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Topics of Hopelessness at Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener Essay

Assignment id 1006655
Discipline Biology
Assignment type Essay
Words 3058
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We can never be one hundred percent sure of the legitimacy of our literary investigations. This is particularly true with Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener". Critics have been seeking for decades to create sense of the text and most will explain it as "inscrutable". I do not claim to know better than those critics, but rather offer my own interpretation of their job. Based on my observations and evaluation, Melville's usage of many elements in his narrative--first and foremost the nature of Bartleby, but also the dead letters, the numerous walls of Wall Street, along with the nation of Wall Street itself--works well to produce a feeling of hopelessness, whether deliberate or not, at the story as well as the narrator and therefore the reader. This despair could stem from numerous influences, such as a certain "incurable disorder" that some critics might argue is atherosclerosis (Wilson), the general standard of human futility generally, or the capitalist society in which Melville's characters' lives play out. To be able to understand Bartleby's influence on the impossible atmosphere of the narrative, we must first understand the character of Bartleby and the way he differs greatly from the others. Bartleby is described as using a "cadaverously gentlemanly nonchalance" (1096) along with being solitary, friendless and lonely; "like a really ghost" (1095). Mitchell, in his critical article, also observes that "Bartleby appears incapable of realizing the chance of hope." (Mitchell) Ultimately, Bartleby is apathetic and whenever something is requested of him he only answers "I'd prefer to not." The lawyer, on the other hand is deeply centered on the worth of Wall Street such as cash, productivity and usefulness. Bartleby reveals a great shock to this lawye...

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