicism / Victimization - Bartleby as the complementary opposite of Ahab The Lawyer’s and Bartleby’s twelve short dialogues give us a lot of different expressions and feelings: surprise, perplexity, irritation, fraternity, helplessness, fear, repulsion, melancholy, etc.
The Lawyer and Bartleby compared THE LAWYER BARTLEBY Capitalist boss Stoic hero (victim) Optimism Pessimism Utilitarism Nihilism Activity (commerce, materialism) Passivity (passive resistance?) Rationality (law and order) Absurdity Sociability (conventional values) “Isolato” (Melville’s term) Respectability Outcast (Outsider, Rebel?) Interpretations of the story 1. Bartleby as the artist protesting the killing demands of hack work (magazines in the 1850s): a writer’s story.
2. A classic case of depression (Psychosis, Schizophrenia): a clinical story 3. Bartleby as a projection of the death-urge in the lawyer: a psychoanalytical story 4. A critique of industrial America symbolized by an implacable Wall Street: a story of social criticism.
5. A reflection on a homeless wanderer living in a universe of indifference, a meaningless world with no moral point or purpose: a metaphysical enquiry anticipating existentialism Herman Melville has been related to occupies movement in America due to his literature.